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 #71 : 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 3, what is another way to interpret “things in general were settled forever”?

Possible Answers:

France and England have reached an uneasy compromise that they cannot break

The threat of war between England and France has been overcome

The common people’s socioeconomic fates are preordained

None of these

The ministers of France and England have been elected to lifelong posts 

Correct answer:

The common people’s socioeconomic fates are preordained

Explanation:

Based on the rest of Sentences 2 and 3, we can guess that the author is referring to socioeconomic matters. More specifically, the reference to the countries’ “preserves of loaves and fishes” denotes the wellbeing of the common people. Although France and England are mentioned, there is nothing in the passage to indicate that the author is describing conflict or compromise between the two countries.

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

Example Question #41 : Inferences

What dire offence from amorous causes springs, 

What mighty contests rise from trivial things, 

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

This, even Belinda may vouchsafe to view: 

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

If She inspire, and He approve my lays. 

 

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

And oped those eyes that must eclipse the day.

Now lapdogs give themselves the rousing shake,

And sleepless lovers just at twelve awake:(10)

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

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

Belinda still her downy pillow prest,

Her guardian Sylph prolong’d the balmy rest.

What does the poet mean by “dire offence from amorous causes springs” (line 1)?

Possible Answers:

Love can cause people to commit grave misdeeds

Committing foolish behavior in the name of love springs up on people

Love springs forth to conquer all

When two people are in love, it often offends their jealous exes

When two people are in love, they frequently upset each other by accident

Correct answer:

Love can cause people to commit grave misdeeds

Explanation:

Judging by the use of “dire,” we can surmise that “offense” means serious transgression and not simply hurt feelings here. Although the syntax is convoluted, we can rewrite the line as “dire offence springs from amorous causes” and see more clearly what the poet is saying. “Amorous causes,” or being in love, is the source of “dire offence,” or grave misdeeds.

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

Example Question #72 : Passage Meaning And Inference

1 Call me Ishmael. 2 Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. 3 It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. 4 Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. 5 This is my substitute for pistol and ball. 6 With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. 7 There is nothing surprising in this. 8 If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.

9 There now is your insular city of the Manhattoes, belted round by wharves as Indian isles by coral reefs—commerce surrounds it with her surf. 10 Right and left, the streets take you waterward. 11 Its extreme downtown is the battery, where that noble mole is washed by waves, and cooled by breezes, which a few hours previous were out of sight of land. 12 Look at the crowds of water-gazers there.

What does the speaker mean by “This is my substitute for pistol and ball” (Sentence 5)?

Possible Answers:

He prefers naval conflicts to terrestrial ones

He thinks that going to sea imparts the same kind of discipline as armed policemen

He hopes to be killed in a maritime accident to avoid committing suicide

He would rather join the navy than be conscripted into the army

He goes to sea to avoid killing people

Correct answer:

He goes to sea to avoid killing people

Explanation:

As extreme as it sounds, the speaker claims that he needs “to get to sea as soon as I can” to avoid using pistol and ball – in other words, to avoid using firearms. This sentence is an example of hyperbole, or dramatic exaggeration, and is not meant to be taken literally. Rather, it illustrates the dour mood that the speaker is in.

Passage adapted from Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick; or, the Whale (1851)

Example Question #20 : Inferences About Passage Ideas And Meanings

1 Call me Ishmael. 2 Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. 3 It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. 4 Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. 5 This is my substitute for pistol and ball. 6 With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. 7 There is nothing surprising in this. 8 If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.

9 There now is your insular city of the Manhattoes, belted round by wharves as Indian isles by coral reefs—commerce surrounds it with her surf. 10 Right and left, the streets take you waterward. 11 Its extreme downtown is the battery, where that noble mole is washed by waves, and cooled by breezes, which a few hours previous were out of sight of land. 12 Look at the crowds of water-gazers there.

In Sentence 2, why does the speaker say “never mind how long precisely”?

Possible Answers:

To further characterize the speaker

To distract readers from the fact that this is an autobiographical account

To satirize similar works in the genre

To avoid offending his older readers

To convey the impression that the speaker cares about nothing

Correct answer:

To further characterize the speaker

Explanation:

The phrase in question is a verbal quirk or idiosyncrasy that helps establish what kind of speaker we’re dealing with. Reading the surrounding sentences makes it clear that the speaker is neither indifferent nor concealing the fact that this is an autobiographical account, which can help you rule out some of the other choices.

Passage adapted from Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick; or, the Whale (1851)

Example Question #73 : Passage Meaning And Inference

1 Call me Ishmael. 2 Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. 3 It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. 4 Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. 5 This is my substitute for pistol and ball. 6 With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. 7 There is nothing surprising in this. 8 If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.

9 There now is your insular city of the Manhattoes, belted round by wharves as Indian isles by coral reefs—commerce surrounds it with her surf. 10 Right and left, the streets take you waterward. 11 Its extreme downtown is the battery, where that noble mole is washed by waves, and cooled by breezes, which a few hours previous were out of sight of land. 12 Look at the crowds of water-gazers there.

Based on the context of the passage, what does “driving off the spleen” (Sentence 3) likely mean?

Possible Answers:

Chasing away annoying people

Assuaging anger

Rejecting traditional Western medicine

Keeping away heart ailments

Undertaking medical treatment

Correct answer:

Assuaging anger

Explanation:

Although spleen is a physical organ in the body, it is also an old-fashioned way to describe bad-temperedness and anger. “Driving off” the spleen, then would mean chasing away or assuaging the anger. This answer fits into the broader context of the passage, in which the speaker describes how going to sea restores his good humor.

Passage adapted from Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick; or, the Whale (1851)

Example Question #74 : Passage Meaning And Inference

1 Call me Ishmael. 2 Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. 3 It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. 4 Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. 5 This is my substitute for pistol and ball. 6 With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. 7 There is nothing surprising in this. 8 If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.

9 There now is your insular city of the Manhattoes, belted round by wharves as Indian isles by coral reefs—commerce surrounds it with her surf. 10 Right and left, the streets take you waterward. 11 Its extreme downtown is the battery, where that noble mole is washed by waves, and cooled by breezes, which a few hours previous were out of sight of land. 12 Look at the crowds of water-gazers there.

Sentence 10 conveys an impression of _______________.

Possible Answers:

Mirth

Doom

Inevitability

Anguish

Cynicism

Correct answer:

Inevitability

Explanation:

“Right and left, the streets take you waterward” makes it sound like, regardless of what roads you choose, you will be brought to the sea. This makes the action of going to the sea inevitable, or unavoidable. “Doom,” “mirth,” and “anguish” are all far too extreme for the mildness of the sentence, and “cynicism” does not match the speaker’s tone.

Passage adapted from Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick; or, the Whale (1851)

Example Question #75 : Passage Meaning And Inference

1 I have just returned from a visit to my landlord—the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with.  2 This is certainly a beautiful country!  3 In all England, I do not believe that I could have fixed on a situation so completely removed from the stir of society.  4 A perfect misanthropist’s heaven: and Mr. Heathcliff and I are such a suitable pair to divide the desolation between us.  5 A capital fellow!  6 He little imagined how my heart warmed towards him when I beheld his black eyes withdraw so suspiciously under their brows, as I rode up, and when his fingers sheltered themselves, with a jealous resolution, still further in his waistcoat, as I announced my name.

… 7 [he] sullenly preceded me up the causeway, calling, as we entered the court,—‘Joseph, take Mr. Lockwood’s horse; and bring up some wine.’

 … 8 Joseph was an elderly, nay, an old man: very old, perhaps, though hale and sinewy.  9 ‘The Lord help us!’ he soliloquised in an undertone of peevish displeasure, while relieving me of my horse: looking, meantime, in my face so sourly that I charitably conjectured he must have need of divine aid to digest his dinner.

What idea does “charitably conjectured” imply in the context of Sentence 9?

Possible Answers:

The speaker is accustomed to being the benefactor of unpleasant men like Joseph

The speaker has performed similar mental manipulations in his work for a number of charities

The speaker is optimistically assuming that Joseph’s bad attitude is caused by indigestion and not meanness of spirit

The speaker is trying to be generous toward Joseph because of his old age

The speaker is trying to note Joseph’s indifference with a similar detachment

Correct answer:

The speaker is optimistically assuming that Joseph’s bad attitude is caused by indigestion and not meanness of spirit

Explanation:

Sentence 9 notes that Joseph looked at the speaker “so sourly that I charitably conjectured he must have need of divine aid to digest his dinner.” In other words, the speaker knows that Joseph dislikes him but is choosing to believe that the unpleasant treatment is due to stomach problems and not a mean personality.

Passage adapted from Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, 1847.

Example Question #1 : Other 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)

What one word would appropriately replace (in the passage above): “the true story of their lives”?

Possible Answers:

[Their] “sins”

None of these

[Their] “meaning”

[Their] “background”

Correct answer:

[Their] “sins”

Explanation:

“[Their] sins” is the correct answer. This question is entirely dependent on your understanding of context clues (unless you have an independent working knowledge of the Catholic sacrament of Confession). At any rate, “confession” means to admit or state fault or guilt. Thus, it’s entirely reasonable to believe that someone in a confessional would be admitting to some sort of fault or guilt. Religiously speaking, it would be more proper to call that “sin” (and, since the passage is set in a church, the religious meaning is most appropriate). Thus, “sins" is the correct answer.

Example Question #1 : Other Inferences

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 is one way that Lord Henry thinks the “lower classes” procure extraordinary sensations?

Possible Answers:

By viewing art

By committing murder

By writing letters 

By playing Chopin

Correct answer:

By committing murder

Explanation:

“By committing murder” is the correct answer. This is an odd question, and a fairly difficult one at that. Regardless, Lord Henry draws a somewhat insulting and very strange parallel in between entertainment for the wealthy, and murder for the poor. In other words, Lord Henry says that the lower class (the poor) commit murder much in the same way that the upper class looks at art—in order to “procure extraordinary sensations,” to entertain, in other words.

Example Question #1 : Other Inferences

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)

To what does the “thing” refer?

Possible Answers:

The [subject of the] painting

The curtains

 The feeling of the room

None of these

Correct answer:

The [subject of the] painting

Explanation:

“The [subject of the] painting” is the correct answer. This is a relatively simple question. Even if you were unaware of the premise of the book—that Dorian Gray’s portrait ages rather than him—the sentence construction lends itself to the answer. In fact, the previous sentence says that he “dragged the curtain away from the portrait” and then goes on to describe the lack of change in the portrait (referring to it as the “thing”).

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