GRE Subject Test: Literature in English : Identification of American Prose

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All GRE Subject Test: Literature in English Resources

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Example Questions

Example Question #91 : Gre Subject Test: Literature In English

The Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale bent his head, in silent prayer, as it seemed, and then came forward.

"Hester Prynne," said he, leaning over the balcony and looking down steadfastly into her eyes, "thou hearest what this good man says, and seest the accountability under which I labour. If thou feelest it to be for thy soul's peace, and that thy earthly punishment will thereby be made more effectual to salvation, I charge thee to speak out the name of thy fellow-sinner and fellow-sufferer! Be not silent from any mistaken pity and tenderness for him; for, believe me, Hester, though he were to step down from a high place, and stand there beside thee, on thy pedestal of shame, yet better were it so than to hide a guilty heart through life. What can thy silence do for him, except it tempt him—yea, compel him, as it were—to add hypocrisy to sin? Heaven hath granted thee an open ignominy, that thereby thou mayest work out an open triumph over the evil within thee and the sorrow without. Take heed how thou deniest to him—who, perchance, hath not the courage to grasp it for himself—the bitter, but wholesome, cup that is now presented to thy lips!"

Who wrote the above passage?

Possible Answers:

Herman Melville

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Arthur Miller

Anne Bradstreet

Sojourner Truth

Correct answer:

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Explanation:

The excerpted passage mentions two central characters in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s famous novel about morality and hypocrisy, The Scarlet Letter. Written in 1850, the novel concerns an illicit love affair and pregnancy between the married Hester Prynne and the Reverend Dimmesdale in a seventeenth-century New England town.

Example Question #11 : Identification Of American Prose

This author was born in New York City and is best known for his epic about an aggressive whale that destroys a whaling ship and its crew. 

Possible Answers:

Edgar Allen Poe

Herman Melville

Henry David Thoreau

Mark Twain

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Correct answer:

Herman Melville

Explanation:

Herman Melville (1819–1891) was best known for his work Moby Dick (1851). In his later years, Melville is known for using an abundance of literary allusion; however, in his early years, his writing was more baroque, or highly extravagant.

Example Question #12 : Identification Of American Prose

This author was the first American horror, mystery, and science fiction writer. His most famous tales include The Fall of the House of Usher, The Tell-Tale Heart and the poem The Raven.

Possible Answers:

Edgar Allen Poe

Stephen King

Herman Melville

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Mark Twain

Correct answer:

Edgar Allen Poe

Explanation:

Edgar Allen Poe (1809–1849) was a romantic writer, meaning that he relies on emotion and individualism. He was one of America's first short story writers. Edgar Allen Poe tried to please his audience by writing in the Gothic genre as well, where his themes had questions of death, its physical signs, decomposition, premature burial, the reanimation of the dead, and mourning.

Example Question #13 : Identification Of American Prose

This author was a philosopher and naturalist at Concord, Massachusetts, best known for his writings about independence, spiritual discovery, and self-reliance in works such as his essay Civil Disobedience and his book Walden about a two-year retreat to the woods near Walden Pond.

Possible Answers:

Jack London

Herman Melville

Henry David Thoreau

James Fenimore Cooper

Mark Twain

Correct answer:

Henry David Thoreau

Explanation:

Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862) was a transcendentalist who wrote about government oppression, nature, and misdeeds. He is one author of his time who has not faded away because of his relevance to today's society.

Example Question #14 : Identification Of American Prose

This author was inspired to write his classic novels The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by his childhood experiences in Hannibal, Missouri, and his job as a Mississippi River steamboat pilot.

Possible Answers:

Willa Cather

Mark Twain

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Stephen King

Herman Melville

Correct answer:

Mark Twain

Explanation:

Mark Twain, born with the name Samuel Clemens in Florida, Missouri, was known for his witty and satirical writing. Also called the Father of American Literature, he was known for the colloquial dialogue of his characters. In recent years, many controversies have surrounded his book, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), because of its dealings with racism.

Example Question #15 : Identification Of American Prose

This author was born in Connecticut. Her book Uncle Tom's Cabin revealed the horrific life of slaves. She because a major abolitionist and influenced the movement.

Possible Answers:

Phillis Wheatley

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Willa Cather

Anne Bradstreet

Emily Dickinson

Correct answer:

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Explanation:

Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811–1896) was an American Abolitionist who wrote about the horrors of slavery. Most of her writing angered the South so much that the controversies regarding her stories were credited for having an impact on starting the Civil War. Stowe was an active member of the Underground Railroad.

Example Question #31 : Identification Of Prose

This author, from Salem, Massachusetts, wrote stories about sin, guilt, and concerns about witchcraft in Puritan New England. He was a dark romantic who felt these qualities were natural in humans. He is most known for his work from which the following excerpt is taken:

"Her attire, which, indeed, she had wrought for the occasion, in prison, and had modeled much after her own fancy, seemed to express the attitude of her spirit, the desperate recklessness of her mood, by its wild and picturesque peculiarity. But the point which drew all eyes, and, as it were, transfigured the wearer,--so that both men and women, who had been familiarly acquainted with Hester Prynne, were now impressed as if they beheld her for the first time,--was that SCARLET LETTER, so fantastically embroidered and illuminated upon her bosom. It had the effect of a spell, taking her out of the ordinary relations with humanity, and enclosing her in a sphere by herself."

Possible Answers:

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Mark Twain

Herman Melville

Jack London

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Correct answer:

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Explanation:

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804–1864) was an editor for a New England magazine before taking a post as a Government Surveyor and Inspector of Revenue. His writing falls into the Dark Romantic genre that suggest that guilt, sin, and evil are the most inherent natural qualities of humans; however, his later works show a negative idea of transcendentalism.

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

Example Question #31 : Identification Of Prose

This author was one of the earliest American fiction writers. His works include Rip Van Winkle (1819) and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1820). An excerpt adapted from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1820): 

"From the listless repose of the place, and the peculiar character of its inhabitants, who are descendants from the original Dutch settlers, this sequestered glen has long been known by the name of Sleepy Hollow, and its rustic lads are called the Sleepy Hollow Boys throughout all the neighboring country. A drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hang over the land, and to pervade the very atmosphere."

Possible Answers:

Washington Irving

Edgar Allen Poe

Jack London

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Herman Melville

Correct answer:

Washington Irving

Explanation:

Washington Irving (1783–1859) was an American essayist, biographer, historian, and diplomat. From 1842–1846, he was Ambassador to Spain. Irving was one of the first American writers to win acclaim in England. He wrote many letters earning him the nickname "The First American Man of Letters." Irving uses imagery and symbolism in his writing, that sometimes is classified as sophisticated and satirical.

Passage adapted from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1820).

Example Question #32 : Identification Of Prose

This author, born in San Francisco, drew on his adventures as a sailor, and gold prospector to write exciting tales about dogs in the North and voyages on the high seas. In his most popular book, he writes: 

"Dark spruce forest frowned on either side the frozen waterway. The trees had been stripped by a recent wind of their white covering of frost, and they seemed to lean toward each other, black and ominous, in the fading light. A vast silence reigned over the land. The land itself was a desolation, lifeless, without movement, so lone and cold that the spirit of it was not even that of sadness."

Possible Answers:

Mark Twain

James Cooper

Jack London

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Herman Melville

Correct answer:

Jack London

Explanation:

Jack London (1876–1916) was an American novelist, journalist, and social activist. His most popular works White Fang (1906) and Call of the Wild (1903) took place in the Yukon territory in the middle of the Gold Rush. He is noted for his atheism, racism, and socialism. Many other writers accused London for plagiarizing because his plots were frequently bought, and he used newspaper stories as ideas.

Passage adapted from White Fang by Jack London (1906)

Example Question #32 : Identification Of Prose

This author is best known for his five-book Leatherstocking series, part of which is excerpted here:

“Let the Frenchman and all his host go to the devil, sir!” exclaimed the hasty veteran. “He is not yet master of William Henry, nor shall he ever be, provided Webb proves himself the man he should. No, sir, thank Heaven we are not yet in such a strait that it can be said Munro is too much pressed to discharge the little domestic duties of his own family. Your mother was the only child of my bosom friend, Duncan; and I’ll just give you a hearing, though all the knights of St. Louis were in a body at the sally–port, with the French saint at their head, crying to speak a word under favor. A pretty degree of knighthood, sir, is that which can be bought with sugar hogsheads! and then your twopenny marquisates. The thistle is the order for dignity and antiquity; the veritable ‘nemo me impune lacessit’ of chivalry. Ye had ancestors in that degree, Duncan, and they were an ornament to the nobles of Scotland.”

Possible Answers:

James Fenimore Cooper

Edgar Allen Poe

J. Abrahms

Mark Twain

Washington Irving

Correct answer:

James Fenimore Cooper

Explanation:

James Fenimore Cooper (1789–1851) wrote tales of the frontier. He is credited with writing the first American hero, Natty Bumppo, a Caucasian child raised by Delaware Native Americans who becomes an adventurous and brave woodsmen. Cooper wrote about the Golden Age and its demise.  

Passage adapted from The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper (1826)

All GRE Subject Test: Literature in English Resources

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