AP English Literature : Summarizing or Describing the Passage

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP English Literature

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Characterization And Motivation

Adapted from “Solitary Death, make me thine own” in Underneath the Bough: A Book of Verses by Michael Field (pseudonym of Katherine Bradley and Edith Cooper) (1893)

 

Solitary Death, make me thine own,

And let us wander the bare fields together;

          Yea, thou and I alone

Roving in unembittered unison forever.

 

I will not harry thy treasure-graves,

I do not ask thy still hands a lover;

            My heart within me craves

To travel till we twain Time’s wilderness discover.

 

To sojourn with thee my soul was bred,

And I, the courtly sights of life refusing,

            To the wide shadows fled,

And mused upon thee often as I fell a-musing.

 

Escaped from chaos, thy mother Night,

In her maiden breast a burthen that awed her,

           By cavern waters white

Drew thee her first-born, her unfathered off-spring toward her.

 

On dewey plats, near twilight dingle,

She oft, to still thee from men’s sobs and curses

           In thine ears a-tingle,

Pours her cool charms, her weird, reviving chaunt rehearses.

 

Though mortals menace thee or elude,

And from thy confines break in swift transgression.

            Thou for thyself art sued

Of me, I claim thy cloudy purlieus my possession.

 

To a long freshwater, where the sea

Stirs the silver flux of the reeds and willows,

            Come thou, and beckon me

To lie in the lull of the sand-sequestered billows:

 

Then take the life I have called my own

And to the liquid universe deliver;

            Loosening my spirit’s zone,

Wrap round me as thy limbs the wind, the light, the river.

In the poem, “Death” is personified as which of the following?

Possible Answers:

The captain of a ship

A lover

A thief

A long-desired companion

A mother

Correct answer:

A long-desired companion

Explanation:

In this poem, death is personified (and addressed) as a long-desired companion. While the description of the relationship sounds quite intimate, the speaker specifically states that he or she “do[es] not ask thy still hands a lover.” Death is often characterized as a thief in literature, but this piece is subverting that trope. "Night" is personified as death’s “mother,” and while the river is discussed at length, death is taking the speaker to the river, not ferrying the speaker across it on a boat.

Example Question #1 : Other Main Idea Concepts

Adapted from “Solitary Death, make me thine own” in Underneath the Bough: A Book of Verses by Michael Field (pseudonym of Katherine Bradley and Edith Cooper) (1893)

 

Solitary Death, make me thine own,

And let us wander the bare fields together;

          Yea, thou and I alone

Roving in unembittered unison forever.

 

I will not harry thy treasure-graves,

I do not ask thy still hands a lover;

            My heart within me craves

To travel till we twain Time’s wilderness discover.

 

To sojourn with thee my soul was bred,

And I, the courtly sights of life refusing,

            To the wide shadows fled,

And mused upon thee often as I fell a-musing.

 

Escaped from chaos, thy mother Night,

In her maiden breast a burthen that awed her,

           By cavern waters white

Drew thee her first-born, her unfathered off-spring toward her.

 

On dewey plats, near twilight dingle,

She oft, to still thee from men’s sobs and curses

           In thine ears a-tingle,

Pours her cool charms, her weird, reviving chaunt rehearses.

 

Though mortals menace thee or elude,

And from thy confines break in swift transgression.

            Thou for thyself art sued

Of me, I claim thy cloudy purlieus my possession.

 

To a long freshwater, where the sea

Stirs the silver flux of the reeds and willows,

            Come thou, and beckon me

To lie in the lull of the sand-sequestered billows:

 

Then take the life I have called my own

And to the liquid universe deliver;

            Loosening my spirit’s zone,

Wrap round me as thy limbs the wind, the light, the river.

Which of the following is NOT a subject treated in the poem?

Possible Answers:

Solitary, internal philosophical reflection

Fear of death

The unjustness of early death

The origin of death

The nature of loyal companionship

Correct answer:

The unjustness of early death

Explanation:

The only subject listed that is not treated in the poem is the unjustness of early death. While death is covered extensively, the idea of “fairness” or justice with relation to death is directly at odds with the poem's treatment of death not as an exchange or an intrusion, but a natural and philosophically fruitful part of life.

Fear of death (in others) is alluded to by “men’s sobs and curses.” The nature of loyal companionship is alluded to throughout, but especially in the second stanza. The metaphysical origin of death is said to be “mother night” (who herself “escaped from chaos”), and the poem itself functions as a philosophical reflection, in addition to referencing the speaker taking this action (“And I, the courtly sights of life refusing, / To the wide shadows fled, / And mused upon thee often as I fell a-musing.”)

Example Question #13 : Structure And Form: Poetry

Adapted from “Solitary Death, make me thine own” in Underneath the Bough: A Book of Verses by Michael Field (pseudonym of Katherine Bradley and Edith Cooper) (1893)

 

Solitary Death, make me thine own,

And let us wander the bare fields together;

          Yea, thou and I alone

Roving in unembittered unison forever.

 

I will not harry thy treasure-graves,

I do not ask thy still hands a lover;

            My heart within me craves

To travel till we twain Time’s wilderness discover.

 

To sojourn with thee my soul was bred,

And I, the courtly sights of life refusing,

            To the wide shadows fled,

And mused upon thee often as I fell a-musing.

 

Escaped from chaos, thy mother Night,

In her maiden breast a burthen that awed her,

           By cavern waters white

Drew thee her first-born, her unfathered off-spring toward her.

 

On dewey plats, near twilight dingle,

She oft, to still thee from men’s sobs and curses

           In thine ears a-tingle,

Pours her cool charms, her weird, reviving chaunt rehearses.

 

Though mortals menace thee or elude,

And from thy confines break in swift transgression.

            Thou for thyself art sued

Of me, I claim thy cloudy purlieus my possession.

 

To a long freshwater, where the sea

Stirs the silver flux of the reeds and willows,

            Come thou, and beckon me

To lie in the lull of the sand-sequestered billows:

 

Then take the life I have called my own

And to the liquid universe deliver;

            Loosening my spirit’s zone,

Wrap round me as thy limbs the wind, the light, the river.

The MOST conventional aspect of this poem is which of the following?

Possible Answers:

Its treatment of mortality as a concept

Its rhyme structure

Its characterization of night

Its use of personification

Its use of imagery in relation to death

Correct answer:

Its rhyme structure

Explanation:

This poem features a straightforward alternating ABAB rhyme structure in each of its stanzas. Meanwhile, its treatment of Death as a welcome companion is certainly unconventional, as is its extensive and idiosyncratic personification and characterization and its use of imagery in relation to death (Death’s embrace as the welcoming, encompassing hug of a friend, rather than, for example, a bony hand grasping someone’s ankle).

Example Question #11 : Interpreting The Passage

Adapted from Howard's End by E.M. Forster (1910)

We are not concerned with the very poor. They are unthinkable, and only to be approached by the statistician or the poet. This story deals with gentlefolk, or with those who are obliged to pretend that they are gentlefolk.

The boy, Leonard Bast, stood at the extreme verge of gentility. He was not in the abyss, but he could see it, and at times people whom he knew had dropped in, and counted no more. He knew that he was poor, and would admit it: he would have died sooner than confess any inferiority to the rich. This may be splendid of him. But he was inferior to most rich people, there is not the least doubt of it. He was not as courteous as the average rich man, nor as intelligent, nor as healthy, nor as lovable. His mind and his body had been alike underfed, because he was poor, and
because he was modern they were always craving better food. Had he lived some centuries ago, in the brightly coloured civilizations of the past, he would have had a definite status, his rank and his income would have corresponded. But in his day the angel of Democracy had arisen, enshadowing the classes with leathern wings, and proclaiming, "All men are equal--all men, that is to say,
who possess umbrellas," and so he was obliged to assert gentility, lest he slipped into the abyss where nothing counts, and the statements of Democracy are inaudible.

As he walked away from Wickham Place, his first care was to prove that he was as good as the Miss Schlegels. Obscurely wounded in his pride, he tried to wound them in return. They were probably not ladies. Would real ladies have asked him to tea? They were certainly ill-natured and cold. At each step his feeling of superiority increased. Would a real lady have talked about stealing an umbrella? Perhaps they were thieves after all, and if he had gone into the house they could have clapped a chloroformed handkerchief over his face. He walked on complacently as far as the Houses of Parliament. There an empty stomach asserted itself, and told him he was a fool.

"Evening, Mr. Bast."

"Evening, Mr. Dealtry."

"Nice evening."

"Evening."

Mr. Dealtry, a fellow clerk, passed on, and Leonard stood wondering whether he would take the tram as far as a penny would take him, or whether he would walk. He decided to walk--it is no good giving in, and he had spent money enough at Queen's Hall--and he walked over Westminster Bridge, in front of St. Thomas's Hospital, and through the immense tunnel that passes under the South-Western main line at Vauxhall. In the tunnel he paused and listened to the roar of the trains. A sharp pain darted through his head, and he was conscious of the exact form of his eye sockets. He pushed on for another mile, and did not slacken speed until he stood at the entrance of a road called Camelia Road, which was at present his home.

Here he stopped again, and glanced suspiciously to right and left, like a rabbit that is going to bolt into its hole. A block of flats, constructed with extreme cheapness, towered on either hand. Farther down the road two more blocks were being built, and beyond these an old house was being demolished to accommodate another pair. It was the kind of scene that may be observed all over London, whatever the locality--bricks and mortar rising and falling with the restlessness of the water in a fountain, as the city receives more and more men upon her soil. Camelia Road would soon stand out like a fortress, and command, for a little, an extensive view. Only for a little. Plans were out for the erection of flats in Magnolia Road also. And again a few years, and all the flats in either road might be pulled down, and new buildings, of a vastness at present unimaginable, might arise where they had fallen.

The narrator's assertion that Leonard Bast was "inferior to most rich people" suggests which of the following?

Possible Answers:

That Leonard Bast is not a trustworthy character

That Leonard Bast is a very proud and vain man

That the narrator believes that industrial capitalism is a morally destructive economic system

The benefits afforded by wealth and privilege extend to intangibles such as character and education

That the narrator is essentially a snob

Correct answer:

The benefits afforded by wealth and privilege extend to intangibles such as character and education

Explanation:

The narrator's point is that, despite his wish to assert his equality with other men, Bast's "mind and . . . body had been alike underfed" because of his poverty. 

Example Question #11 : Summarizing Or Describing The Passage

Adapted from Hamlet by William Shakespeare, III.i.56-89 (1874 ed., Clark and Wright)

Hamlet: "To be, or not to be: that is the question:

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;

No more; and by a sleep to say we end

The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks

That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;

To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pause: there's the respect 

That makes calamity of so long life;

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,

The oppressor's wrongs, the proud mans' contumely,

The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,

The insolence of office, and the spurns 

That patient merit of the unowrthy takes,

When he himself might his quietus make

With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,

To grunt and sweat under a weary life,

But that the dread of something after death,

The undiscover'd country from whose bourn 

No traveller returns, puzzles the will,

And makes us rather bear those ills we have 

Than fly to others that we know not of?

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;

And thus the native hue of resolution

Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,

And enterprises of great pith and moment

With this regard their currents turn awry,

And lose the name of action. Soft you now!

The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons

Be all my sins remember'd."

In this passage, we can best infer that Hamlet is contemplating what?

Possible Answers:

Avenging Ophelia's death

The futility of existence

Suicide

Running away

The meaning of a good life

Correct answer:

Suicide

Explanation:

The process of elimination shows the best answer to be suicide. Ophelia is only mentioned at the end of the poem, with no mention of revenge in the text. Likewise, there is no mention of the meaning of a good life. The others are close, but the phrase “conscience makes cowards of us all” alludes to suicide, and the futility of existence is assumed rather than argued in this monologue. Hence, suicide is the best answer. 

Example Question #11 : Interpreting The Passage

Adapted from Hamlet by William Shakespeare, III.i.56-89 (1874 ed., Clark and Wright)

Hamlet: "To be, or not to be: that is the question:

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;

No more; and by a sleep to say we end

The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks

That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;

To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pause: there's the respect 

That makes calamity of so long life;

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,

The oppressor's wrongs, the proud mans' contumely,

The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,

The insolence of office, and the spurns 

That patient merit of the unowrthy takes,

When he himself might his quietus make

With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,

To grunt and sweat under a weary life,

But that the dread of something after death,

The undiscover'd country from whose bourn 

No traveller returns, puzzles the will,

And makes us rather bear those ills we have 

Than fly to others that we know not of?

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;

And thus the native hue of resolution

Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,

And enterprises of great pith and moment

With this regard their currents turn awry,

And lose the name of action. Soft you now!

The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons

Be all my sins remember'd."

Hamlet's thought process in this passage can best be described as which of the following?

Possible Answers:

Melodramatic

Reasoned

Guilty

Pious

Erratic

Correct answer:

Reasoned

Explanation:

Hamlet is here following almost an order of logical syllogism—if x is true, then y follows. It is not an erratic, wandering raving like that of King Lear. Nor is it an impassioned plea to God's justice, as might be found in Measure for Measure. Does Hamlet's reference to Ophelia at the end of the passage constitute a guilty aside? That is uncertain from the context,but even if it is, it is also a sharp break with the overall tone of the passage. "Melodramatic" is easily removed. Thus, "reasoned" seems to be the best answer.

Example Question #281 : Ap English Literature And Composition

Adapted from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (1859)

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

There were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a plain face, on the throne of England; there were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a fair face, on the throne of France. In both countries it was clearer than crystal to the lords of the State preserves of loaves and fishes, that things in general were settled for ever.

France, less favored on the whole as to matters spiritual than her sister of the shield and trident, rolled with exceeding smoothness down hill, making paper money and spending it. Under the guidance of her Christian pastors, she entertained herself, besides, with such humane achievements as sentencing a youth to have his hands cut off, his tongue torn out with pincers, and his body burned alive, because he had not kneeled down in the rain to do honor to a dirty procession of monks which passed within his view, at a distance of some fifty or sixty yards. It is likely enough that, rooted in the woods of France and Norway, there were growing trees, when that sufferer was put to death, already marked by the Woodman, Fate, to come down and be sawn into boards, to make a certain movable framework with a sack and a knife in it, terrible in history. It is likely enough that in the rough outhouses of some tillers of the heavy lands adjacent to Paris, there were sheltered from the weather that very day, rude carts, bespattered with rustic mire, snuffed about by pigs, and roosted in by poultry, which the Farmer, Death, had already set apart to be his tumbrils of the Revolution. But, that Woodman and that Farmer, though they work unceasingly, work silently, and no one heard them as they went about with muffled tread: the rather, forasmuch as to entertain any suspicion that they were awake, was to be atheistical and traitorous.

In England, there was scarcely an amount of order and protection to justify much national boasting. Daring burglaries by armed men, and highway robberies, took place in the capital itself every night; families were publicly cautioned not to go out of town without removing their furniture to upholsterers' warehouses for security; the highwayman in the dark was a City tradesman in the light, and, being recognized and challenged by his fellow-tradesman whom he stopped in his character of "the Captain," gallantly shot him through the head and rode away; the mail was waylaid by seven robbers, and the guard shot three dead, and then got shot dead himself by the other four, "in consequence of the failure of his ammunition": after which the mail was robbed in peace; that magnificent potentate, the Lord Mayor of London, was made to stand and deliver on Turnham Green, by one highwayman, who despoiled the illustrious creature in sight of all his retinue; prisoners in London gaols fought battles with their turnkeys, and the majesty of the law fired blunderbusses in among them, loaded with rounds of shot and ball; thieves snipped off diamond crosses from the necks of noble lords at Court drawing rooms; musketeers went into St Giles's, to search for contraband goods, and the mob fired on the musketeers, and the musketeers fired on the mob; and nobody thought any of these occurrences much out of the common way. In the midst of them, the hangman, ever busy and ever worse than useless, was in constant requisition; now, stringing up long rows of miscellaneous criminals; now, hanging a housebreaker on Saturday who had been taken on Tuesday; now, burning people in the hand at Newgate by the dozen, and now burning pamphlets at the door of Westminster Hall; to-day, taking the life of an atrocious murderer, and tomorrow of a wretched pilferer who had robbed a farmer's boy of sixpence.

Which of the following is personified in the passage?

Possible Answers:

The hangman

The Farmer

The State

God

Death

Correct answer:

Death

Explanation:

In the passage's third paragraph, Death is personified as the farmer who is preparing for a later, greater harvest: "It is likely enough that in the rough outhouses of some tillers of the heavy lands adjacent to Paris, there were sheltered from the weather that very day, rude carts, bespattered with rustic mire, snuffed about by pigs, and roosted in by poultry, which the Farmer, Death, had already set apart to be his tumbrils of the Revolution."

Example Question #12 : Interpreting The Passage

Adapted from King Henry V by William Shakespeare (III.i.1092-1125)

 

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;

Or close the wall up with our English dead.

In peace there's nothing so becomes a man

As modest stillness and humility:

But when the blast of war blows in our ears,

Then imitate the action of the tiger;

Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,

Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage;

Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;

Let pry through the portage of the head

Like the brass cannon; let the brow o'erwhelm it

As fearfully as doth a galled rock

O'erhang and jutty his confounded base,

Swill'd with the wild and wasteful ocean.

Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,

Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit

To his full height. On, on, you noblest English.

Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!

Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,

Have in these parts from morn till even fought

And sheathed their swords for lack of argument:

Dishonour not your mothers; now attest

That those whom you call'd fathers did beget you.

Be copy now to men of grosser blood,

And teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman,

Whose limbs were made in England, show us here

The mettle of your pasture; let us swear

That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;

For there is none of you so mean and base,

That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.

I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,

Straining upon the start. The game's afoot:

Follow your spirit, and upon this charge

Cry "God for Harry, England, and Saint George!"

What is the purpose of Henry's speech?

Possible Answers:

To bring a variety of men together for a single cause

To intimidate his enemies with savage diction

To prepare his men for their first battle

To urge on the soldiers using threats

To inspire his men with thoughts of peace

Correct answer:

To bring a variety of men together for a single cause

Explanation:

Henry has a variety of men in front of him and he needs to rally all of them equally to unite for a single cause. To do so, he refers to all Englishmen, from noblemen to yeomen farmers. He states specifically that none are "so mean and base," meaning none of them are unworthy or unsophisticated enough for war.

Example Question #281 : Ap English Literature And Composition

Adapted from King Henry V by William Shakespeare (III.i.1092-1125)

 

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;

Or close the wall up with our English dead.

In peace there's nothing so becomes a man

As modest stillness and humility:

But when the blast of war blows in our ears,

Then imitate the action of the tiger;

Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,

Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage;

Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;

Let pry through the portage of the head

Like the brass cannon; let the brow o'erwhelm it

As fearfully as doth a galled rock

O'erhang and jutty his confounded base,

Swill'd with the wild and wasteful ocean.

Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,

Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit

To his full height. On, on, you noblest English.

Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!

Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,

Have in these parts from morn till even fought

And sheathed their swords for lack of argument:

Dishonour not your mothers; now attest

That those whom you call'd fathers did beget you.

Be copy now to men of grosser blood,

And teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman,

Whose limbs were made in England, show us here

The mettle of your pasture; let us swear

That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;

For there is none of you so mean and base,

That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.

I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,

Straining upon the start. The game's afoot:

Follow your spirit, and upon this charge

Cry "God for Harry, England, and Saint George!"

Which of the following are major themes of this passage?

Possible Answers:

Honor and truth

Lineage and truth

Romantic love and honor

Lineage and honor

Romantic love and truth

Correct answer:

Lineage and honor

Explanation:

Lineage and honor are major themes of this passage, as the speaker urges his soldiers to demonstrate their lineage. He describes them as "whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof" and says, "Dishonour not your mothers; now attest / That those whom you call'd fathers did beget you." Romantic love and truth are not major themes of the passage.

Example Question #11 : Interpreting The Passage

Adapted from King Henry V by William Shakespeare (III.i.1092-1125)

 

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;

Or close the wall up with our English dead.

In peace there's nothing so becomes a man

As modest stillness and humility:

But when the blast of war blows in our ears,

Then imitate the action of the tiger;

Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,

Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage;

Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;

Let pry through the portage of the head

Like the brass cannon; let the brow o'erwhelm it

As fearfully as doth a galled rock

O'erhang and jutty his confounded base,

Swill'd with the wild and wasteful ocean.

Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,

Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit

To his full height. On, on, you noblest English.

Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!

Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,

Have in these parts from morn till even fought

And sheathed their swords for lack of argument:

Dishonour not your mothers; now attest

That those whom you call'd fathers did beget you.

Be copy now to men of grosser blood,

And teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman,

Whose limbs were made in England, show us here

The mettle of your pasture; let us swear

That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;

For there is none of you so mean and base,

That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.

I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,

Straining upon the start. The game's afoot:

Follow your spirit, and upon this charge

Cry "God for Harry, England, and Saint George!"

The tone of the speaker of this passage can be best described as __________.

Possible Answers:

challenging

laudatory

nervous

obsequious

resigned

Correct answer:

challenging

Explanation:

Henry is challenging his men to prove themselves in battle by subtly questioning their honor and patriotism.

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