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 : Other Passage Content

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 speaker claim to enjoy saying John Jacob Astor’s name?

Possible Answers:

It has a pleasant, rich sound

It reminds the speaker of another familiar name

It evokes another era

It thrills his audience

It silences the speaker’s critics

Correct answer:

It has a pleasant, rich sound

Explanation:

Sentence 9 gives us the following words: “a name which… I love to repeat, for it hath a rounded and orbicular sound to it, and rings like unto bullion.” In other word, the mellifluous quality of the man’s name makes the speaker enjoy pronouncing it aloud. The speaker likes this name for purely sonic reasons and nothing more.

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

Example Question #21 : Conclusions About The Passage

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.

According to his own description, what is the speaker’s main personality trait?

Possible Answers:

Prudence

Humility

Inquisitiveness

Alacrity

Impudence

Correct answer:

Prudence

Explanation:

The speaker notes in Sentence 7 that “All who know me, consider me an eminently safe man.” This safety and caution can best be described as prudence. All of the other traits in the passage either lack contextual support or are directly contradicted by the passage.

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

Example Question #22 : Conclusions About The Passage

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.

How would the speaker characterize his own profession?

Possible Answers:

Wrathful

Doleful

Excitable

Calamitous

Obsequious

Correct answer:

Excitable

Explanation:

In Sentence 5, we see the speaker say, “I belong to a profession proverbially energetic and nervous, even to turbulence.” "Excitable" means nervous, overeager, jumpy, or skittish (note that it does not mean the same thing as exciting), and it is the best fit to describe the speaker’s qualities.

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

Example Question #1 : Inferences

From Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, III.ii.13-33 (1599)

[This is a speech by Brutus to a crowd at Caesar’s funeral.]  

 

Romans, countrymen, and lovers! Hear me for my

cause, and be silent, that you may hear. Believe me

for mine honor, and have respect to mine honor, that

you may believe. Censure me in your wisdom, and

awake your senses, that you may the better judge.

If there be any in this assembly, any dear friend of

Caesar's, to him I say that Brutus' love to Caesar

was no less than his. If then that friend demand

why Brutus rose against Caesar, this is my answer:

Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved

Rome more. Had you rather Caesar were living and

die all slaves, than that Caesar were dead to live

all free men? As Caesar loved me, I weep for him;

as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was

valiant, I honor him; but as he was ambitious, I

slew him. There is tears for his love, joy for his

fortune, honor for his valor, and death for his

ambition. Who is here so base that would be a

bondman? If any, speak, for him have I offended.

Who is here so rude that would not be a Roman? If

any, speak, for him have I offended. Who is here so

vile that will not love his country? If any, speak,

for him have I offended. I pause for a reply.

What can be inferred from the underlined sentence?

Possible Answers:

Even though Caesar was killed, the Romans remain enslaved.

Rome is nothing more than an oppressor, having always kept people in prison for political crimes.

The crowd has now been freed for the first time in all of Roman history.

The crowd is made up of free men and slaves together.

Had Caesar not been killed, he would likely have enslaved the Romans.

Correct answer:

Had Caesar not been killed, he would likely have enslaved the Romans.

Explanation:

The sentence is written in English that is a bit more formal than we are used to using, so let's paraphrase it a bit, filling in some blanks in the meaning as well:

"Would you rather it be the case that Caesar would still be alive and all of us die as slaves because of him, or would you not prefer how things are now—that Caesar is dead and that we can be free men since he cannot now menace us and enslave us?"

You see, while trying to justify his actions, Brutus is trying to imply that Caesar would have enslaved the free Romans and that his [Brutus'] actions are defensible in that he was acting on behalf of Rome and her people—who are naturally free at heart and in deeds.

Example Question #1 : Character And Subject Relationships

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.

"Night” is characterized in relation to “Death” as which of the following?

Possible Answers:

A maternal, matriarchal figure with a stifling amount of control over Death’s actions

An innocent maiden who helps Death, unaware of Death’s actions against mortal beings

A paternal, patriarchal figure with a close, reassuring relationship to Death

A maternal, matriarchal figure with a close, reassuring relationship to Death

A marginalized, obsolete being

Correct answer:

A maternal, matriarchal figure with a close, reassuring relationship to Death

Explanation:

“Night” is personified and explicitly figured as Death’s “mother.” She is figured as having given birth to death “unfathered,” and as maintaining a close, supportive maternal relationship with Death (“she oft, to still thee from men’s sobs and curses . . . pours her cool charms”).

Her relationship to Death is presented as helpful as opposed to stifling or controlling. She is spoken of as protective and relevant to Death, not obsolete. And while she is referred to as a “maiden” Night is also specifically figured as aware of the consequences of Death’s actions (“men’s sobs and curses”).

Example Question #1 : Inferences

Adapted from Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll (1871)

One thing was certain, that the white kitten had had nothing to do with it—it was the black kitten's fault entirely. For the white kitten had been having its face washed by the old cat for the last quarter of an hour (and bearing it pretty well, considering); so you see that it COULDN'T have had any hand in the mischief.

The way Dinah washed her children's faces was this: first she held the poor thing down by its ear with one paw, and then with the other paw she rubbed its face all over, the wrong way, beginning at the nose: and just now, as I said, she was hard at work on the white kitten, which was lying quite still and trying to purr—no doubt feeling that it was all meant for its good.

But the black kitten had been finished with earlier in the afternoon, and so, while Alice was sitting curled up in a corner of the great arm-chair, half talking to herself and half asleep, the kitten had been having a grand game of romps with the ball of worsted Alice had been trying to wind up, and had been rolling it up and down till it had all come undone again; and there it was, spread over the hearth-rug, all knots and tangles, with the kitten running after its own tail in the middle.

'Oh, you wicked little thing!' cried Alice, catching up the kitten, and giving it a little kiss to make it understand that it was in disgrace. 'Really, Dinah ought to have taught you better manners! You OUGHT, Dinah, you know you ought!' she added, looking reproachfully at the old cat, and speaking in as cross a voice as she could manage—and then she scrambled back into the arm-chair, taking the kitten and the worsted with her, and began winding up the ball again. But she didn't get on very fast, as she was talking all the time, sometimes to the kitten, and sometimes to herself. Kitty sat very demurely on her knee, pretending to watch the progress of the winding, and now and then putting out one paw and gently touching the ball, as if it would be glad to help, if it might.

Where in Alice’s house can we infer this passage takes place?

Possible Answers:

The living room

The dining-room

The cellar

The garden

The kitchen

Correct answer:

The living room

Explanation:

Considering the furniture mentioned in this passage can help you figure out the correct answer. Alice falls asleep in “a corner of the great arm-chair,” and later, the unwound ball of worsted is described in the clause “and there it was, spread over the hearth-rug, all knots and tangles.” So, we need to pick out a room in which one is likely to find an armchair and a hearth-rug. (A “hearth” is another word for a fireplace, so a hearth-rug is a rug one puts in front of the fireplace.) Given this evidence, only one answer choice makes sense: the living room.

Example Question #1 : Inferences About Plot And Setting

 

As he [Dorian Gray] thought of Hetty Merton, he began to wonder if the portrait in the locked room had changed. Surely it was not still so horrible as it had been? Perhaps if his life became pure, he would be able to expel every sign of evil passion from the face. Perhaps the signs of evil had already gone away. He would go and look.

 

 . . .

 

He went in quietly, locking the door behind him, as was his custom, and dragged the purple hanging from the portrait. A cry of pain and indignation broke from him. He could see no change, save that in the eyes there was a look of cunning and in the mouth the curved wrinkle of the hypocrite. The thing was still loathsome—more loathsome, if possible, than before—and the scarlet dew that spotted the hand seemed brighter, and more like blood newly spilled. Then he trembled. Had it been merely vanity that had made him do his one good deed? Or the desire for a new sensation, as Lord Henry had hinted, with his mocking laugh? Or that passion to act a part that sometimes makes us do things finer than we are ourselves? Or, perhaps, all these? And why was the red stain larger than it had been? It seemed to have crept like a horrible disease over the wrinkled fingers. There was blood on the painted feet, as though the thing had dripped—blood even on the hand that had not held the knife. Confess? Did it mean that he was to confess? To give himself up and be put to death? He laughed. He felt that the idea was monstrous. Besides, even if he did confess, who would believe him? There was no trace of the murdered man anywhere. Everything belonging to him had been destroyed. He himself had burned what had been below-stairs. The world would simply say that he was mad. They would shut him up if he persisted in his story.... Yet it was his duty to confess, to suffer public shame, and to make public atonement. There was a God who called upon men to tell their sins to earth as well as to heaven. Nothing that he could do would cleanse him till he had told his own sin. His sin? He shrugged his shoulders. The death of Basil Hallward seemed very little to him. He was thinking of Hetty Merton. For it was an unjust mirror, this mirror of his soul that he was looking at. Vanity? Curiosity? Hypocrisy? Had there been nothing more in his renunciation than that? There had been something more. At least he thought so. But who could tell? ... No. There had been nothing more. Through vanity he had spared her. In hypocrisy he had worn the mask of goodness. For curiosity's sake he had tried the denial of self. He recognized that now.

Passage adapted from Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)

Which of the following is the most likely meaning of “mirror of his soul”?

Possible Answers:

The human eyes

The killing of Basil Hallworth

Hetty Merton

The painting of Dorian Gray

Correct answer:

The painting of Dorian Gray

Explanation:

"The painting of Dorian Gray" is the correct answer. This is a moderately difficult question. Although people often refer to the human eyes as “the window” to the soul, that answer is incorrect here. The use of context clues should have led you to the answer that the painting was clearly the “mirror of his soul.” Moreover, the entire passage leads to this result: the painting looks even worse than it did before, thus expressing the further deterioration of Dorian’s soul.

Example Question #1 : Inferences

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)

What can you conclude about the youth and his companions?

Possible Answers:

They are students on a class field trip

They are engaged in some type of competition with each other

They have no knowledge of each other

They are soldiers camped in a field

Correct answer:

They are soldiers camped in a field

Explanation:

There are three pieces of evidence in the passage to suggest that the youth and his companions are soldiers. The youth desperately wants to return home. The men are gathered around campfires. The reference to "brass buttons" alludes to the buttons on a soldier's dress uniform.

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

Example Question #21 : Passage Meaning And Inference

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.

What can we infer about the character of the "justice" described in the passage?

Possible Answers:

He judges cases according to the law from the bench of the legal court.

He is very thin because he works so much.

He is a pompous fool, not knowing anything at all, though he seems to play the part well.

He is orderly, grave, serious, and ready to speak words that he believes are wise, based on his experience in life.

This does not refer to a person at all, for justice is an abstract term.

Correct answer:

He is orderly, grave, serious, and ready to speak words that he believes are wise, based on his experience in life.

Explanation:

The "justice" names yet another stage in life being expressed by the speaker in his monologue.  Let's look at the description:

"(1) In fair round belly with good capon lin'd,

With (2) eyes severe and (3) beard of formal cut,

(4) Full of wise saws and modern instances;"

The general image is of a man who has put on some middle-age weight and has a serious demeanor. He is "severe"—that is, intense. His formally cut beard is cleanly presented—he is no long-haired rebel. Having lived a number of years, he has wisdom or at least is ready to express what he believes is wisdom as well as insights regarding the current day ("modern instances").

Example Question #1 : Inferences About Characters

Adapted from Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, III.ii.82-117 (1599)

 

[This is a speech by Mark Antony]

 

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears!

I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.

The evil that men do lives after them,

The good is oft interred with their bones;

So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus

Hath told you Caesar was ambitious;

If it were so, it was a grievous fault,

And grievously hath Caesar answer'd it.

Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest-

For Brutus is an honorable man;

So are they all, all honorable men-

Come I to speak in Caesar's funeral.

He was my friend, faithful and just to me;

But Brutus says he was ambitious,

And Brutus is an honorable man.

He hath brought many captives home to Rome,

Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill.

Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?

When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept;

Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:

Yet Brutus says he was ambitious,

And Brutus is an honorable man.

You all did see that on the Lupercal [a public festival]

I thrice presented him a kingly crown,

Which he did thrice refuse. Was this ambition?

Yet Brutus says he was ambitious,

And sure he is an honorable man.

I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,

But here I am to speak what I do know.

You all did love him once, not without cause;

What cause withholds you then to mourn for him?

O judgment, thou art fled to brutish beasts,

And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;

My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,

And I must pause till it come back to me.

Based on the underlined sentence, what can we infer about the emotion that Mark Antony is trying to project that he has?

 

Possible Answers:

That he is grieved and must be silent

That he is impatient with the crowd and waits only because he loved Caesar

That he is enraged and will kill those who took Caesar's heart

That he has been stabbed and his heart will be placed in the coffin

That he has considered all of this and wishes to wait in pondering thought

Correct answer:

That he is grieved and must be silent

Explanation:

Remember that earlier Mark Antony said, "He was my friend, faithful and just to me." Clearly, he has an affection for Caesar. Therefore, when he says that his "heart" is in the coffin, he means that his affections and love are there, with the friend who has died. He now wishes to pause for a moment, until his heart "comes back" and he is able to speak. He is at least acting like he is grieved—for he does ask the men why they do not mourn for him. Seemingly, he is mourning, and his heart is "outside of him" with Caesar.

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