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 : Inferences About Characters

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 this speech regarding what the crowd seems to think about Brutus before he begins talking?

Possible Answers:

They think that he did not love Caesar and killed him unjustly.

They think that he wanted to kill the whole of Rome, if only he had the power.

They think that Brutus may have been their friend but certainly not Caesar's.

They think that Brutus was always at war with Caesar, from the time they were children.

They believe that Brutus has questioned their love for Caesar.

Correct answer:

They think that he did not love Caesar and killed him unjustly.

Explanation:

Throughout this passage, Brutus defends the fact that he loved Caesar, even though he loved Rome more. Both of these aspects can be found in this key sentence: "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." Throughout the passage, he has spoken of his love for Caesar. Here, however, we see quite clearly that he also felt it necessary to kill him. Since the speech is clearly directed to the crowd to convince them that he did love Caesar, though he thought it necessary to kill him, it would seem that the crowd doubted this.

Example Question #31 : Ged Language Arts (Rla)

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.

Michael Furey is __________.

Possible Answers:

someone who committed suicide after his marriage proposal was turned down by Gabriel's wife before she and Gabriel were married

a man with whom Gabriel's wife had had an affair with while they were married

a man with whom Gabriel's wife had a romantic relationship with when she was young, who is now dead

a man who died saving the life of Gabriel's wife when they were children

a man who was once romantically involved with Gabriel's wife, and now many years later wants to reestablish the relationship

Correct answer:

a man with whom Gabriel's wife had a romantic relationship with when she was young, who is now dead

Explanation:

Gabriel looks at his wife's aged face and thinks "it was no longer the face for which Michael Furey had braved death," implying that the two had been romantically involved when they were young, and that Michael Furey is the subject of the romance in her life mentioned earlier in the paragraph, where "a man had died for her sake."

Example Question #1 : Inferences

It was rumoured of him once that he [Dorian Gray] was about to join the Roman Catholic communion, and certainly the Roman ritual had always a great attraction for him. The daily sacrifice, more awful really than all the sacrifices of the antique world, stirred him as much by its superb rejection of the evidence of the senses as by the primitive simplicity of its elements and the eternal pathos of the human tragedy that it sought to symbolize. He loved to kneel down on the cold marble pavement and watch the priest, in his stiff flowered dalmatic, slowly and with white hands moving aside the veil of the tabernacle, or raising aloft the jewelled, lantern-shaped monstrance with that pallid wafer that at times, one would fain think, is indeed the "panis caelestis," the bread of angels, or, robed in the garments of the Passion of Christ, breaking the Host into the chalice and smiting his breast for his sins. The fuming censers that the grave boys, in their lace and scarlet, tossed into the air like great gilt flowers had their subtle fascination for him. As he passed out, he used to look with wonder at the black confessionals and long to sit in the dim shadow of one of them and listen to men and women whispering through the worn grating the true story of their lives.

 

But he never fell into the error of arresting his intellectual development by any formal acceptance of creed or system, or of mistaking, for a house in which to live, an inn that is but suitable for the sojourn of a night, or for a few hours of a night in which there are no stars and the moon is in travail. Mysticism, with its marvellous power of making common things strange to us, and the subtle antinomianism that always seems to accompany it, moved him for a season; and for a season he inclined to the materialistic doctrines of the Darwinismus movement in Germany, and found a curious pleasure in tracing the thoughts and passions of men to some pearly cell in the brain, or some white nerve in the body, delighting in the conception of the absolute dependence of the spirit on certain physical conditions, morbid or healthy, normal or diseased. Yet, as has been said of him before, no theory of life seemed to him to be of any importance compared with life itself. He felt keenly conscious of how barren all intellectual speculation is when separated from action and experiment. He knew that the senses, no less than the soul, have their spiritual mysteries to reveal.

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

Based on of the underlined sentence, and the main idea of the passage as a whole, which of the following is the most accurate statement regarding Dorian’s philosophy (or lack thereof)?

Possible Answers:

Dorian had no philosophy and was a generally ignorant man

Dorian believed that experiencing matters was better than simply studying them

Dorian believed in mysticism and religion and thought it to be the best, most attractive route to salvation

None of these

Correct answer:

Dorian believed that experiencing matters was better than simply studying them

Explanation:

“Dorian believed that experiencing matters was better than simply studying them” is the correct answer. This should have been a relatively simple question as the passage even says that “no theory of life seemed to him to be of any importance compared with life itself.” In other words, Dorian did not adhere to any kind of philosophy other than that of life itself—experiencing life to the fullest and its utmost, with both good and bad experiences.

Example Question #1 : Inferences About Characters

My dear boy," said Lord Henry, smiling, "anybody can be good in the country. There are no temptations there. That is the reason why people who live out of town are so absolutely uncivilized. Civilization is not by any means an easy thing to attain to. There are only two ways by which man can reach it. One is by being cultured, the other by being corrupt. Country people have no opportunity of being either, so they stagnate."

"Culture and corruption," echoed Dorian. "I have known something of both. It seems terrible to me now that they should ever be found together. For I have a new ideal, Harry. I am going to alter. I think I have altered."

"You have not yet told me what your good action was. Or did you say you had done more than one?" asked his companion as he spilled into his plate a little crimson pyramid of seeded strawberries and, through a perforated, shell-shaped spoon, snowed white sugar upon them.

"I can tell you, Harry. It is not a story I could tell to any one else. I spared somebody. It sounds vain, but you understand what I mean. She was quite beautiful and wonderfully like Sibyl Vane. I think it was that which first attracted me to her. You remember Sibyl, don't you? How long ago that seems! Well, Hetty was not one of our own class, of course. She was simply a girl in a village. But I really loved her. I am quite sure that I loved her. All during this wonderful May that we have been having, I used to run down and see her two or three times a week. Yesterday she met me in a little orchard. The apple-blossoms kept tumbling down on her hair, and she was laughing. We were to have gone away together this morning at dawn. Suddenly I determined to leave her as flowerlike as I had found her."

"I should think the novelty of the emotion must have given you a thrill of real pleasure, Dorian," interrupted Lord Henry. "But I can finish your idyll for you. You gave her good advice and broke her heart. That was the beginning of your reformation."

"Harry, you are horrible! You mustn't say these dreadful things. Hetty's heart is not broken. Of course, she cried and all that. But there is no disgrace upon her. She can live, like Perdita, in her garden of mint and marigold."

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

What does Dorian mean by “Hetty was not one of our own class”?

Possible Answers:

Hetty is an inferior individual

Dorian and Lord Henry hate Hetty

Hetty is low class, whereas Lord Henry and Dorian are upper class

Hetty is upper class, whereas Lord Henry and Dorian are low class

Correct answer:

Hetty is low class, whereas Lord Henry and Dorian are upper class

Explanation:

The correct answer is “Hetty is low class, whereas Lord Henry and Dorian are upper class.” This question is relatively easy: Lord Henry should have given it away. That said, the question is rendered somewhat more difficult by the fact that Dorian is not of the peerage (i.e. titled—Lord, Earl, Duke, etc). At any rate, the answer is clearly that Hetty is low class. Several clues lead to that direction: first and foremost, is the fact that Henry is part of the peerage—Lord Henry—and thus upper class; second, is the fact that Dorian said “of our own class” strongly implying, if not outright saying, that Dorian and Henry are similarly situated, and; finally, Dorian says that Hetty was “simply a girl in a village.”

Example Question #1 : Inferences About Characters

My dear boy," said Lord Henry, smiling, "anybody can be good in the country. There are no temptations there. That is the reason why people who live out of town are so absolutely uncivilized. Civilization is not by any means an easy thing to attain to. There are only two ways by which man can reach it. One is by being cultured, the other by being corrupt. Country people have no opportunity of being either, so they stagnate."

"Culture and corruption," echoed Dorian. "I have known something of both. It seems terrible to me now that they should ever be found together. For I have a new ideal, Harry. I am going to alter. I think I have altered."

"You have not yet told me what your good action was. Or did you say you had done more than one?" asked his companion as he spilled into his plate a little crimson pyramid of seeded strawberries and, through a perforated, shell-shaped spoon, snowed white sugar upon them.

"I can tell you, Harry. It is not a story I could tell to any one else. I spared somebody. It sounds vain, but you understand what I mean. She was quite beautiful and wonderfully like Sibyl Vane. I think it was that which first attracted me to her. You remember Sibyl, don't you? How long ago that seems! Well, Hetty was not one of our own class, of course. She was simply a girl in a village. But I really loved her. I am quite sure that I loved her. All during this wonderful May that we have been having, I used to run down and see her two or three times a week. Yesterday she met me in a little orchard. The apple-blossoms kept tumbling down on her hair, and she was laughing. We were to have gone away together this morning at dawn. Suddenly I determined to leave her as flowerlike as I had found her."

"I should think the novelty of the emotion must have given you a thrill of real pleasure, Dorian," interrupted Lord Henry. "But I can finish your idyll for you. You gave her good advice and broke her heart. That was the beginning of your reformation."

"Harry, you are horrible! You mustn't say these dreadful things. Hetty's heart is not broken. Of course, she cried and all that. But there is no disgrace upon her. She can live, like Perdita, in her garden of mint and marigold."

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

What is implied by “Suddenly I determined to leave her as flowerlike as I had found her”?

Possible Answers:

That Lord Henry (‘Harry’) is afraid of tulips

That Dorian refrained from sleeping with Hetty

None of these

That Dorian liked Hetty’s perfume

Correct answer:

That Dorian refrained from sleeping with Hetty

Explanation:

The correct answer is “That Dorian refrained from sleeping with Hetty.” This is a relatively difficult question that draws on your ability to piece together a passing inference drawn from the main idea of the paragraph. The first, most obvious clue, is that Dorian “spared” Hetty. To spare someone means to “forbear from harming.” Moreover, Dorian leaves another clue by saying he was “determined to leave her as flowerlike as [he] had found her.” Flowers, of one type or another, have long been a symbol of purity and virginity for females. Finally, the paragraph about Hetty leads to the conclusion that Dorian, in a manner unlike him, decided to refrain from indulging (main idea). The passing inference is that Dorian refrained from indulging by sleeping with Hetty.

Example Question #2 : Inferences About Characters

Dorian said nothing, but rose from the table, and passing into the next room, sat down to the piano and let his fingers stray across the white and black ivory of the keys. After the coffee had been brought in, he stopped, and looking over at Lord Henry, said, "Harry, did it ever occur to you that Basil was murdered?"

Lord Henry yawned. "Basil was very popular, and always wore a Waterbury watch. Why should he have been murdered? He was not clever enough to have enemies. Of course, he had a wonderful genius for painting. But a man can paint like Velasquez and yet be as dull as possible. Basil was really rather dull. He only interested me once, and that was when he told me, years ago, that he had a wild adoration for you and that you were the dominant motive of his art."

"I was very fond of Basil," said Dorian with a note of sadness in his voice. "But don't people say that he was murdered?"

"Oh, some of the papers do. It does not seem to me to be at all probable. I know there are dreadful places in Paris, but Basil was not the sort of man to have gone to them. He had no curiosity. It was his chief defect."

"What would you say, Harry, if I told you that I had murdered Basil?" said the younger man. He watched him intently after he had spoken.

"I would say, my dear fellow, that you were posing for a character that doesn't suit you. All crime is vulgar, just as all vulgarity is crime. It is not in you, Dorian, to commit a murder. I am sorry if I hurt your vanity by saying so, but I assure you it is true. Crime belongs exclusively to the lower orders. I don't blame them in the smallest degree. I should fancy that crime was to them what art is to us, simply a method of procuring extraordinary sensations."

"A method of procuring sensations? Do you think, then, that a man who has once committed a murder could possibly do the same crime again? Don't tell me that."

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

What does Harry mean by “a man can paint like Velasquez”?

Possible Answers:

None of these

Someone can be an indifferent painter

Someone can be terrible at painting

Someone can be an immensely talented painter

Correct answer:

Someone can be an immensely talented painter

Explanation:

The correct answer is “someone can be an immensely talented painter.” This answer should have been relatively obvious given the structure of the sentence—the contrast in between “a man can paint like Velasquez and yet be as dull as possible” quite clearly implies a vast difference between the two. Indeed, Velasquez was the most prominent artist in King Philip IV’s court, and an incredibly important painter during the Spanish Golden Age. Thus, the answer “someone can be an immensely talented painter” makes the most sense.

Example Question #1 : Inferences About Characters

Dorian said nothing, but rose from the table, and passing into the next room, sat down to the piano and let his fingers stray across the white and black ivory of the keys. After the coffee had been brought in, he stopped, and looking over at Lord Henry, said, "Harry, did it ever occur to you that Basil was murdered?"

Lord Henry yawned. "Basil was very popular, and always wore a Waterbury watch. Why should he have been murdered? He was not clever enough to have enemies. Of course, he had a wonderful genius for painting. But a man can paint like Velasquez and yet be as dull as possible. Basil was really rather dull. He only interested me once, and that was when he told me, years ago, that he had a wild adoration for you and that you were the dominant motive of his art."

"I was very fond of Basil," said Dorian with a note of sadness in his voice. "But don't people say that he was murdered?"

"Oh, some of the papers do. It does not seem to me to be at all probable. I know there are dreadful places in Paris, but Basil was not the sort of man to have gone to them. He had no curiosity. It was his chief defect."

"What would you say, Harry, if I told you that I had murdered Basil?" said the younger man. He watched him intently after he had spoken.

"I would say, my dear fellow, that you were posing for a character that doesn't suit you. All crime is vulgar, just as all vulgarity is crime. It is not in you, Dorian, to commit a murder. I am sorry if I hurt your vanity by saying so, but I assure you it is true. Crime belongs exclusively to the lower orders. I don't blame them in the smallest degree. I should fancy that crime was to them what art is to us, simply a method of procuring extraordinary sensations."

"A method of procuring sensations? Do you think, then, that a man who has once committed a murder could possibly do the same crime again? Don't tell me that."

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

What does “you were posing for a character that doesn’t suit you” mean?

Possible Answers:

Lord Henry does not think that Dorian is capable of murder

Dorian is wearing an unflattering outfit

Lord Henry does not like the painting of Dorian

None of these

Correct answer:

Lord Henry does not think that Dorian is capable of murder

Explanation:

“Lord Henry does not think that Dorian is capable of murder” is the correct answer. This should have been a simple question, as the remainder of the same paragraph goes on to state: “it is not in you, Dorian, to commit a murder.” Indeed, one of the major ideas of the passage is Lord Henry’s absolute refusal to even consider the possibility of Dorian committing a murder—even when Dorian basically tells Lord Henry.

Example Question #1 : Inferences About Characters

Dorian said nothing, but rose from the table, and passing into the next room, sat down to the piano and let his fingers stray across the white and black ivory of the keys. After the coffee had been brought in, he stopped, and looking over at Lord Henry, said, "Harry, did it ever occur to you that Basil was murdered?"

Lord Henry yawned. "Basil was very popular, and always wore a Waterbury watch. Why should he have been murdered? He was not clever enough to have enemies. Of course, he had a wonderful genius for painting. But a man can paint like Velasquez and yet be as dull as possible. Basil was really rather dull. He only interested me once, and that was when he told me, years ago, that he had a wild adoration for you and that you were the dominant motive of his art."

"I was very fond of Basil," said Dorian with a note of sadness in his voice. "But don't people say that he was murdered?"

"Oh, some of the papers do. It does not seem to me to be at all probable. I know there are dreadful places in Paris, but Basil was not the sort of man to have gone to them. He had no curiosity. It was his chief defect."

"What would you say, Harry, if I told you that I had murdered Basil?" said the younger man. He watched him intently after he had spoken.

"I would say, my dear fellow, that you were posing for a character that doesn't suit you. All crime is vulgar, just as all vulgarity is crime. It is not in you, Dorian, to commit a murder. I am sorry if I hurt your vanity by saying so, but I assure you it is true. Crime belongs exclusively to the lower orders. I don't blame them in the smallest degree. I should fancy that crime was to them what art is to us, simply a method of procuring extraordinary sensations."

"A method of procuring sensations? Do you think, then, that a man who has once committed a murder could possibly do the same crime again? Don't tell me that."

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

According to Lord Henry, what was Basil Hallward’s greatest flaw?

Possible Answers:

That he was too fond of Dorian

That he was a mediocre painter

That he had no curiosity

That he was low class

Correct answer:

That he had no curiosity

Explanation:

“That he had no curiosity” is the correct answer. This should have been a relatively simple question, given the passage as a whole. Indeed, Lord Henry explicitly says that Hallward’s “chief defect” (which is another way of saying “greatest flaw”) was that “he had no curiosity.” Lord Henry is an interesting character, and his cognitive dissonance plays out in this passage: he claims that murder is “vulgar” and below people like him and Dorian, but mocks Hallward for not having enough “curiosity” to ever visit a place where he might be murdered.

Example Question #31 : Ged Language Arts (Rla)

It was a lovely night, so warm that he threw his coat over his arm and did not even put his silk scarf round his throat. As he strolled home, smoking his cigarette, two young men in evening dress passed him. He heard one of them whisper to the other, "That is Dorian Gray." He remembered how pleased he used to be when he was pointed out, or stared at, or talked about. He was tired of hearing his own name now. Half the charm of the little village where he had been so often lately was that no one knew who he was. He had often told the girl whom he had lured to love him that he was poor, and she had believed him. He had told her once that he was wicked, and she had laughed at him and answered that wicked people were always very old and very ugly. What a laugh she had!—just like a thrush singing. And how pretty she had been in her cotton dresses and her large hats! She [Hetty] knew nothing, but she had everything that he had lost.

 

When he reached home, he found his servant waiting up for him. He sent him to bed, and threw himself down on the sofa in the library, and began to think over some of the things that Lord Henry had said to him.

 

Was it really true that one could never change? He felt a wild longing for the unstained purity of his boyhood—his rose-white boyhood, as Lord Henry had once called it. He knew that he had tarnished himself, filled his mind with corruption and given horror to his fancy; that he had been an evil influence to others, and had experienced a terrible joy in being so; and that of the lives that had crossed his own, it had been the fairest and the most full of promise that he had brought to shame. But was it all irretrievable? Was there no hope for him?

 

Ah! in what a monstrous moment of pride and passion he had prayed that the portrait should bear the burden of his days, and he keep the unsullied splendour of eternal youth! All his failure had been due to that. Better for him that each sin of his life had brought its sure swift penalty along with it. There was purification in punishment. Not "Forgive us our sins" but "Smite us for our iniquities" should be the prayer of man to a most just God.

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

What does “she knew nothing, but she had everything that he had lost” mean?

Possible Answers:

Hetty was ignorant in terms of culture and class, yet pure and innocent

None of these

 Dorian liked how much smarter he was than Hetty

Hetty was very unintelligent

Correct answer:

Hetty was ignorant in terms of culture and class, yet pure and innocent

Explanation:

“Hetty was ignorant in terms of culture and class, yet pure and innocent” is the correct answer. This is a fairly difficult question, due to the rather archaic prose and the lack of obvious context clues. At any rate, there are a few inferential clues: Dorian mentions that Hetty is from a “little village” and that she (along with the village) did not know who he was. It’s clear from the passage that he lives a very different life in the city; “he was tired of hearing his own name now” strongly suggesting that he is well-known—infamous, even. Moreover, the narrative says that “she believed [Dorian]” when he said that he was poor, which clearly means the opposite is true. All of these things taken together lead to the inference that Dorian is wealthy, well-known, and perhaps even idolized in his own community. Hetty, on the other hand, is a simple country girl with no knowledge of Dorian or the ways of the city. Thus “Hetty was ignorant . . .” makes the most sense among the answers provided.

Example Question #11 : Inferences

It was a lovely night, so warm that he threw his coat over his arm and did not even put his silk scarf round his throat. As he strolled home, smoking his cigarette, two young men in evening dress passed him. He heard one of them whisper to the other, "That is Dorian Gray." He remembered how pleased he used to be when he was pointed out, or stared at, or talked about. He was tired of hearing his own name now. Half the charm of the little village where he had been so often lately was that no one knew who he was. He had often told the girl whom he had lured to love him that he was poor, and she had believed him. He had told her once that he was wicked, and she had laughed at him and answered that wicked people were always very old and very ugly. What a laugh she had!—just like a thrush singing. And how pretty she had been in her cotton dresses and her large hats! She [Hetty] knew nothing, but she had everything that he had lost.

 

When he reached home, he found his servant waiting up for him. He sent him to bed, and threw himself down on the sofa in the library, and began to think over some of the things that Lord Henry had said to him.

 

Was it really true that one could never change? He felt a wild longing for the unstained purity of his boyhood—his rose-white boyhood, as Lord Henry had once called it. He knew that he had tarnished himself, filled his mind with corruption and given horror to his fancy; that he had been an evil influence to others, and had experienced a terrible joy in being so; and that of the lives that had crossed his own, it had been the fairest and the most full of promise that he had brought to shame. But was it all irretrievable? Was there no hope for him?

 

Ah! in what a monstrous moment of pride and passion he had prayed that the portrait should bear the burden of his days, and he keep the unsullied splendour of eternal youth! All his failure had been due to that. Better for him that each sin of his life had brought its sure swift penalty along with it. There was purification in punishment. Not "Forgive us our sins" but "Smite us for our iniquities" should be the prayer of man to a most just God.

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

What does the passage mean by: “he knew that he had tarnished himself.”?

Possible Answers:

Dorian was unaware that he had led a life of sin and corruption

Dorian was aware that silver will oxidize if left out in moisture

 Dorian was aware that he had led a life of sin and corruption

None of these

Correct answer:

 Dorian was aware that he had led a life of sin and corruption

Explanation:

“Dorian was aware that he had led a life of sin and corruption” is the correct answer. This is a very easy question—the passage practically spells out the answer. At any rate, there are many context clues leading to the conclusion that Dorian led a life of sin and corruption: first, Dorian longs for the “unstained purity of his boyhood,” meaning the “innocence of youth”; second, the passage explicitly says that he had “filled his mind with corruption”; third, the passage notes that he had “been an evil influence on others.” Thus, it’s quite clear that “Dorian was aware that he had led a life of sin and corruption” is the correct answer.

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