GMAT Verbal : Comparing and Contrasting Ideas in and Aspects of Humanities Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for GMAT Verbal

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Passage Organization And Order

Adapted from “The Celebration of Intellect” by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1861)

I cannot consent to wander from the duties of this day into the fracas of politics. The brute noise of cannon has, I know, a most poetic echo in these days when it is an instrument of freedom and the primal sentiments of humanity. Yet it is but representative and a far-off means and servant; but here in the college we are in the presence of the constituency and the principle itself. Here is, or should be, the majesty of reason and the creative cause, and it were a compounding of all gradation and reverence to suffer the flash of swords and the boyish strife of passion and the feebleness of military strength to intrude on this sanctity and omnipotence of Intellectual Law.

Against the heroism of soldiers I set the heroism of scholars, which consists in ignoring the other. You shall not put up in your Academy the statue of Caesar or Pompey, of Nelson or Wellington, of Washington or Napoleon, of Garibaldi, but of Archimedes, of Milton, of Newton. . . .

For either science and literature is a hypocrisy, or it is not. If it be, then resign your charter to the Legislature, turn your college into barracks and warehouses, and divert the funds of your founders into the stock of a rope-walk or a candle-factory, a tan-yard or some other undoubted conveniency for the surrounding population. But if the intellectual interest be, as I hold, no hypocrisy, but the only reality, then it behooves us to enthrone it, obey it, and give it possession of us and ours; to give, among other possessions, the college into its hand casting down every idol, every pretender, every hoary lie, every dignified blunder that has crept into its administration.

What is being compared and contrasted in the first paragraph of this essay?

Possible Answers:

The idiocy of children and the calm wisdom of sages

The great wars of history and the great intellectual achievements of the past

None of the other answer choices is correct.

The loud blasts of war and the quiet of the humanist's study

The world of military concerns and that of intellectual undertakings

Correct answer:

The world of military concerns and that of intellectual undertakings


The paragraph opens by trying to stay out of the "fracas" (noisy place of disturbances) of politics. It continually comes back to the fact that Emerson wishes to focus upon the life of the mind and not the "feebleness of military strength." The contrast is thus between the more militaristic life of the modern day and the life of the intellect with its own undertakings.

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