AP English Literature : Summarizing, Describing, or Paraphrasing Excerpts

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP English Literature

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Example Questions

Example Question #16 : Other Content Analysis Questions

Adapted from "The Mouse’s Petition" in Poems by Anna Letitia Barbauld (1773)


Found in the trap where he had been confined all night by Dr. Priestley, for the sake of making experiments with different kinds of air

“To spare the humbled, and to tame in war the proud.” - Virgil

 

OH! hear a pensive captive's prayer,
For liberty that sighs;
And never let thine heart be shut
Against the prisoner's cries.

For here forlorn and sad I sit,

Within the wiry grate;
And tremble at th' approaching morn,

Which brings impending fate.

If e'er thy breast with freedom glow'd,
And spurn'd a tyrant's chain,
Let not thy strong oppressive force
A free-born mouse detain.

Oh! do not stain with guiltless blood
Thy hospitable hearth;
Nor triumph that thy wiles betray'd
A prize so little worth.

The scatter'd gleanings of a feast
My scanty meals supply;
But if thine unrelenting heart
That slender boon deny,

The cheerful light, the vital air,
Are blessings widely given;
Let nature's commoners enjoy
The common gifts of heaven.

The well-taught philosophic mind
To all compassion gives;
Casts round the world an equal eye,
And feels for all that lives.

If mind, as ancient sages taught,
A never dying flame,
Still shifts thro' matter's varying forms,
In every form the same,

Beware, lest in the worm you crush
A brother's soul you find;
And tremble lest thy luckless hand
Dislodge a kindred mind.

Or, if this transient gleam of day
Be all of life we share,
Let pity plead within thy breast,
That little all to spare.

So may thy hospitable board
With health and peace be crown'd;
And every charm of heartfelt ease
Beneath thy roof be found.

So when unseen destruction lurks,
Which men like mice may share,
May some kind angel clear thy path,
And break the hidden snare.

The underlined lines in the last stanza can most accurately be characterized as which of the following?

Possible Answers:

An attempt to illustrate the obliviousness of humans to their potential destruction of the animal kingdom, of which they are a part

An attempt to illustrate the shared elements of existence between humans and animals

A warning against an imminent danger

A reminder of the power of a vengeful deity

A threat from the speaker to the addressee

Correct answer:

An attempt to illustrate the shared elements of existence between humans and animals

Explanation:

The highlighted excerpt is most accurately characterized as an attempt to illustrate the shared elements of existence between humans and animals. The reference to "destruction lurk[ing] unseen" is intended to draw a parallel between humans and mice (or any mortal creature); it is not a threat (since there is no demand made in exchange for the aversion of the "destruction"), and it is not a warning of a specific impending catastrophe. While such a reference certainly has resonances with the wrath of a vengeful deity, in the context of the reference of the poem, this reference is clearly intended to draw on similarities between humans and other mortal creatures. The potential destruction is "unseen" and therefore difficult to attribute to humans directly in this context.

Example Question #1 : Summarizing, Paraphrasing, And Describing Drama

Adapted from Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare, III.i.1126-1185 (1623)

Enter Judges, Senators and Tribunes, with MARTIUS and QUINTUS, bound, passing on to the place of execution; TITUS going before, pleading

Titus Andronicus: Hear me, grave fathers! noble tribunes, stay! 
For pity of mine age, whose youth was spent 
In dangerous wars, whilst you securely slept; 
For all my blood in Rome's great quarrel shed; 
For all the frosty nights that I have watch'd;
And for these bitter tears, which now you see 
Filling the aged wrinkles in my cheeks; 
Be pitiful to my condemned sons, 
Whose souls are not corrupted as 'tis thought. 
For two and twenty sons I never wept, 
Because they died in honor's lofty bed. 
[Lieth down; the Judges, &c., pass by him, and Exeunt] 
For these, these, tribunes, in the dust I write 
My heart's deep languor and my soul's sad tears: 
Let my tears stanch the earth's dry appetite; 
My sons' sweet blood will make it shame and blush. 
O earth, I will befriend thee more with rain, 
That shall distill from these two ancient urns, 
Than youthful April shall with all his showers: 
In summer's drought I'll drop upon thee still; 
In winter with warm tears I'll melt the snow 
And keep eternal spring-time on thy face, 
So thou refuse to drink my dear sons' blood. 
[Enter LUCIUS, with his sword drawn] 
O reverend tribunes! O gentle, aged men! 
Unbind my sons, reverse the doom of death; 
And let me say, that never wept before, 
My tears are now prevailing orators.

Lucius: O noble father, you lament in vain: 
The tribunes hear you not; no man is by;
And you recount your sorrows to a stone.

Titus Andronicus: Ah, Lucius, for thy brothers let me plead. 
Grave tribunes, once more I entreat of you,—

Lucius: My gracious lord, no tribune hears you speak.

Titus Andronicus: Why, tis no matter, man; if they did hear,

They would not mark me, or if they did mark, 

They would not pity me, yet plead I must; 

And bootless unto them [—] 

Therefore I tell my sorrows to the stones; 

Who, though they cannot answer my distress, 

Yet in some sort they are better than the tribunes, 

For that they will not intercept my tale: 

When I do weep, they humbly at my feet 

Receive my tears and seem to weep with me; 

And, were they but attired in grave weeds,

Rome could afford no tribune like to these. 

A stone is soft as wax,—tribunes more hard than stones; 

A stone is silent, and offendeth not, 

And tribunes with their tongues doom men to death.
[Rises]
But wherefore stand'st thou with thy weapon drawn?

Lucius: To rescue my two brothers from their death: 
For which attempt the judges have pronounced 
My everlasting doom of banishment.

Titus Andronicus: O happy man! they have befriended thee.
Why, foolish Lucius, dost thou not perceive 
That Rome is but a wilderness of tigers? 
Tigers must prey, and Rome affords no prey 
But me and mine: how happy art thou, then, 
From these devourers to be banished!

In the bolded and underlined lines, Titus addresses what and/or whom?

Possible Answers:

The tribunes only

The tribunes and Lucius

The tribunes, Lucius, the earth, and himself

The tribunes and the earth

The tribunes, the earth, and Lucius

Correct answer:

The tribunes and the earth

Explanation:

In the indicated lines, Titus is addressing the tribunes ("hear me grave fathers," "O reverend tribunes") and the earth ("O earth, I will befriend thee"). While Lucius enters the stage during this speech, Titus does not directly address him in the indicated lines. While Titus does speak as the only person in the room, he is still addressing the absent tribunes in the highlighted section of the passage. At no point does he address himself directly in a soliloquy.

The key to answering this question is to look for markers that reveal to whom Titus is speaking. "O" is a common marker of address in Shakespeare's works. Another technique is to examine all the uses of the second person ("you," "thee," etc.) and trace these instances of the second to a specific subject who is being addressed.

Example Question #122 : Interpreting Excerpts

Adapted from The Merchant of Venice, IV.i.2199-2280, by William Shakespeare (1600)

 

PORTIA: It is so. Are there balance here to weigh

    The flesh?

  SHYLOCK: I have them ready.

  PORTIA: Have by some surgeon, Shylock, on your charge,

    To stop his wounds, lest he do bleed to death.

  SHYLOCK: Is it so nominated in the bond?

  PORTIA: It is not so express'd, but what of that?

    'Twere good you do so much for charity.

  SHYLOCK: I cannot find it; 'tis not in the bond.

  PORTIA. You, merchant, have you anything to say?

  ANTONIO: But little: I am arm'd and well prepar'd.

    Give me your hand, Bassanio; fare you well.

    Grieve not that I am fall'n to this for you,

    For herein Fortune shows herself more kind

    Than is her custom. It is still her use

    To let the wretched man outlive his wealth,

    To view with hollow eye and wrinkled brow

    An age of poverty; from which ling'ring penance

    Of such misery doth she cut me off.

    Commend me to your honorable wife;

    Tell her the process of Antonio's end;

    Say how I lov'd you; speak me fair in death;

    And, when the tale is told, bid her be judge

    Whether Bassanio had not once a love.

    Repent but you that you shall lose your friend,

    And he repents not that he pays your debt;

    For if the Jew do cut but deep enough,

    I'll pay it instantly with all my heart.

  BASSANIO: Antonio, I am married to a wife

    Which is as dear to me as life itself;

    But life itself, my wife, and all the world,

    Are not with me esteem'd above thy life;

    I would lose all, ay, sacrifice them all

    Here to this devil, to deliver you.

  PORTIA: Your wife would give you little thanks for that,

    If she were by to hear you make the offer.

  GRATIANO: I have a wife who I protest I love;

    I would she were in heaven, so she could

    Entreat some power to change this currish Jew.

  NERISSA: 'Tis well you offer it behind her back;

    The wish would make else an unquiet house.

  SHYLOCK:  [Aside]  These be the Christian husbands! I have a

    daughter—

    Would any of the stock of Barrabas

    Had been her husband, rather than a Christian!—

    We trifle time; I pray thee pursue sentence.

  PORTIA: A pound of that same merchant's flesh is thine.

    The court awards it and the law doth give it.

  SHYLOCK: Most rightful judge!

  PORTIA: And you must cut this flesh from off his breast.

    The law allows it and the court awards it.

  SHYLOCK: Most learned judge! A sentence! Come, prepare.

  PORTIA: Tarry a little; there is something else.

    This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood:

    The words expressly are 'a pound of flesh.'

    Take then thy bond, take thou thy pound of flesh;

    But, in the cutting it, if thou dost shed

    One drop of Christian blood, thy lands and goods

    Are, by the laws of Venice, confiscate

    Unto the state of Venice.

  GRATIANO: O upright judge! Mark, Jew. O learned judge!

  SHYLOCK: Is that the law?

  PORTIA: Thyself shalt see the act;

    For, as thou urgest justice, be assur'd

    Thou shalt have justice, more than thou desir'st.

  GRATIANO: O learned judge! Mark, Jew. A learned judge!

  SHYLOCK: I take this offer then: pay the bond thrice,

    And let the Christian go.

  BASSANIO: Here is the money.

  PORTIA: Soft!

    The Jew shall have all justice. Soft! No haste.

    He shall have nothing but the penalty.

  GRATIANO: O Jew! an upright judge, a learned judge!

  PORTIA: Therefore, prepare thee to cut off the flesh.

    Shed thou no blood, nor cut thou less nor more

    But just a pound of flesh; if thou tak'st more

    Or less than a just pound—be it but so much

    As makes it light or heavy in the substance,

    Or the division of the twentieth part

    Of one poor scruple; nay, if the scale do turn

    But in the estimation of a hair—

    Thou diest, and all thy goods are confiscate.

Which of the following explains the action that occurs in the underlined selection?

Possible Answers:

Bassanio throws the money to Shylock, while Portia tries to calm him down.

Bassanio prepares to pay the alternative amount, but Portia allows Shylock more time to think.

Bassanio prepares to pay the alternative amount, but Portia allows Bassanio more time to think.

Bassanio shouts his answer to Shylock, while Portia tries to make him lower his voice.

Bassanio offers to pay the alternative amount, but Portia prevents him from doing so.

Correct answer:

Bassanio offers to pay the alternative amount, but Portia prevents him from doing so.

Explanation:

Portia's use of the expression "Soft!" merely means something like, "Do not say that. Wait!" Bassanio clearly wants to make the alternative payment; however, Portia seems to want Shylock to receive the exact amount of the terms—namely, the pound of flesh.

Example Question #123 : Interpreting Excerpts

Adapted from The Merchant of Venice, IV.i.2199-2280, by William Shakespeare (1600)

 

PORTIA: It is so. Are there balance here to weigh

    The flesh?

  SHYLOCK: I have them ready.

  PORTIA: Have by some surgeon, Shylock, on your charge,

    To stop his wounds, lest he do bleed to death.

  SHYLOCK: Is it so nominated in the bond?

  PORTIA: It is not so express'd, but what of that?

    'Twere good you do so much for charity.

  SHYLOCK: I cannot find it; 'tis not in the bond.

  PORTIA. You, merchant, have you anything to say?

  ANTONIO: But little: I am arm'd and well prepar'd.

    Give me your hand, Bassanio; fare you well.

    Grieve not that I am fall'n to this for you,

    For herein Fortune shows herself more kind

    Than is her custom. It is still her use

    To let the wretched man outlive his wealth,

    To view with hollow eye and wrinkled brow

    An age of poverty; from which ling'ring penance

    Of such misery doth she cut me off.

    Commend me to your honorable wife;

    Tell her the process of Antonio's end;

    Say how I lov'd you; speak me fair in death;

    And, when the tale is told, bid her be judge

    Whether Bassanio had not once a love.

    Repent but you that you shall lose your friend,

    And he repents not that he pays your debt;

    For if the Jew do cut but deep enough,

    I'll pay it instantly with all my heart.

  BASSANIO: Antonio, I am married to a wife

    Which is as dear to me as life itself;

    But life itself, my wife, and all the world,

    Are not with me esteem'd above thy life;

    I would lose all, ay, sacrifice them all

    Here to this devil, to deliver you.

  PORTIA: Your wife would give you little thanks for that,

    If she were by to hear you make the offer.

  GRATIANO: I have a wife who I protest I love;

    I would she were in heaven, so she could

    Entreat some power to change this currish Jew.

  NERISSA: 'Tis well you offer it behind her back;

    The wish would make else an unquiet house.

  SHYLOCK:  [Aside]  These be the Christian husbands! I have a

    daughter—

    Would any of the stock of Barrabas

    Had been her husband, rather than a Christian!—

    We trifle time; I pray thee pursue sentence.

  PORTIA: A pound of that same merchant's flesh is thine.

    The court awards it and the law doth give it.

  SHYLOCK: Most rightful judge!

  PORTIA: And you must cut this flesh from off his breast.

    The law allows it and the court awards it.

  SHYLOCK: Most learned judge! A sentence! Come, prepare.

  PORTIA: Tarry a little; there is something else.

    This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood:

    The words expressly are 'a pound of flesh.'

    Take then thy bond, take thou thy pound of flesh;

    But, in the cutting it, if thou dost shed

    One drop of Christian blood, thy lands and goods

    Are, by the laws of Venice, confiscate

    Unto the state of Venice.

  GRATIANO: O upright judge! Mark, Jew. O learned judge!

  SHYLOCK: Is that the law?

  PORTIA: Thyself shalt see the act;

    For, as thou urgest justice, be assur'd

    Thou shalt have justice, more than thou desir'st.

  GRATIANO: O learned judge! Mark, Jew. A learned judge!

  SHYLOCK: I take this offer then: pay the bond thrice,

    And let the Christian go.

  BASSANIO: Here is the money.

  PORTIA: Soft!

    The Jew shall have all justice. Soft! No haste.

    He shall have nothing but the penalty.

  GRATIANO: O Jew! an upright judge, a learned judge!

  PORTIA: Therefore, prepare thee to cut off the flesh.

    Shed thou no blood, nor cut thou less nor more

    But just a pound of flesh; if thou tak'st more

    Or less than a just pound—be it but so much

    As makes it light or heavy in the substance,

    Or the division of the twentieth part

    Of one poor scruple; nay, if the scale do turn

    But in the estimation of a hair—

    Thou diest, and all thy goods are confiscate.

What does Portia suggest in the underlined selection?

Possible Answers:

The procedure must not be bloody because of Venetian laws.

Shylock risks his own life in taking the pound of flesh from Antonio, for no man can take flesh from a Christian man in Venice.

The agreement was questionable because blood was omitted from the stipulations about taking a pound of flesh.

Shylock can attempt to kill Antonio, but this will require him to risk his life because of Venetian laws.

Since the agreement only speaks of flesh, Shylock can take only that from Antonio, nothing else—not even blood.

Correct answer:

Since the agreement only speaks of flesh, Shylock can take only that from Antonio, nothing else—not even blood.

Explanation:

Certainly, it is problematic that Shylock is going to take a pound of flesh from Antonio. While this does, in fact, put him in danger vis-à-vis the Venetian state, this is not Portia's main point. Instead, she means to say that the very agreement says nothing about taking blood. It is only about a pound of "flesh." Therefore, Shylock must take only this—which will be quite difficult without taking blood as well!

Example Question #124 : Interpreting Excerpts

Adapted from "The Windhover" in Poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1918)

I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-
dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
  Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
  As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
  Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird,—the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valor and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
  Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

  No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
  Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.

Which is the best paraphrase for the underlined selection?

Possible Answers:

It is remarkable when soil shines.

Soil is only useful when plowed.

Plowing is heavy but rewarding work.

Through plowing, fields sparkle.

Plows shine when used in the fields.

Correct answer:

Through plowing, fields sparkle.

Explanation:

Hopkins is talking about how the earth shines when it is cut with a plow.

Example Question #125 : Interpreting Excerpts

Adapted from "On the Wing" in The Prince's Progress and Other Poems by Christina Rossetti (1866)

Once in a dream (for once I dreamed of you)
      We stood together in an open field;
      Above our heads two swift-winged pigeons wheeled,
Sporting at ease and courting full in view.
      When loftier still a broadening darkness flew,
      Down-swooping, and a ravenous hawk revealed;
      Too weak to fight, too fond to fly, they yield;
So farewell life and love and pleasures new.
Then, as their plumes fell fluttering to the ground,
      Their snow-white plumage flecked with crimson drops,
            I wept, and thought I turned towards you to weep:
      But you were gone; while rustling hedgerow tops
Bent in a wind which bore to me a sound
      Of far-off piteous bleat of lambs and sheep.

Which of the following best summarizes the poem?

Possible Answers:

The narrator recounts a dream that reveals the psychology of lost love.

The narrator wishes to tell a sad story about the death of two birds.

Rossetti wishes to show the irrationality of dreams.

The poet Rossetti has lost her love, and she dreams about it.

Rossetti illustrates how the passion of love is tragic because the object of passion can be taken away so suddenly through a story about how this has happened to her personally.

Correct answer:

The narrator recounts a dream that reveals the psychology of lost love.

Explanation:

The narrator of the poem (not to be confused with the author Rossetti) tells a dream that reveals the psychology of lost love through the seemingly unrelated death of the two birds. The death of the birds represents the literal or figurative death of the narrator's lover; she turns around and "he" is gone.

Example Question #126 : Interpreting Excerpts

Adapted from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (1876)

In the fullness of time the interesting occasion arrived. At eight in the evening the schoolhouse was brilliantly lighted, and adorned with wreaths and festoons of foliage and flowers. The master sat throned in his great chair upon a raised platform, with his blackboard behind him. He was looking tolerably mellow. Three rows of benches on each side and six rows in front of him were occupied by the dignitaries of the town and by the parents of the pupils. To his left, back of the rows of citizens, was a spacious temporary platform upon which were seated the scholars who were to take part in the exercises of the evening; rows of small boys, washed and dressed to an intolerable state of discomfort; rows of gawky big boys; snowbanks of girls and young ladies clad in lawn and muslin and conspicuously conscious of their bare arms, their grandmothers' ancient trinkets, their bits of pink and blue ribbon and the flowers in their hair. All the rest of the house was filled with non-participating scholars.

The exercises began. A very little boy stood up and sheepishly recited, "You'd scarce expect one of my age to speak in public on the stage," etc.—accompanying himself with the painfully exact and spasmodic gestures that a machine might have used—supposing the machine to be a trifle out of order. But he got through safely, though cruelly scared, and got a fine round of applause when he made his manufactured bow and retired.

A little shamefaced girl lisped, "Mary had a little lamb," etc., performed a compassion-inspiring curtsy, got her meed of applause, and sat down flushed and happy.

Tom Sawyer stepped forward with conceited confidence and soared into the unquenchable and indestructible "Give me liberty or give me death" speech, with fine fury and frantic gesticulation, and broke down in the middle of it. A ghastly stage-fright seized him, his legs quaked under him and he was like to choke. True, he had the manifest sympathy of the house, but he had the house's silence, too, which was even worse than its sympathy. The master frowned, and this completed the disaster. Tom struggled a while and then retired, utterly defeated. There was a weak attempt at applause, but it died early.

"The Boy Stood on the Burning Deck" followed; also "The Assyrian Came Down," and other declamatory gems. Then there were reading exercises, and a spelling fight. The meager Latin class recited with honor. The prime feature of the evening was in order, now—original "compositions" by the young ladies. Each in her turn stepped forward to the edge of the platform, cleared her throat, held up her manuscript (tied with dainty ribbon), and proceeded to read, with labored attention to "expression" and punctuation. The themes were the same that had been illuminated upon similar occasions by their mothers before them, their grandmothers, and doubtless all their ancestors in the female line clear back to the Crusades. "Friendship" was one; "Memories of Other Days"; "Religion in History"; "Dream Land"; "The Advantages of Culture"; "Forms of Political Government Compared and Contrasted"; "Melancholy"; "Filial Love"; "Heart Longings," etc., etc.

A prevalent feature in these compositions was a nursed and petted melancholy; another was a wasteful and opulent gush of "fine language"; another was a tendency to lug in by the ears particularly prized words and phrases until they were worn entirely out; and a peculiarity that conspicuously marked and marred them was the inveterate and intolerable sermon that wagged its crippled tail at the end of each and every one of them. No matter what the subject might be, a brainracking effort was made to squirm it into some aspect or other that the moral and religious mind could contemplate with edification. The glaring insincerity of these sermons was not sufficient to compass the banishment of the fashion from the schools, and it is not sufficient today; it never will be sufficient while the world stands, perhaps. There is no school in all our land where the young ladies do not feel obliged to close their compositions with a sermon; and you will find that the sermon of the most frivolous and the least religious girl in the school is always the longest and the most relentlessly pious. But enough of this. Homely truth is unpalatable. 

The author's tone in describing Tom Sawyer's speech is __________.

Possible Answers:

serious and formal 

pessimistic 

humorously dramatic 

sincere and sympathetic 

pompous  

Correct answer:

humorously dramatic 

Explanation:

The correct answer is "humorously dramatic." The author's description of Tom's fervent attempt and subsequent failure to deliver his speech is meant to be humorous in its intensity.

Example Question #21 : Genre, Style, Tone, Mood, And Other Literary Features

Adapted from Life and Remains of John Clare "The Northamptonshire Peasant Poet" by John Clare (1872, ed. J. L. Cherry)

I am! Yet what I am who cares, or knows?
My friends forsake me, like a memory lost.
I am the self-consumer of my woes,
They rise and vanish, an oblivious host,
Shadows of life, whose very soul is lost.
And yet I am—I live—though I am toss'd

Into the nothingness of scorn and noise.
Into the living sea of waking dream,
Where there is neither sense of life, nor joys,
But the huge shipwreck of my own esteem
And all that's dear. Even those I loved the best
Are strange—nay, they are stranger than the rest.

I long for scenes where man has never trod—
For scenes where woman never smiled or wept—
There to abide with my Creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept,
Full of high thoughts, unborn. So let me lie,
The grass below; above, the vaulted sky.

The author's tone in the first stanza can best be described as __________.

Possible Answers:

conclusive

mocking

melancholy

impetuous

modest

Correct answer:

melancholy

Explanation:

The tone in the first stanza is largely sad or “melancholy,” as the narrator mentions his or her “woes.” We can see that the narrator feels abandoned by his or her companions and that he or she is overcome by the “shadows of life.” It is not a "mocking" tone, as there is no derision or humor in it. One cannot say it is "conclusive," as there does not seem to be any conclusion or theory drawn. Likewise, we might say it is "modest," yet the modesty comes from the sadness.

Example Question #11 : Tone

Adapted from A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift (1729)

The number of souls in this kingdom being usually reckoned one million and a half, of these I calculate there may be about two hundred thousand couple whose wives are breeders; from which number I subtract thirty thousand couples who are able to maintain their own children, although I apprehend there cannot be so many, under the present distresses of the kingdom; but this being granted, there will remain an hundred and seventy thousand breeders. I again subtract fifty thousand for those women who miscarry, or whose children die by accident or disease within the year. There only remains one hundred and twenty thousand children of poor parents annually born. The question therefore is, how this number shall be reared and provided for, which, as I have already said, under the present situation of affairs, is utterly impossible by all the methods hitherto proposed. For we can neither employ them in handicraft or agriculture; we neither build houses (I mean in the country) nor cultivate land: they can very seldom pick up a livelihood by stealing, till they arrive at six years old, except where they are of towardly parts, although I confess they learn the rudiments much earlier, during which time, they can however be properly looked upon only as probationers, as I have been informed by a principal gentleman in the county of Cavan, who protested to me that he never knew above one or two instances under the age of six, even in a part of the kingdom so renowned for the quickest proficiency in that art.

I am assured by our merchants, that a boy or a girl before twelve years old is no salable commodity; and even when they come to this age they will not yield above three pounds, or three pounds and half-a-crown at most on the exchange; which cannot turn to account either to the parents or kingdom, the charge of nutriment and rags having been at least four times that value.

I shall now therefore humbly propose my own thoughts, which I hope will not be liable to the least objection.

I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout.

I do therefore humbly offer it to public consideration that of the hundred and twenty thousand children already computed, twenty thousand may be reserved for breed, whereof only one-fourth part to be males; which is more than we allow to sheep, black cattle or swine; and my reason is, that these children are seldom the fruits of marriage, a circumstance not much regarded by our savages, therefore one male will be sufficient to serve four females. That the remaining hundred thousand may, at a year old, be offered in the sale to the persons of quality and fortune through the kingdom; always advising the mother to let them suck plentifully in the last month, so as to render them plump and fat for a good table. A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends; and when the family dines alone, the fore or hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter.

I have reckoned upon a medium that a child just born will weigh 12 pounds, and in a solar year, if tolerably nursed, increaseth to 28 pounds.

I grant this food will be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for landlords, who, as they have already devoured most of the parents, seem to have the best title to the children.

Which of the following best describes the tone of the underlined sentence?

Possible Answers:

Sarcastic

Earnest

Sympathetic

Respectful

Humble

Correct answer:

Sarcastic

Explanation:

The best description of the tone is sarcastic, or ironic. Swift demonstrates skillful sarcasm when he "humbly offers" that a hundred thousand children be offered for sale "plump and fat for a good table." His offer is not meant to be humble or practical, but rather outrageous and ironic.

Example Question #251 : Interpreting Words And Excerpts

1 Yes, long as children feel affright
2 In darkness, men shall fear a God;
3 And long as daisies yield delight
4 Shall see His footprints in the sod.
5 Is't ignorance? This ignorant state
6 Science doth but elucidate --
7 Deepen, enlarge. But though 'twere made
8 Demonstrable that God is not --
9 What then? It would not change this lot:
10 The ghost would haunt, nor could be laid.

11 Yea, ape and angel, strife and old debate --
12 The harps of heaven and the dreary gongs of hell;
13 Science the feud can only aggravate --
14 No umpire she betwixt the chimes and knell:
15 The running battle of the star and clod
16 Shall run for ever -- if there be no God.

(1876)

In lines 11-12, the poet makes repeated use of ______________________.

Possible Answers:

oxymoron

metonymy

paradox

hyperbole

antithesis

Correct answer:

antithesis

Explanation:

"Antithesis" is the contrast of two opposite things. As a rhetorical device, antithesis means to place opposites beside each other in writing. In line 11 two different antithetical pairs are presented: "ape and angel" and "strife and old debate." Line 12, "The harps of heaven and the dreary gongs of hell," opposes "harps of heaven" and "dreary gongs of hell" in yet another use of antithesis.

Passage excerpted from the epic poem Clarel by Herman Melville (1876).

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