GED Language Arts (RLA) : Passage Meaning and Inference

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for GED Language Arts (RLA)

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store

Example Questions

Example Question #2 : Language In The Passage

The worship of the senses has often, and with much justice, been decried, men feeling a natural instinct of terror about passions and sensations that seem stronger than themselves, and that they are conscious of sharing with the less highly organized forms of existence. But it appeared to Dorian Gray that the true nature of the senses had never been understood, and that they had remained savage and animal merely because the world had sought to starve them into submission or to kill them by pain, instead of aiming at making them elements of a new spirituality, of which a fine instinct for beauty was to be the dominant characteristic. As he looked back upon man moving through history, he was haunted by a feeling of loss. So much had been surrendered! and to such little purpose! There had been mad wilful rejections, monstrous forms of self-torture and self-denial, whose origin was fear and whose result was a degradation infinitely more terrible than that fancied degradation from which, in their ignorance, they had sought to escape; Nature, in her wonderful irony, driving out the anchorite to feed with the wild animals of the desert and giving to the hermit the beasts of the field as his companions.

 

Yes: there was to be, as Lord Henry had prophesied, a new Hedonism that was to recreate life and to save it from that harsh uncomely puritanism that is having, in our own day, its curious revival. It was to have its service of the intellect, certainly, yet it was never to accept any theory or system that would involve the sacrifice of any mode of passionate experience. Its aim, indeed, was to be experience itself, and not the fruits of experience, sweet or bitter as they might be. Of the asceticism that deadens the senses, as of the vulgar profligacy that dulls them, it was to know nothing. But it was to teach man to concentrate himself upon the moments of a life that is itself but a moment.

Passage adapted from Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890)

What is (or was) “that fancied degradation?”

Possible Answers:

The degradation brought about by being a human

The degradation brought about by being religious

The degradation brought about by obeying ones senses or passions

None of these

Correct answer:

The degradation brought about by obeying ones senses or passions

Explanation:

“The degradation brought about by obeying ones senses or passions” is the correct answer. The entire passage is discussing how men spent all of history running away from “passions and sensations” shared with “the less highly organized forms of existence” (i.e. animals) because they were scared of the end result. In other, less complex language, in this passage, Dorian is noting how humanity has settled for suppressing primal desires out of fear of what would happen if they didn’t—the “fancied degradation,” in other words.

Example Question #1 : Language In The Passage

The worship of the senses has often, and with much justice, been decried, men feeling a natural instinct of terror about passions and sensations that seem stronger than themselves, and that they are conscious of sharing with the less highly organized forms of existence. But it appeared to Dorian Gray that the true nature of the senses had never been understood, and that they had remained savage and animal merely because the world had sought to starve them into submission or to kill them by pain, instead of aiming at making them elements of a new spirituality, of which a fine instinct for beauty was to be the dominant characteristic. As he looked back upon man moving through history, he was haunted by a feeling of loss. So much had been surrendered! and to such little purpose! There had been mad wilful rejections, monstrous forms of self-torture and self-denial, whose origin was fear and whose result was a degradation infinitely more terrible than that fancied degradation from which, in their ignorance, they had sought to escape; Nature, in her wonderful irony, driving out the anchorite to feed with the wild animals of the desert and giving to the hermit the beasts of the field as his companions.

 

Yes: there was to be, as Lord Henry had prophesied, a new Hedonism that was to recreate life and to save it from that harsh uncomely puritanism that is having, in our own day, its curious revival. It was to have its service of the intellect, certainly, yet it was never to accept any theory or system that would involve the sacrifice of any mode of passionate experience. Its aim, indeed, was to be experience itself, and not the fruits of experience, sweet or bitter as they might be. Of the asceticism that deadens the senses, as of the vulgar profligacy that dulls them, it was to know nothing. But it was to teach man to concentrate himself upon the moments of a life that is itself but a moment.

Passage adapted from Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890)

What is “Hedonism”?

Possible Answers:

“The forbearance of pleasure and self-indulgence”

“Marked interest in the goddess Vesta”

“Hatred of large words”

 “The pursuit of pleasure or self-indulgence”

Correct answer:

 “The pursuit of pleasure or self-indulgence”

Explanation:

“The pursuit of pleasure or self-indulgence” is the correct answer. Even if you were not independently aware of the meaning of “hedonism,” the passage clearly indicates the correct definition. To begin with, the entire first paragraph discusses how humanity has been running from and suppressing the baser desires of being human, and then the first sentence of the second paragraph begins with “yet” meaning “nevertheless.” In other words, even though humanity has spent forever running from instinct and desire, Lord Henry (and, more importantly, Dorian) believe that path to be incorrect. Thus, you’re looking for the answer that is the opposite of running from instinct or desire, hence “the pursuit of pleasure or self-indulgence.”

Example Question #1 : Word Meanings

The worship of the senses has often, and with much justice, been decried, men feeling a natural instinct of terror about passions and sensations that seem stronger than themselves, and that they are conscious of sharing with the less highly organized forms of existence. But it appeared to Dorian Gray that the true nature of the senses had never been understood, and that they had remained savage and animal merely because the world had sought to starve them into submission or to kill them by pain, instead of aiming at making them elements of a new spirituality, of which a fine instinct for beauty was to be the dominant characteristic. As he looked back upon man moving through history, he was haunted by a feeling of loss. So much had been surrendered! and to such little purpose! There had been mad wilful rejections, monstrous forms of self-torture and self-denial, whose origin was fear and whose result was a degradation infinitely more terrible than that fancied degradation from which, in their ignorance, they had sought to escape; Nature, in her wonderful irony, driving out the anchorite to feed with the wild animals of the desert and giving to the hermit the beasts of the field as his companions.

 

Yes: there was to be, as Lord Henry had prophesied, a new Hedonism that was to recreate life and to save it from that harsh uncomely puritanism that is having, in our own day, its curious revival. It was to have its service of the intellect, certainly, yet it was never to accept any theory or system that would involve the sacrifice of any mode of passionate experience. Its aim, indeed, was to be experience itself, and not the fruits of experience, sweet or bitter as they might be. Of the asceticism that deadens the senses, as of the vulgar profligacy that dulls them, it was to know nothing. But it was to teach man to concentrate himself upon the moments of a life that is itself but a moment.

 Passage adapted from Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890)

What does “uncomely” mean?

Possible Answers:

“Hateful”

“Desirable”

“Unattractive”

“Pleasant”

Correct answer:

“Unattractive”

Explanation:

“Unattractive” is the correct answer. Even if you were not independently aware of the meaning of “uncomely,” context clues should have pointed you in the right direction. Specifically, hedonism (in the sentence) was to “save” life from “harsh uncomely puritanism.” Generally speaking, people only need rescuing from something “bad” whether it be a situation or otherwise. Additionally, “uncomely” is modified by “harsh” another word that connotes something undesirable. Thus, those two together should have led you in the correct direction.

Example Question #11 : Word Meanings

Passage adapted from Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad (1907)

Mr Verloc, going out in the morning, left his shop nominally in charge of his brother-in-law. It could be done, because there was very little business at any time, and practically none at all before the evening. Mr Verloc cared but little about his ostensible business. And, moreover, his wife was in charge of his brother-in-law.

The shop was small, and so was the house. It was one of those grimy brick houses which existed in large quantities before the era of reconstruction dawned upon London. The shop was a square box of a place, with the front glazed in small panes. In the daytime the door remained closed; in the evening it stood discreetly but suspiciously ajar.

What is most likely true about Mr Verloc's business?

Possible Answers:

It is a grocery store

It is a pet shop

It is of questionable virtue

It is open 24 hours a day

It has many five-star reviews

Correct answer:

It is of questionable virtue

Explanation:

The fact that it is dimly lit and that the door is only open at night suggests shady business. There is no indication of any of the other options.

Example Question #11 : Word Meanings

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

(1910)

As used in the passage, "spends" most nearly means ________________.

Possible Answers:

humbles

exerts

embarrasses

describes

Correct answer:

exerts

Explanation:

Roosevelt uses the word "strive" two times in this passage, thus establishing that he admires a person who gives a great effort.  It is logical to assume that such effort is given in a "worthy cause", thus making "exerts" the best answer choice.

Passage adapted from Citizenship in a Republic, a speech given by Theodore Roosevelt on April 23, 1910.

Example Question #12 : Word Meanings

The youth kept from intercourse with his companions as much as circumstances would allow him. In the evening he wandered a few paces into the gloom. From this little distance the many fires, with the black forms of men passing to and fro before the crimson rays, made weird and satanic effects.

He lay down in the grass. The blades pressed tenderly against his cheek. The moon had been lighted and was hung in a treetop. The liquid stillness of the night enveloping him made him feel vast pity for himself. There was a caress in the soft winds; and the whole mood of the darkness, he thought, was one of sympathy for himself in his distress.

He wished, without reserve, that he was at home again making the endless rounds from the house to the barn, from the barn to the fields, from the fields to the barn, from the barn to the house. He remembered he had often cursed the brindle cow and her mates, and had sometimes flung milking stools. But, from his present point of view, there was a halo of happiness about each of their heads, and he would have sacrificed all the brass buttons7 on the continent to have been enabled to return to them. He told himself that he was not formed for a soldier. And he mused seriously upon the radical differences between himself and those men who were dodging implike around the fires.

(1895)

As used in Line 1, "intercourse" most nearly means ___________________.

Possible Answers:

friendship

argument

interaction

physical contact

Correct answer:

interaction

Explanation:

Crane describes the youth keeping himself physically separated from his companions. He speaks to no one and has no other contact with anyone throughout the passage. Thus "interaction" is the best answer choice.

Passage adapted from The Red Badge of Courage by Steven Crane (1895)

Example Question #13 : Word Meanings

1 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.

2 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. 3 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 forever. …

4 France, less favored on the whole as to matters spiritual than her sister of the shield and trident, rolled with exceeding smoothness downhill, making paper money and spending it. 5 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. 6 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.

In Sentence 1, what does “incredulity” mean?

Possible Answers:

Disbelief

Curiosity

Surprise

Loyalty

Fear

Correct answer:

Disbelief

Explanation:

Looking at the parallel and opposite structure that the author is establishing in this first sentence, we can immediately guess that “incredulity” is the opposite of belief. The only one of these answer choices that is the opposite of belief is disbelief.

Passage adapted from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities (1859).

Example Question #14 : Word Meanings

1 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.

2 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. 3 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 forever. …

4 France, less favored on the whole as to matters spiritual than her sister of the shield and trident, rolled with exceeding smoothness downhill, making paper money and spending it. 5 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. 6 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.

In Sentence 1, what does “epoch” mean?

Possible Answers:

Summer

Tyrant

Injustice

Benevolence

Era

Correct answer:

Era

Explanation:

Noticing the author’s parallel sentence structure in Sentence 1, we can see that “age” and “season” are both substitutes for “epoch.” The only choice in this list that means something similar to both these words is “era,” or time period. (“Summer” is too specific a choice, as “epoch” denotes all four seasons.)

Passage adapted from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities (1859).

Example Question #15 : Word Meanings

What dire offence from amorous causes springs, 

What mighty contests rise from trivial things, 

I sing — This verse to Caryl, Muse! is due: 

This, even Belinda may vouchsafe to view: 

Slight is the subject, but not so the praise,    (5)

If She inspire, and He approve my lays. 

 

… Sol thro’ white curtains shot a tim’rous ray,

And oped those eyes that must eclipse the day.

Now lapdogs give themselves the rousing shake,

And sleepless lovers just at twelve awake:(10)

Thrice rung the bell, the slipper knock’d the ground,

And the press’d watch return’d a silver sound.

Belinda still her downy pillow prest,

Her guardian Sylph prolong’d the balmy rest.

Based on context, what is “Sol”?

Possible Answers:

An illicit lover

A nobleman

A puppy

A spy

The sun

Correct answer:

The sun

Explanation:

In line 7, we can observe that “Sol” shoots rays through the curtain and opens Belinda’s eyes. You may also recognize the root word for “solar.” Alternately, you could note that, although all the other choices do appear elsewhere in the poem and could peek through Belinda’s curtains, none of them actually appear in lines 7-8.

Passage adapted from The Rape of the Lock (1712) by Alexander Pope.

Example Question #16 : Word Meanings

What dire offence from amorous causes springs, 

What mighty contests rise from trivial things, 

I sing — This verse to Caryl, Muse! is due: 

This, even Belinda may vouchsafe to view: 

Slight is the subject, but not so the praise,    (5)

If She inspire, and He approve my lays. 

 

… Sol thro’ white curtains shot a tim’rous ray,

And oped those eyes that must eclipse the day.

Now lapdogs give themselves the rousing shake,

And sleepless lovers just at twelve awake:(10)

Thrice rung the bell, the slipper knock’d the ground,

And the press’d watch return’d a silver sound.

Belinda still her downy pillow prest,

Her guardian Sylph prolong’d the balmy rest.

In line 6, what is the meaning of “lays”?

Possible Answers:

Nuptial ceremony

Poetic endeavors

Laws

Social standing

Slumber

Correct answer:

Poetic endeavors

Explanation:

In lines 5-6, we learn that the poet will offer substantial praise, but only if the muse inspires him and if “He approve my lays.” We don’t have to know who the “He” in this passage is to guess that “lays” is a reference to the author’s poetic attempts at praise.

Passage adapted from The Rape of the Lock (1712) by Alexander Pope.

Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors