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 #31 : Inferences

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)

To which “emotion” is Lord Henry referring?

Possible Answers:

Lord Henry’s habit of eating too much sugar

Lord Henry’s fraternal love for Dorian

Dorian’s newfound fascination with Perdita

Dorian’s determination to leave Hetty as he found her

Correct answer:

Dorian’s determination to leave Hetty as he found her

Explanation:

“Dorian’s determination to leave Hetty as he found her” is the correct answer. This is a relatively simple question, although it’s arguable that the word “emotion” is somewhat misplaced in this sentence. At any rate, Lord Henry is clearly referring to Dorian’s experience of “sparing” Hetty by using the word “emotion.”

Example Question #1 : Inferences About Passage Ideas And Meanings

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 is the most likely inference drawn from “there was purification in punishment”?

Possible Answers:

Dorian agrees with Lord Henry’s reasoning about experiences

 Dorian begins to regret that he has not been punished for his “sins”

Dorian would rather all of his “sins” were forgiven

 Dorian thinks that Lord Henry should be punished

Correct answer:

 Dorian begins to regret that he has not been punished for his “sins”

Explanation:

“Dorian begins to regret that he has not been punished for his sins” is the correct answer. This is a relatively difficult question, but the answer makes sense contextually. A little backstory would cast even greater light on the answer. This information, while helpful, is not necessary to understand why the answer is correct. Briefly, The Picture of Dorian Gray is about a man, Dorian Gray, who sits for a portrait, and who (basically) wishes that he would remain as ageless as the portrait. His “wish” is granted in the sense that he ceases to age, and his body does not show any external signs of the “sins” of his life (i.e. it’s not bloated from gluttony, etc). Instead, the painting ages and suffers the external signs of sin for him. This passage is from the part of the novel where Dorian begins to regret his ability to withstand the ravages of time.

Here, even without that background knowledge, the answer makes sense. The passage says that Dorian believes his life would be “better” if he had been punished for his sins; that a “just” God would “smite us for our iniquities.” 

Example Question #1 : Inferences About Passage Ideas And Meanings

"Alas, sir, in the most unexpected manner. After a long talk with the harbor-master, Captain Leclere left Naples greatly disturbed in mind. In twenty-four hours he was attacked by a fever, and died three days afterwards. We performed the usual burial service, and he is at his rest, sewn up in his hammock with a thirty-six pound shot at his head and his heels, off El Giglio island. We bring to his widow his sword and cross of honor. It was worth while, truly," added the young man with a melancholy smile, "to make war against the English for ten years, and to die in his bed at last, like everybody else."

"Why, you see, Edmond," replied the owner, who appeared more comforted at every moment, "we are all mortal, and the old must make way for the young. If not, why, there would be no promotion; and since you assure me that the cargo—"

"Is all safe and sound, M. Morrel, take my word for it; and I advise you not to take 25,000 francs for the profits of the voyage."

Then, as they were just passing the Round Tower, the young man shouted: "Stand by there to lower the topsails and jib; brail up the spanker!"

The order was executed as promptly as it would have been on board a man-of-war.

"Let go—and clue up!" At this last command all the sails were lowered, and the vessel moved almost imperceptibly onwards.

"Now, if you will come on board, M. Morrel," said Dantes, observing the owner's impatience, "here is your supercargo, M. Danglars, coming out of his cabin, who will furnish you with every particular. As for me, I must look after the anchoring, and dress the ship in mourning."

The owner did not wait for a second invitation. He seized a rope which Dantes flung to him, and with an activity that would have done credit to a sailor, climbed up the side of the ship, while the young man, going to his task, left the conversation to Danglars, who now came towards the owner. He was a man of twenty-five or twenty-six years of age, of unprepossessing countenance, obsequious to his superiors, insolent to his subordinates; and this, in addition to his position as responsible agent on board, which is always obnoxious to the sailors, made him as much disliked by the crew as Edmond Dantes was beloved by them.

Passage adapted from Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo (1844)

What does the underlined sentence mean?

Possible Answers:

The sailors refused to bury their captain

The sailors threw their captain onto land after he was dead, and sailed off

None of these

The sailors “buried” their captain at sea; that is, he was sewn into a shroud, weighted with lead shot, and thrown overboard

Correct answer:

The sailors “buried” their captain at sea; that is, he was sewn into a shroud, weighted with lead shot, and thrown overboard

Explanation:

“The sailors ‘buried’ their captain at sea; that is, he was sewn into a shroud, weighted with lead shot, and thrown overboard” is the correct answer. This is a relatively difficult question, although made slightly easier by context clues and the answer choices presented. This question tests your ability to piece together a meaning of an unknown phrase from context clues. “Burial” at sea used to be a relatively common occurrence—that is, whenever a member of the crew died, the remainder would (sometimes) sew him up, weight the body so that it did not float, and then throw it overboard. Here, that is exactly what happened in this passage—the clues about weighting him with lead shot should have given it away (there is no need to weigh down a dead body buried on land).

Example Question #1 : Inferences About Passage Ideas And Meanings

"God forgive me," said the young man, "for rejoicing at happiness derived from the misery of others, but, Heaven knows, I did not seek this good fortune; it has happened, and I really cannot pretend to lament it. The good Captain Leclere is dead, father, and it is probable that, with the aid of M. Morrel, I shall have his place. Do you understand, father? Only imagine me a captain at twenty, with a hundred louis pay, and a share in the profits! Is this not more than a poor sailor like me could have hoped for?"

"Yes, my dear boy," replied the old man, "it is very fortunate."

"Well, then, with the first money I touch, I mean you to have a small house, with a garden in which to plant clematis, nasturtiums, and honeysuckle. But what ails you, father? Are you not well?"

"'Tis nothing, nothing; it will soon pass away"—and as he said so the old man's strength failed him, and he fell backwards.

"Come, come," said the young man, "a glass of wine, father, will revive you. Where do you keep your wine?"

"No, no; thanks. You need not look for it; I do not want it," said the old man.

"Yes, yes, father, tell me where it is," and he opened two or three cupboards.

"It is no use," said the old man, "there is no wine."

"What, no wine?" said Dantes, turning pale, and looking alternately at the hollow cheeks of the old man and the empty cupboards. "What, no wine? Have you wanted money, father?"

"I want nothing now that I have you," said the old man.

"Yet," stammered Dantes, wiping the perspiration from his brow,—"yet I gave you two hundred francs when I left, three months ago."

"Yes, yes, Edmond, that is true, but you forgot at that time a little debt to our neighbor, Caderousse. He reminded me of it, telling me if I did not pay for you, he would be paid by M. Morrel; and so, you see, lest he might do you an injury"—

"Well?"

"Why, I paid him."

"But," cried Dantes, "it was a hundred and forty francs I owed Caderousse."

"Yes," stammered the old man.

"And you paid him out of the two hundred francs I left you?"

The old man nodded.

"So that you have lived for three months on sixty francs," muttered Edmond.

"You know how little I require," said the old man.

"Heaven pardon me," cried Edmond, falling on his knees before his father.

"What are you doing?"

"You have wounded me to the heart."

"Never mind it, for I see you once more," said the old man; "and now it's all over—everything is all right again."

To what “good fortune” is Dantes referring?

Possible Answers:

The hatred of Danglars

The death of Captain Leclere

The death of his father

The fall of M. Morell

Correct answer:

The death of Captain Leclere

Explanation:

“The death of Captain Leclere” is the correct answer. This is a relatively simple question as the passage goes on to state that “Captain Leclere is dead.” It’s quite clear from the passage that Dantes is referring to the good Captain’s death as “good fortune,” because Dantes now has a chance at being the captain of the ship.

Passage adapted from Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo (1844)

Example Question #61 : Ged Language Arts (Rla)

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)

What can we infer about the author of this passage?

Possible Answers:

He has never experienced failure in his lifetime

He believes that critics are necessary to inspire people to achieve greatness

He has more respect for those who succeed than for those who try and fail

He admires those who engage in intense physical competition

Correct answer:

He admires those who engage in intense physical competition

Explanation:

Roosevelt gives credit to "the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust, and sweat, and blood." He uses this metaphor of physical combat to illustrate his respect for those who compete, even those who fail.

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

Example Question #61 : Passage Meaning And Inference

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 5, what trait is the author indirectly critiquing?

Possible Answers:

Sullenness

Atheism

Jealousy

Greed

Hypocrisy

Correct answer:

Hypocrisy

Explanation:

The author describes an occurrence in which “Christian pastors,” who are known for preaching “humane” acts, sentence a young man to a torturous death “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.” This is a clear denunciation of hypocrisy, the act of saying one thing and doing another.

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

Example Question #61 : Passage Meaning And Inference

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 6, to what historical object is the author alluding?

Possible Answers:

Brass scales

Market stalls

Guillotines

Muskets

Crucifixes

Correct answer:

Guillotines

Explanation:

Sentence 6 describes trees that will be “sawn into boards, to make a certain movable framework with a sack and a knife in it.” This allows us to rule out muskets and brass scales, which are not made of wood. By noting that this object is also described as “terrible in history,” we can rule out market stalls. Lastly, by noting that the wooden framework is “movable,” we can conclude that the author is describing a guillotine and not a crucifix.

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

Example Question #14 : Inferences About Passage Ideas And 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 4, what occurrence is the author describing?

Possible Answers:

Economic inflation

Mass nihilism

Royal indifference

Social hedonism

Mass atheism

Correct answer:

Economic inflation

Explanation:

In Sentence 4, the author notes that France “rolled with exceeding smoothness downhill, making paper money and spending it.” This is a clear reference to economic inflation, in which paper currency becomes devalued and is spent quickly by people trying to purchase the same amount of goods at increasingly higher prices.

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

Example Question #62 : Passage Meaning And Inference

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 4, to what does “her sister of the shield and trident” refer?

Possible Answers:

England

Nuns

Joan of Arc

Female soldiers

The warlike queen of France

Correct answer:

England

Explanation:

In the previous paragraph, we’ve seen France and England linked together. We can tell in Sentence 4 that the author is directly comparing France to this “sister.” It makes sense, then, that France’s sister would be England, this country in which similar political and social occurrences were happening.

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

Example Question #63 : Passage Meaning And Inference

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, to what is the author referring with the phrase “going direct the other way”?

Possible Answers:

Travel abroad

Industrialization

Lack of public education

Damnation

Urbanization

Correct answer:

Damnation

Explanation:

If we consider the parallel and opposite structure that the author is establishing in this first sentence, we can immediately guess that “going direct the other way” is the opposite of “going direct to Heaven.” In other words, he’s referencing going to Hell, or eternal damnation.

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

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