AP English Literature : Syntax and Structure of Excerpts

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for AP English Literature

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Example Questions

Example Question #11 : Syntax And Structure Of Excerpts

Adapted from My Antonia by Willa Cather (1918)

Between the acts we had no time to forget. The orchestra kept sawing away at the 'Traviata' music, so joyous and sad, so thin and far-away, so clap-trap and yet so heart-breaking. After the second act I left Lena in tearful contemplation of the ceiling, and went out into the lobby to smoke. As I walked about there I congratulated myself that I had not brought some Lincoln girl who would talk during the waits about the junior dances, or whether the cadets would camp at Plattsmouth. Lena was at least a woman, and I was a man.

Through the scene between Marguerite and the elder Duval, Lena wept unceasingly, and I sat helpless to prevent the closing of that chapter of idyllic love, dreading the return of the young man whose ineffable happiness was only to be the measure of his fall.

I suppose no woman could have been further in person, voice, and temperament from Dumas' appealing heroine than the veteran actress who first acquainted me with her. Her conception of the character was as heavy and uncompromising as her diction; she bore hard on the idea and on the consonants. At all times she was highly tragic, devoured by remorse. Lightness of stress or behaviour was far from her. Her voice was heavy and deep: 'Ar-r-r-mond!' she would begin, as if she were summoning him to the bar of Judgment. But the lines were enough. She had only to utter them. They created the character in spite of her.

The heartless world which Marguerite re-entered with Varville had never been so glittering and reckless as on the night when it gathered in Olympe's salon for the fourth act. There were chandeliers hung from the ceiling, I remember, many servants in livery, gaming-tables where the men played with piles of gold, and a staircase down which the guests made their entrance. After all the others had gathered round the card-tables and young Duval had been warned by Prudence, Marguerite descended the staircase with Varville; such a cloak, such a fan, such jewels—and her face! One knew at a glance how it was with her. When Armand, with the terrible words, 'Look, all of you, I owe this woman nothing!' flung the gold and bank-notes at the half-swooning Marguerite, Lena cowered beside me and covered her face with her hands.

The curtain rose on the bedroom scene. By this time there wasn't a nerve in me that hadn't been twisted. Nanine alone could have made me cry. I loved Nanine tenderly; and Gaston, how one clung to that good fellow! The New Year's presents were not too much; nothing could be too much now. I wept unrestrainedly. Even the handkerchief in my breast-pocket, worn for elegance and not at all for use, was wet through by the time that moribund woman sank for the last time into the arms of her lover.

When we reached the door of the theatre, the streets were shining with rain. I had prudently brought along Mrs. Harling's useful Commencement present, and I took Lena home under its shelter. After leaving her, I walked slowly out into the country part of the town where I lived. The lilacs were all blooming in the yards, and the smell of them after the rain, of the new leaves and the blossoms together, blew into my face with a sort of bitter sweetness. I tramped through the puddles and under the showery trees, mourning for Marguerite Gauthier as if she had died only yesterday, sighing with the spirit of 1840, which had sighed so much, and which had reached me only that night, across long years and several languages, through the person of an infirm old actress. The idea is one that no circumstances can frustrate. Wherever and whenever that piece is put on, it is April.

The last sentence of the passage is most accurately described as an example of __________.

Possible Answers:

Symbolic imagery 

Paradoxical hyperbole 

Oxymoron 

Mixed metaphor 

Dramatic irony 

Correct answer:

Paradoxical hyperbole 

Explanation:

The correct answer is “paradoxical hyperbole.”  A paradox is a statement with a seemingly contradictory premise that can ultimately be truthful, or vice versa. Hyperbole is an exaggerated statement meant to elicit an emotional response. Thus, when the author writes, “Wherever and whenever that piece is put on, it is April,” she is utilizing paradoxical hyperbole, as this apparently contradictory and exaggerated statement is truthful in that it moves the reader to feel how the qualities of spring truly live where the beauty of art blooms.

Example Question #12 : Syntax And Structure Of Excerpts

Adapted from A Room With a View by  E. M. Forster (1908)

They passed into the sunlight. Cecil watched them cross the terrace, and descend out of sight by the steps. They would descend—he knew their ways—past the shrubbery, and past the tennis-lawn and the dahlia-bed, until they reached the kitchen garden, and there, in the presence of the potatoes and the peas, the great event would be discussed.

Smiling indulgently, he lit a cigarette, and rehearsed the events that had led to such a happy conclusion.

He had known Lucy for several years, but only as a commonplace girl who happened to be musical. He could still remember his depression that afternoon at Rome, when she and her terrible cousin fell on him out of the blue, and demanded to be taken to St. Peter's. That day she had seemed a typical tourist—shrill, crude, and gaunt with travel. But Italy worked some marvel in her. It gave her light, and—which he held more precious—it gave her shadow. Soon he detected in her a wonderful reticence. She was like a woman of Leonardo da Vinci's, whom we love not so much for herself as for the things that she will not tell us, The things are assuredly not of this life; no woman of Leonardo's could have anything so vulgar as a "story." She did develop most wonderfully day by day.

So it happened that from patronizing civility he had slowly passed if not to passion, at least to a profound uneasiness. Already at Rome he had hinted to her that they might be suitable for each other. It had touched him greatly that she had not broken away at the suggestion. Her refusal had been clear and gentle; after it—as the horrid phrase went—she had been exactly the same to him as before. Three months later, on the margin of Italy, among the flower-clad Alps, he had asked her again in bald, traditional language. She reminded him of a Leonardo more than ever; her sunburnt features were shadowed by fantastic rock; at his words she had turned and stood between him and the light with immeasurable plains behind her. He walked home with her unashamed, feeling not at all like a rejected suitor. The things that really mattered were unshaken.

So now he had asked her once more, and, clear and gentle as ever, she had accepted him, giving no coy reasons for her delay, but simply saying that she loved him and would do her best to make him happy. His mother, too, would be pleased; she had counselled the step; he must write her a long account.

Glancing at his hand, in case any of Freddy's chemicals had come off on it, he moved to the writing table. There he saw "Dear Mrs. Vyse," followed by many erasures. He recoiled without reading any more, and after a little hesitation sat down elsewhere, and pencilled a note on his knee.

Then he lit another cigarette, which did not seem quite as divine as the first, and considered what might be done to make Windy Corner drawing-room more distinctive. With that outlook it should have been a successful room, but the trail of Tottenham Court Road was upon it; he could almost visualize the motor-vans of Messrs. Shoolbred and Messrs. Maple arriving at the door and depositing this chair, those varnished book-cases, that writing-table. The table recalled Mrs. Honeychurch's letter. He did not want to read that letter—his temptations never lay in that direction; but he worried about it none the less. It was his own fault that she was discussing him with his mother; he had wanted her support in his third attempt to win Lucy; he wanted to feel that others, no matter who they were, agreed with him, and so he had asked their permission. Mrs. Honeychurch had been civil, but obtuse in essentials, while as for Freddy—"He is only a boy," he reflected. "I represent all that he despises. Why should he want me for a brother-in-law?"

The Honeychurches were a worthy family, but he began to realize that Lucy was of another clay; and perhaps—he did not put it very definitely—he ought to introduce her into more congenial circles as soon as possible.

Cecil’s attitude can best be described as __________.

Possible Answers:

optimistic 

sympathetic

self-aware

haughty    

contemplative  

Correct answer:

haughty    

Explanation:

The correct answer is “haughty.” Cecil’s tone throughout the passage is haughty and pompous. His critical view towards others, including Lucy’s family, is meant to depict him as an egoist who wishes to mold Lucy into someone he deems worthy of his affections.

Example Question #13 : Syntax And Structure Of Excerpts

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.

What is the effect of the enjambment of the underlined text?

Possible Answers:

It emphasizes the nothingness

It causes confusion for the reader

All of these answers are correct

It allows the author to keep the stanzas at six lines whilst keeping the same subject as the first paragraph

It can be interpreted as portraying the action of being tossed

Correct answer:

All of these answers are correct

Explanation:

We can say that the sentence that spans from the end of the first stanza to the start of the second stanza allows the author to keep the same idea while adhering to the form of six-line stanzas. We can also say that it emphasizes both the nothingness of the first line of the stanza and the action of being “tossed into the nothingness.” We can also say it causes confusion for the reader, as it is attempting to draw the reader into the confusion portrayed in the first two stanzas; therefore, we can say all of these answers are correct.

Example Question #14 : Syntax And Structure Of Excerpts

Passage adapted from Edna St. Vincent Millay's "Spring" (1921).

To what purpose, April, do you return again?

Beauty is not enough.

You can no longer quiet me with the redness 

Of leaves opening stickily.

I know what I know.  5

The sun is hot on my neck as I observe

The spikes of the crocus.

The smell of the earth is good.

It is apparent that there is no death.

But what does that signify?  10

Not only under the ground are the brains of men

Eaten by maggots.

Life in itself

Is nothing,

An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.  15

It is not enough that yearly, down this hill, 

April

Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

Lines 6-8 are developed through __________.

Possible Answers:

imagery

allusion

allegory

hyperbole

euphemism

Correct answer:

imagery

Explanation:

Lines 6-8 are developed through imagery. Imagery allows the reader to better envision a scene or setting in a piece of literature by providing descriptions that draw on the five senses (sight, smell, taste, touch, or hearing.) For example, the poet describes the smell of the earth and the warmth of the sun.

An allusion is an indirect reference to a person, place or thing of historical, cultural or literary importance. An allegory is a story that uses symbolic characters and events to convey a religious meaning. Hyperbole is the use of exaggeration for the sake of emphasis. A euphemism is a polite, subtle expression used to replace a word or phrase that is considered impolite or inappropriate. There are no examples of allusion, allegory, hyperbole, or euphemism in these lines.

Example Question #15 : Syntax And Structure Of Excerpts

Passage adapted from Edna St. Vincent Millay's "Spring" (1921).

To what purpose, April, do you return again?

Beauty is not enough.

You can no longer quiet me with the redness 

Of leaves opening stickily.

I know what I know.  5

The sun is hot on my neck as I observe

The spikes of the crocus.

The smell of the earth is good.

It is apparent that there is no death.

But what does that signify?  10

Not only under the ground are the brains of men

Eaten by maggots.

Life in itself

Is nothing,

An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.  15

It is not enough that yearly, down this hill, 

April

Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

The final three lines are primarily developed through __________.

Possible Answers:

simile

consonance

idiom

personification

anecdote

Correct answer:

personification

Explanation:

These lines are developed primarily through personification because the month of April (a time of the year, something not human) is being described with human attributes, such as the ability to run and throw flowers. 

An "anecdote" is a short, amusing story told for the purpose of demonstrating a point or for entertainment. An "idiom" is an expression that is not interpreted literally but has a commonly accepted meaning that is different from what the individual words in the phrase would imply. A "simile" is a figure of speech that makes a compares two different things using the words "like" or "as." "Consonance" is the use of the same consonant sound throughout a sentence or phrase.  

Example Question #21 : Structure And Form: Poetry

Passage adapted from Edna St. Vincent Millay's "Spring" (1921).

To what purpose, April, do you return again?

Beauty is not enough.

You can no longer quiet me with the redness 

Of leaves opening stickily.

I know what I know.  5

The sun is hot on my neck as I observe

The spikes of the crocus.

The smell of the earth is good.

It is apparent that there is no death.

But what does that signify?  10

Not only under the ground are the brains of men

Eaten by maggots.

Life in itself

Is nothing,

An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.  15

It is not enough that yearly, down this hill, 

April

Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

This poem is an example of __________.

Possible Answers:

a villanelle

blank verse

a ballad

free verse

iambic tetrameter

Correct answer:

free verse

Explanation:

This poem is written in free verse because it does not use a consistent meter or rhyme scheme. "Blank verse" refers to unrhymed lines of iambic pentameter. "A ballad" is a poem set to music, often narrative in its content. "A villanelle" consists of nineteen lines (five tercets and a quatrain) with a repeating rhyme structure. "Iambic tetrameter" refers to a form of meter that consists of four beats ("tetra") in the iambic foot.

Example Question #151 : Literary Terminology And Devices

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.

The following sentence exemplifies which rhetorical device?

Possible Answers:

Allusion

Metonymy

Hyperbole 

Anecdote

Aphorism

Correct answer:

Hyperbole 

Explanation:

A hyperbole is an exaggeration of facts or claims, not meant to be interpreted literally. Here, the hyperbole is the "devouring" of parents of children. The parents are not "devoured" in the literal sense of eaten in a ravenous or quick manner, but are treated very poorly and denied basic human rights.

Example Question #71 : Interpreting 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)

Lines 1-10 exhibit _________________.

Possible Answers:

tetrameter

pentameter

dimeter

free verse

tercets

Correct answer:

tetrameter

Explanation:

"Meter" refers to the rhythm of poetry. "Tetrameter" is a meter in which lines consist of four metrical "feet." A metrical "foot" is a unit usually containing two and sometimes three syllables, and usually containing only one stressed syllable. Lines 1-10 of this passage are written in tetrameter. For example, in line 3, "And long as daisies yield delight," there are four metrical feet (all iambs, in this case). Here is that same line of tetrameter divided out into its four metrical feet: "And long / as dai- / -sies yeild / delight."

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

Example Question #17 : Syntax And Structure Of 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)

What is the subject of the verb "enlarge" (line 7)?

Possible Answers:

"This ignorant state" (line 5)

The addressee, because the verb is an imperative.

the speaker (implied)

"Science" (line 6)

God

Correct answer:

"Science" (line 6)

Explanation:

The subject of a verb is the thing which performs the action of that verb. For instance, in the sentence, "The dog barks," the "dog" is the subject of the verb "barks" because the dog is the thing which does the barking.

In lines 5-7, the poem reads: "This ignorant state / Science doth but elucidate-- / Deepen, enlarge..." In other words, science elucidates, deepens, and enlarges "this ignorant state." Science is the thing performing the action of all three of those verbs, "enlarge" included, and therefore "science" (line 6) is the subject of the verb "enlarge."

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

Example Question #18 : Syntax And Structure Of 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)

What is the direct object of the verb "aggravate" (line 13)?

Possible Answers:

"the feud" (line 13)

"ape and angel" (line 11)

"umpire" (line 14)

"science" (line 13)

"only" (line 13)

Correct answer:

"the feud" (line 13)

Explanation:

The direct object of a verb is the thing that receives the action of that verb. For instance, in the sentence, "The cat eats the food," the "food" is the direct object of the verb "eats" because it is the thing being eaten.

That said, in line 13, "Science the feud can only aggravate," the "feud" is the thing being aggravated. Therefore, "the feud" is the direct object of the verb "aggravate" in this line.

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

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