GED Language Arts (RLA) : Passage Meaning and Inference

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

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Tone, Opinion, And Purpose

From “The Dead” in Dubliners by James Joyce (1915)

She was fast asleep.

Gabriel, leaning on his elbow, looked for a few moments unresentfully on her tangled hair and half-open mouth, listening to her deep-drawn breath. So she had had that romance in her life: a man had died for her sake. It hardly pained him now to think how poor a part he, her husband, had played in her life. He watched her while she slept as though he and she had never lived together as man and wife. His curious eyes rested long upon her face and on her hair: and, as he thought of what she must have been then, in that time of her first girlish beauty, a strange friendly pity for her entered his soul. He did no like to say even to himself that her face was no longer beautiful but he knew that it was no longer the face for which Michael Furey had braved death.

Perhaps she had not told him all the story. His eyes moved to the chair over which she had thrown some of her clothes. A petticoat string dangled to the floor. One boot stood upright, its limp upper fallen: the fellow of it lay upon its side. He wondered at his riot of emotions of an hour before. From what had it proceeded? From his aunt’s supper, from his own foolish speech, from the wine and dancing, the merry-making when saying good-night in the hall, the pleasure of the walk along the river in the snow. Poor Aunt Julia! She, too, would soon be a shade with the shade of Patrick Morkan and his horse. He had caught that haggard look upon her face for a moment when she was singing Arrayed for the Bridal. Soon, perhaps, he would be sitting in that same drawing-room, dressed in black, his silk hat on his knees. The blinds would be drawn down and Aunt Kate would be sitting beside him, crying and blowing her nose and telling him how Julia had died. He would cast about in his mind for some words that might console her, and would find only lame and useless ones. Yes, yes: that would happen very soon.

The air of the room chilled his shoulders. He stretched himself cautiously along under the sheets and lay down beside his wife. One by one they were all becoming shades. Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age. He thought of how she who lay beside him had locked in her heart for so many years that image of her lover’s eyes when he had told her that he did not wish to live.

Generous tears filled Gabriel’s eyes. He had never felt like that himself towards any woman but he knew that such a feeling must be love. The tears gathered more thickly in his eyes and in the partial darkness he imagined he saw the form of a young man standing under a dripping tree. Other forms were near. His soul had approached that region where dwell the vast hosts of the dead. He was conscious of, but could not apprehend, their wayward and flickering existence. His own identity was fading out into a grey impalpable world: the solid world itself which these dead had one time reared and lived in was dissolving and dwindling.

A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.

The author begins the story with the sentence "She was fast asleep." This allows him to __________.

Possible Answers:

show how little she cares about Gabriel's distress

move away from depicting both Gabriel and his wife as characters, instead delving deeply into Gabriel's inner thoughts and feelings

show how she does not feel guilty about keeping the details of her first love a secret from him

draw a comparison between Gabriel, who is discontent and has problems sleeping, and his wife, who is happy and sleeps well

quickly set the scene for the following events

Correct answer:

move away from depicting both Gabriel and his wife as characters, instead delving deeply into Gabriel's inner thoughts and feelings

Explanation:

By beginning with the presumption that Gabriel's wife is in a deep sleep, Joyce is free to thoroughly examine Gabriel's inner thoughts, rather than dealing with external interactions between the two characters. The other answers are either too vague and insubstantial to be correct or make assumptions about Gabriel's wife that cannot be drawn from the information in the passage.

Example Question #1 : Tone, Opinion, And Purpose

When I go to a concert, there's a sort of energy in the air unlike any other. I don't mean just excitement, but it's like the excitement of everyone in the room, felt at once. I think that may be why it's so fun to meet people at shows, [Question 1]. Once the band starts playing, I totally forget about everyone around me, and I'm just completely in the moment. Usually this is a great feeling, but [Question 2]. Most of the time, it's not a problem; since we're all so excited about the music, it's hard to stay mad at someone else for running into me. By the end of the set, I'm completely exhausted, but still buzzing from that group enthusiasm. Overall, [Question 3]

How would you describe the tone of the passage?

Possible Answers:

Passionate

Cautious

Irritable

Starstruck

Frightened

Correct answer:

Passionate

Explanation:

The author repeatedly states he or she is excited, and references the pleasure of being around like-minded people in a live music setting, so the negative terms are incorrect. Starstruck is not very applicable because the author does not mention being amazed at seeing his or her favorite celebrities, and while the author mentions that someone may run into you, their tone isn't cautious. Therefore, it must be passionate.

Example Question #1 : Tone, Opinion, And Purpose

When I go to a concert, there's a sort of energy in the air unlike any other. I don't mean just excitement, but it's like the excitement of everyone in the room, felt at once. I think that may be why it's so fun to meet people at shows, [Question 1]. Once the band starts playing, I totally forget about everyone around me, and I'm just completely in the moment. Usually this is a great feeling, but [Question 2]. Most of the time, it's not a problem; since we're all so excited about the music, it's hard to stay mad at someone else for running into me. By the end of the set, I'm completely exhausted, but still buzzing from that group enthusiasm. Overall, [Question 3]

The purpose of this passage was likely to __________________.

Possible Answers:

share an experience

persuade

tell a story

argue

inform

Correct answer:

share an experience

Explanation:

The text isn't a story because it's about the general, non-specific experience of going to a concert. There's no argument, and the author doesn't implore the reader to go to concerts, so it can't be to argue or persuade. It doesn't necessarily inform the reader of objective information in the world, so it must be to share a personal experience.

Example Question #1 : Conclusions About The Author

When I go to a concert, there's a sort of energy in the air unlike any other. I don't mean just excitement, but it's like the excitement of everyone in the room, felt at once. I think that may be why it's so fun to meet people at shows, [Question 1]. Once the band starts playing, I totally forget about everyone around me, and I'm just completely in the moment. Usually this is a great feeling, but [Question 2]. Most of the time, it's not a problem; since we're all so excited about the music, it's hard to stay mad at someone else for running into me. By the end of the set, I'm completely exhausted, but still buzzing from that group enthusiasm. Overall, [Question 3].

Which of the given options is the best description of this passage as a whole?

Possible Answers:

An informal, creative passage

A formal, academic paper

A formal, persuasive article

A formal debate

An informal, persuasive article

Correct answer:

An informal, creative passage

Explanation:

The tone of this passage is very informal, which we can tell by the simple sentences and the conversational style. We can also tell that the purpose of this article was likely more expressive than it was to persuade or to educate, due to the lack of objective evidence or a point the author wants you to believe, so we can conclude that it was meant as an informal, creative passage.

Example Question #1 : Tone, Opinion, And Purpose

Dear Congressman Phillips,

I urge you to reconsider your closure of the shipyard. I'm a medical practitioner in the area, so I meet many of the men and women employed by the facility. Many of these people are living paycheck to paycheck, unable to afford regular medical care; any gap in their employment could be devastating. If you must see it economically, consider the tremendous cost to the taxpayers when these people must rely on public programs for assistance. I ask you to please keep this shipyard open.

Very truly yours...

The purpose of this passage is likely to ________________.

Possible Answers:

tell a story

illustrate

persuade

explain

inform

Correct answer:

persuade

Explanation:

The passage begins with "I urge you to reconsider your closure of the shipyard", so we know the author aims to persuade the reader to do something.

Example Question #2 : Tone, Opinion, And Purpose

1 I am a rather elderly man. 2 The nature of my avocations for the last thirty years has brought me into more than ordinary contact with what would seem an interesting and somewhat singular set of men, of whom as yet nothing that I know of has ever been written:—I mean the law-copyists or scriveners. 3 I have known very many of them, professionally and privately, and if I pleased, could relate divers histories, at which good-natured gentlemen might smile, and sentimental souls might weep. 

4 … I am a man who, from his youth upwards, has been filled with a profound conviction that the easiest way of life is the best. 5 Hence, though I belong to a profession proverbially energetic and nervous, even to turbulence, at times, yet nothing of that sort have I ever suffered to invade my peace. 6 I am one of those unambitious lawyers who never addresses a jury, or in any way draws down public applause; but in the cool tranquility of a snug retreat, do a snug business among rich men's bonds and mortgages and title-deeds. 7 All who know me, consider me an eminently safe man. 8 The late John Jacob Astor, a personage little given to poetic enthusiasm, had no hesitation in pronouncing my first grand point to be prudence; my next, method. 9 I do not speak it in vanity, but simply record the fact, that I was not unemployed in my profession by the late John Jacob Astor; a name which, I admit, I love to repeat, for it hath a rounded and orbicular sound to it, and rings like unto bullion. 10 I will freely add, that I was not insensible to the late John Jacob Astor's good opinion.

11 Some time prior to the period at which this little history begins, my avocations had been largely increased. 12 The good old office, now extinct in the State of New York, of a Master in Chancery, had been conferred upon me. It was not a very arduous office, but very pleasantly remunerative.

What is the author’s purpose in the first paragraph?

Possible Answers:

To develop suspense

To characterize the narrator

To introduce the main topic of the story

To dispute a commonly held belief

To call the narrator’s reliability into question

Correct answer:

To introduce the main topic of the story

Explanation:

Although Sentence 1 does establish something about the speaker’s character, it is a false lead. The bulk of the first paragraph — Sentences 2 and 3 — are devoted to describing the main topic of the story, scriveners. None of the other choices have any contextual basis.

Passage adapted from Herman Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener” (1853)

Example Question #11 : Conclusions About The Author

1 I am a rather elderly man. 2 The nature of my avocations for the last thirty years has brought me into more than ordinary contact with what would seem an interesting and somewhat singular set of men, of whom as yet nothing that I know of has ever been written:—I mean the law-copyists or scriveners. 3 I have known very many of them, professionally and privately, and if I pleased, could relate divers histories, at which good-natured gentlemen might smile, and sentimental souls might weep. 

4 … I am a man who, from his youth upwards, has been filled with a profound conviction that the easiest way of life is the best. 5 Hence, though I belong to a profession proverbially energetic and nervous, even to turbulence, at times, yet nothing of that sort have I ever suffered to invade my peace. 6 I am one of those unambitious lawyers who never addresses a jury, or in any way draws down public applause; but in the cool tranquility of a snug retreat, do a snug business among rich men's bonds and mortgages and title-deeds. 7 All who know me, consider me an eminently safe man. 8 The late John Jacob Astor, a personage little given to poetic enthusiasm, had no hesitation in pronouncing my first grand point to be prudence; my next, method. 9 I do not speak it in vanity, but simply record the fact, that I was not unemployed in my profession by the late John Jacob Astor; a name which, I admit, I love to repeat, for it hath a rounded and orbicular sound to it, and rings like unto bullion. 10 I will freely add, that I was not insensible to the late John Jacob Astor's good opinion.

11 Some time prior to the period at which this little history begins, my avocations had been largely increased. 12 The good old office, now extinct in the State of New York, of a Master in Chancery, had been conferred upon me. It was not a very arduous office, but very pleasantly remunerative.

Why does the author include the anecdote about John Jacob Astor in the second paragraph?

Possible Answers:

To undermine the author’s reliability

To create suspense around the scriveners

To highlight the speaker’s ordinariness

To distract the reader from the author’s main task

To bore the reader with superfluous information

Correct answer:

To highlight the speaker’s ordinariness

Explanation:

Although the speaker claims that he is not vain, he does repeat Astor’s compliment in a way that indicates that he is, in fact, a little vain. Moreover, the subject of the anecdote is Astor’s praise for the speaker’s rather ordinary lack of ambition. All things told, the anecdote serves to underscore the ordinariness of the speaker.

Passage adapted from Herman Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener” (1853)

Example Question #11 : Tone, Opinion, And Purpose

1 That punctual servant of all work, the sun, had just risen, and begun to strike a light on the morning of the thirteenth of May, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-seven, when Mr. Samuel Pickwick burst like another sun from his slumbers, threw open his chamber window, and looked out upon the world beneath. 2 Goswell Street was at his feet, Goswell Street was on his right hand—as far as the eye could reach, Goswell Street extended on his left; and the opposite side of Goswell Street was over the way. 3 'Such,' thought Mr. Pickwick, 'are the narrow views of those philosophers who, content with examining the things that lie before them, look not to the truths which are hidden beyond. 4 As well might I be content to gaze on Goswell Street for ever, without one effort to penetrate to the hidden countries which on every side surround it.' 5 And having given vent to this beautiful reflection, Mr. Pickwick proceeded to put himself into his clothes, and his clothes into his portmanteau. 6 Great men are seldom over scrupulous in the arrangement of their attire; the operation of shaving, dressing, and coffee-imbibing was soon performed; and, in another hour, Mr. Pickwick, with his portmanteau in his hand, his telescope in his greatcoat pocket, and his note-book in his waistcoat, ready for the reception of any discoveries worthy of being noted down, had arrived at the coach-stand in St. Martin's-le-Grand.

7 'Cab!' said Mr. Pickwick.

8 'Here you are, sir,' shouted a strange specimen of the human race, in a sackcloth coat, and apron of the same, who, with a brass label and number round his neck, looked as if he were catalogued in some collection of rarities. 9 This was the waterman.

What is the tone of Sentences 3-4?

Possible Answers:

Duplicitous

Dire

Dour

Devious

Droll

Correct answer:

Droll

Explanation:

Droll, or dryly humorous, best describes the tone here. In Mr. Pickwick’s dialogue, we see that he is exaggerating the importance of his trip outside. He won’t literally be exploring other countries; he’ll just be leaving his neighborhood, and the effect of this exaggeration is intended to be comical.

Passage adapted from Charles Dickens’ The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (1837)

Example Question #1 : Literary Devices In The Passage

Adapted from As You Like It by William Shakespeare (1623)

 

[This is a monologue by the character Jacques]

 

All the world's a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances;

And one man in his time plays many parts,

His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,

Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms;

Then the whining school-boy, with his satchel

And shining morning face, creeping like a snail

Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,

Sighing like a furnace, with a woeful ballad

Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,

Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,

Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,

Seeking the bubble reputation

Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,

In fair round belly with good capon lin'd,

With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,

Full of wise saws and modern instances;

And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts

Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,

With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,

His youthful hose, well sav'd, a world too wide

For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,

Turning again toward childish treble, pipes

And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,

That ends this strange eventful history,

Is second childishness and mere oblivion;

Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans every thing.

Why did the author choose the word "players" in the underlined selection?

Possible Answers:

To continue the metaphor of the world being a stage

To introduce the idea of human frivolity

To overcome a prejudice against theatre performers, who are actually just like other human beings

To strengthen his earlier claim about the stage

To begin to show the theme about the importance of play in human life

Correct answer:

To continue the metaphor of the world being a stage

Explanation:

The word "players" refers to actors as "playing roles." This reading of the word is amply supported both before and after this sentence. Before this, the author speaks of the world as though it were a stage. All men and women are like "players"—i.e. actors and actresses—on this stage of life. Likewise, the following sentence supports this as well, for it speaks of every person having "exits and entrances." This is referring to the way that actors enter and exit the stage during a play.

Example Question #1 : Literary Devices In The Passage

Adapted from As You Like It by William Shakespeare (1623)

 

[This is a monologue by the character Jacques]

 

All the world's a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances;

And one man in his time plays many parts,

His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,

Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms;

Then the whining school-boy, with his satchel

And shining morning face, creeping like a snail

Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,

Sighing like a furnace, with a woeful ballad

Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,

Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,

Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,

Seeking the bubble reputation

Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,

In fair round belly with good capon lin'd,

With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,

Full of wise saws and modern instances;

And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts

Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,

With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,

His youthful hose, well sav'd, a world too wide

For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,

Turning again toward childish treble, pipes

And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,

That ends this strange eventful history,

Is second childishness and mere oblivion;

Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans every thing.

Why has the author chosen to speak of "seven ages" in the underlined selection?

Possible Answers:

As there are seven days in the week, so too are there seven ages in a given man's life

Because Shakespeare was still living in a Christian culture for which seven was an important number

There is absolutely no reason for this specific number

Because he will be providing seven examples of how one person has many roles within a single lifetime

Because he will be drawing on ancient numerology to show the cyclical pattern of the seven-fold nature of life

Correct answer:

Because he will be providing seven examples of how one person has many roles within a single lifetime

Explanation:

A number of the answer options are a bit ridiculous, providing little to no connection with the actual intent of the author—at least as far as we can tell by reading the passage. The best thing to do is to stick close to the passage and not read too much into it. Throughout the whole monologue, the character describes seven ages of human life, from infancy to old age. Hence, this is why he introduces the topic by mentioning the seven-fold character of human life.

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