AP English Literature : Summarizing or Describing the Passage

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP English Literature

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Example Questions

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Example Question #2 : Genre

1 Two households, both alike in dignity,
  In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
  From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
  Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
5 From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
  A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;
  Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
  Do with their death bury their parents' strife.
9 The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love,
  And the continuance of their parents' rage,
  Which, but their children's end, nought could remove,
  Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage;
13 The which if you with patient ears attend,
     What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.

(1595)

Judging from the plot summary contained in lines 1-11, the genre of the story as a whole is most likely ________________.

Possible Answers:

satire

comedy

tragedy

didactic

sonnet

Correct answer:

tragedy

Explanation:

The broadest definition of the genre "tragedy" is that it is a story that ends unhappily. It is clear that this story ends unhappily because the two innocent lovers die at the end. Another major feature of tragedy as a genre is that the unhappy end is brought about by a character flaw in one or more characters. In this case, the two households' hatred of each other brings about the tragic end. The genre of the play from which this passage is taken is therefore clearly tragedy.  

Passage adapted from William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (1595).

Example Question #11 : Literary Terminology Describing Drama

KING LEAR: Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!

You cataracts and hurricanes, spout

Till you have drench'd our steeples, drown'd the cocks! 

You sulph'rous and thought-executing fires,

Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,   (5)

Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,

Strike flat the thick rotundity o' th' world,

Crack Nature's moulds, all germains spill at once, 

That makes ingrateful man!

(1606)

What literary device can be seen throughout this passage?

Possible Answers:

Stream of consciousness

Sarcasm

Apostrophe

Allegory

Aphorism

Correct answer:

Apostrophe

Explanation:

Throughout the passage, the speaker directly addresses the storm.  An aphorism is a pithy saying or adage (e.g. “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”). Allegory is the use of a story or extended metaphor to make a philosophical or moral point (e.g. George Orwell’s Animal Farm). Stream of consciousness is a style of writing designed to mimic the free-flowing thoughts of someone’s inner consciousness. Sarcasm is verbal irony and is often cutting or satirical.

Passage adapted from William Shakespeare’s King Lear (1606)

Example Question #311 : Ap English Literature And Composition

KING LEAR: Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!

You cataracts and hurricanes, spout

Till you have drench'd our steeples, drown'd the cocks! 

You sulph'rous and thought-executing fires,

Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,   (5)

Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,

Strike flat the thick rotundity o' th' world,

Crack Nature's moulds, all germains spill at once, 

That makes ingrateful man!

(1606)

What is this passage’s poetic meter?

Possible Answers:

Heroic couplets

Hendecasyllabics

Free verse

Blank verse

Dactylic hexameter

Correct answer:

Free verse

Explanation:

Unlike much of Shakespeare’s work, which is typically in iambic pentameter, this poem does not have a fixed meter. It also does not have a fixed rhyme scheme. This makes it an example of free verse.

Passage adapted from William Shakespeare’s King Lear (1606)

Example Question #2 : Tone, Style, And Mood: Drama

KING LEAR: Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!

You cataracts and hurricanes, spout

Till you have drench'd our steeples, drown'd the cocks! 

You sulph'rous and thought-executing fires,

Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,   (5)

Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,

Strike flat the thick rotundity o' th' world,

Crack Nature's moulds, all germains spill at once, 

That makes ingrateful man!

(1606)

Which of the following could not describe the tone of this passage?

Possible Answers:

Gleeful

Perverse

Furious

Impassioned

Dour

Correct answer:

Dour

Explanation:

In this passage, King Lear exhibits a variety of emotions. He is gleeful at the advent of the storm, but he is also furious at mankind – hence his gladness about the destructive storm. This contradictory emotion – joy in the face of destruction – can also said to be perverse. The passage is certainly very impassioned, and it is decisively not "dour" (stern and solemn).

Passage adapted from William Shakespeare’s King Lear (1606)

Example Question #51 : Summarizing Or Describing The Passage

Passage adapted from The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade by Herman Melville (1857)

At sunrise on a first of April, there appeared suddenly a man in cream-colors at the water-side in the city of St. Louis.

His cheek was fair, his chin downy, his hair flaxen, his hat a white fur one, with a long fleecy nap. He had neither trunk, valise, carpet-bag, nor parcel. No porter followed him. He was unaccompanied by friends. From the shrugged shoulders, titters, whispers, wonderings of the crowd, it was plain that he was, in the extremest sense of the word, a stranger.

In the same moment with his advent, he stepped aboard the favorite steamer Fidèle, on the point of starting for New Orleans. Stared at, but unsaluted, with the air of one neither courting nor shunning regard, but evenly pursuing the path of duty, lead it through solitudes or cities, he held on his way along the lower deck until he chanced to come to a placard nigh the captain's office, offering a reward for the capture of a mysterious impostor, supposed to have recently arrived from the East; quite an original genius in his vocation, as would appear, though wherein his originality consisted was not clearly given; but what purported to be a careful description of his person followed.

As if it had been a theatre-bill, crowds were gathered about the announcement, and among them certain chevaliers, whose eyes, it was plain, were on the capitals, or, at least, earnestly seeking sight of them from behind intervening coats; but as for their fingers, they were enveloped in some myth; though, during a chance interval, one of these chevaliers somewhat showed his hand in purchasing from another chevalier, ex-officio a peddler of money-belts, one of his popular safe-guards, while another peddler, who was still another versatile chevalier, hawked, in the thick of the throng, the lives of Measan, the bandit of Ohio, Murrel, the pirate of the Mississippi, and the brothers Harpe, the Thugs of the Green River country, in Kentucky—creatures, with others of the sort, one and all exterminated at the time, and for the most part, like the hunted generations of wolves in the same regions, leaving comparatively few successors; which would seem cause for unalloyed gratulation, and is such to all except those who think that in new countries, where the wolves are killed off, the foxes increase.

Pausing at this spot, the stranger so far succeeded in threading his way, as at last to plant himself just beside the placard, when, producing a small slate and tracing some words upon it, he held it up before him on a level with the placard, so that they who read the one might read the other. The words were these:—

"Charity thinketh no evil.”

The steamship in the passage is traveling from __________ to __________.

Possible Answers:

New Orleans . . . Minneapolis

Baton Rouge . . . St. Louis

St. Louis . . . New Orleans

New Orleans . . . St. Louis

St. Louis . . . Baton Rouge

Correct answer:

St. Louis . . . New Orleans

Explanation:

In the first paragraph, we are told that the man in cream-colors arrives “at the water-side in the city of St. Louis.” He boards the steamboat in the next paragraph, so we can infer that the steamboat is traveling from St. Louis to somewhere else. This allows us to narrow our answer choices to just those beginning with “St. Louis,” so we need to figure out if the steamboat is going to New Orleans or Baton Rouge. This information is provided at the beginning of the second paragraph: “In the same moment with his advent, he stepped aboard the favorite steamer Fidèle, on the point of starting for New Orleans.” So, the correct answer is that the steamboat was traveling from St. Louis to New Orleans.

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