GRE Subject Test: Literature in English : Contexts of Prose

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for GRE Subject Test: Literature in English

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All GRE Subject Test: Literature in English Resources

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Example Questions

Example Question #3 : Contexts Of American Prose Before 1925

This old town of Salem—my native place, though I have dwelt much away from it both in boyhood and maturer years—possesses, or did possess, a hold on my affection, the force of which I have never realized during my seasons of actual residence here.

… The figure of that first ancestor, invested by family tradition with a dim and dusky grandeur, was present to my boyish imagination as far back as I can remember. It still haunts me, and induces a sort of home-feeling with the past, which I scarcely claim in reference to the present phase of the town. I seem to have a stronger claim to a residence here on account of this grave, bearded, sable-cloaked, and steeple-crowned progenitor—who came so early, with his Bible and his sword, and trode the unworn street with such a stately port, and made so large a figure, as a man of war and peace—a stronger claim than for myself, whose name is seldom heard and my face hardly known. He was a soldier, legislator, judge; he was a ruler in the Church; he had all the Puritanic traits, both good and evil. He was likewise a bitter persecutor; as witness the Quakers, who have remembered him in their histories, and relate an incident of his hard severity towards a woman of their sect, which will last longer, it is to be feared, than any record of his better deeds, although these were many. His son, too, inherited the persecuting spirit, and made himself so conspicuous in the martyrdom of the witches, that their blood may fairly be said to have left a stain upon him. So deep a stain, indeed, that his dry old bones, in the Charter-street burial-ground, must still retain it, if they have not crumbled utterly to dust! I know not whether these ancestors of mine bethought themselves to repent, and ask pardon of Heaven for their cruelties; or whether they are now groaning under the heavy consequences of them in another state of being.

The main subject of the novel is which Biblical sin?

Possible Answers:

Covetousness

Avarice

Murder

Adultery

Theft

Correct answer:

Adultery

Explanation:

The Scarlett Letter concerns the story of Hester Prynne, an adulteress in early Puritan Massachusetts, and her love affair with the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale. As a result of the illegitimate pregnancy and birth of her daughter Pearl, Hester Prynne is ostracized from the village and forced to wear a scarlet “A” on her clothes to signify her sin of adultery.

Passage adapted from The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850)

Example Question #71 : Contexts Of Prose

This old town of Salem—my native place, though I have dwelt much away from it both in boyhood and maturer years—possesses, or did possess, a hold on my affection, the force of which I have never realized during my seasons of actual residence here.

… The figure of that first ancestor, invested by family tradition with a dim and dusky grandeur, was present to my boyish imagination as far back as I can remember. It still haunts me, and induces a sort of home-feeling with the past, which I scarcely claim in reference to the present phase of the town. I seem to have a stronger claim to a residence here on account of this grave, bearded, sable-cloaked, and steeple-crowned progenitor—who came so early, with his Bible and his sword, and trode the unworn street with such a stately port, and made so large a figure, as a man of war and peace—a stronger claim than for myself, whose name is seldom heard and my face hardly known. He was a soldier, legislator, judge; he was a ruler in the Church; he had all the Puritanic traits, both good and evil. He was likewise a bitter persecutor; as witness the Quakers, who have remembered him in their histories, and relate an incident of his hard severity towards a woman of their sect, which will last longer, it is to be feared, than any record of his better deeds, although these were many. His son, too, inherited the persecuting spirit, and made himself so conspicuous in the martyrdom of the witches, that their blood may fairly be said to have left a stain upon him. So deep a stain, indeed, that his dry old bones, in the Charter-street burial-ground, must still retain it, if they have not crumbled utterly to dust! I know not whether these ancestors of mine bethought themselves to repent, and ask pardon of Heaven for their cruelties; or whether they are now groaning under the heavy consequences of them in another state of being.

What American school of literature does this novel belong to?

Possible Answers:

Modernist

Southern Gothic

Antebellum

Romantic

Realist

Correct answer:

Romantic

Explanation:

The Scarlet Letter is considered a classic example of American Romanticism. The novel features strong symbolism, an examination of moral/ethical quandaries, a fascination with nature (particularly forests), and a preoccupation with the individual’s role in society, all features of the American Romantic movement.

Passage adapted from The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850)

Example Question #72 : Contexts Of Prose

This old town of Salem—my native place, though I have dwelt much away from it both in boyhood and maturer years—possesses, or did possess, a hold on my affection, the force of which I have never realized during my seasons of actual residence here.

… The figure of that first ancestor, invested by family tradition with a dim and dusky grandeur, was present to my boyish imagination as far back as I can remember. It still haunts me, and induces a sort of home-feeling with the past, which I scarcely claim in reference to the present phase of the town. I seem to have a stronger claim to a residence here on account of this grave, bearded, sable-cloaked, and steeple-crowned progenitor—who came so early, with his Bible and his sword, and trode the unworn street with such a stately port, and made so large a figure, as a man of war and peace—a stronger claim than for myself, whose name is seldom heard and my face hardly known. He was a soldier, legislator, judge; he was a ruler in the Church; he had all the Puritanic traits, both good and evil. He was likewise a bitter persecutor; as witness the Quakers, who have remembered him in their histories, and relate an incident of his hard severity towards a woman of their sect, which will last longer, it is to be feared, than any record of his better deeds, although these were many. His son, too, inherited the persecuting spirit, and made himself so conspicuous in the martyrdom of the witches, that their blood may fairly be said to have left a stain upon him. So deep a stain, indeed, that his dry old bones, in the Charter-street burial-ground, must still retain it, if they have not crumbled utterly to dust! I know not whether these ancestors of mine bethought themselves to repent, and ask pardon of Heaven for their cruelties; or whether they are now groaning under the heavy consequences of them in another state of being.

This work has a similar setting to which other classic American work?

Possible Answers:

Leaves of Grass

The Last of the Mohicans

Moby-Dick

The Fall of the House of Usher

The Crucible

Correct answer:

The Crucible

Explanation:

Both The Crucible and The Scarlet Letter are set in early Puritan America. While The Crucible is set in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692 and The Scarlet Letter is set in the 1630s in what eventually became Boston, Massachusetts, these two settings are closer than any other answer choice.

Passage adapted from The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850)

Example Question #253 : Cultural And Historical Contexts

There was a contention as far as a suit (in which, piety and dignity, religion and estimation, were mingled) which of the religious orders should ring to prayers first in the morning; and it was determined, that they should ring first that rose earliest.  If we understand aright the dignity of this bell, that tolls for our evening prayer, we would be glad to make it ours, by rising early, in that application, that it might be ours as well as his, whose indeed it is.  The bell doth toll for him, that thinks it doth; and though it intermit again, yet from that minute, that that occasion wrought upon him, he is united to God.  Who casts not up his eye to the sun when it rises?  But who takes off his eye from a comet, when that breaks out? who bends not his ear to any bell, which upon any occasion rings?  But who can remove it from that bell, which is passing a piece of himself out of this world?

The larger prose piece from which this passage was taken provided the title for a novel by which of the following authors?

Possible Answers:

Robert Penn Warren

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Henry James

Ernest Hemingway

William Faulkner

Correct answer:

Ernest Hemingway

Explanation:

The line "Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee" appears later in this sermon and provided the title for Ernest Hemingway's novel For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Adapted from "Meditation XVII" in Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, and Severall Steps in My Sicknes by John Donne (1624)

Example Question #1 : Contexts Of American Prose After 1925

The author of Wise Blood and The Violent Bear It Away, this Southern writer was an invalid for much of her life.

Possible Answers:

Carson McCullers

Dorothy Allison

Zora Neale Hurston

Eudora Welty

Flannery O’Connor

Correct answer:

Flannery O’Connor

Explanation:

This is Flannery O’Connor, a Southern Gothic writer who suffered from lupus and is perhaps best known for short stories such as “Good Country People,” “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” and “Parker’s Back.” Her works are deeply invested in moral and ethical questions and in probing psychological examinations of her often poor, uneducated Southern characters.

Example Question #2 : Contexts Of American Prose After 1925

Which of the following novels is not set during a war?

Possible Answers:

Catch-22

For Whom the Bell Tolls

As I Lay Dying

Gravity’s Rainbow

A Farewell To Arms

Correct answer:

As I Lay Dying

Explanation:

Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 is set during World War II, Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow is set during the end of World War II, and Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls are set during World War I and the Spanish Civil War, respectively. Only Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying is set during peacetime. 

Example Question #3 : Contexts Of American Prose After 1925

Which American writer is famous for a novel depicting the migration and struggles of the Okies during the Dust Bowl?

Possible Answers:

John Dos Passos

Jack Kerouac

Cormac McCarthy

John Steinbeck

Junot Díaz

Correct answer:

John Steinbeck

Explanation:

This is John Steinbeck, and the novel in question is the 1939 Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning Grapes of Wrath. It is set during the Great Depression and centers on a family of indigent tenant farmers who move from Oklahoma to California.

Example Question #2 : Contexts Of American Prose After 1925

Which of these writers is known for his dark, brooding western novels and polysyndetic sentence style?

Possible Answers:

Cormac McCarthy

John Steinbeck

Junot Díaz

Vladimir Nabokov

James Baldwin

Correct answer:

Cormac McCarthy

Explanation:

This is Cormac McCarthy, whose novels include All the Pretty Horses, Blood Meridian, The Road, and No Country For Old Men. His work often features apocalyptic settings, largely male casts, and dialogues of untranslated Spanish.

Example Question #4 : Contexts Of American Prose After 1925

This Dominican novelist won the 2008 Pulitzer for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

Possible Answers:

Junot Díaz

Roberto Bolaño

Sandra Cisneros

Laura Esquivel

Edwidge Danticat

Correct answer:

Junot Díaz

Explanation:

The writer in question is Junot Díaz. His other works include story collections titled Drown and This Is How You Lose Her, and much of his short fiction revolves around Dominican-American immigrants.

Example Question #5 : Contexts Of American Prose After 1925

A classic American novel by this author depicts the glittering, empty lives of flappers and their ilk in the Hamptons of the early twentieth century.

Possible Answers:

D.H. Lawrence

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Robert Penn Warren

John Dos Passos

Ernest Hemingway

Correct answer:

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Explanation:

This is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous novel The Great Gatsby, published in 1925.

All GRE Subject Test: Literature in English Resources

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