HiSET: Language Arts - Reading : Inferences about characters or subjects

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for HiSET: Language Arts - Reading

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Inference And Interpretation

Adapted from Narrative of The Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass (1845)

      I lived in Master Hugh’s family about seven years. During this time, I succeeded in learning to read and write. In accomplishing this, I was compelled to resort to various stratagems. I had no regular teacher. My mistress, who had kindly commenced to instruct me, had, in compliance with the advice and direction of her husband, not only ceased to instruct, but had set her face against my being instructed by any one else. It is due, however, to my mistress to say of her, that she did not adopt this course of treatment immediately. She at first lacked the depravity indispensable to shutting me up in mental darkness. It was at least necessary for her to have some training in the exercise of irresponsible power, to make her equal to the task of treating me as though I were a brute. 

      My mistress was, as I have said, a kind and tender-hearted woman; and in the simplicity of her soul she commenced, when I first went to live with her, to treat me as she supposed one human being ought to treat another. In entering upon the duties of a slaveholder, she did not seem to perceive that I sustained to her the relation of a mere chattel, and that for her to treat me as a human being was not only wrong, but dangerously so. 

What inference can be made about the narrator?

Possible Answers:

He was adopted from an orphanage and never received an education. 

He was being held as a slave, and had been denied an education in his youth

He had a learning disability which made learning to read difficult. 

His first language was not English. 

Correct answer:

He was being held as a slave, and had been denied an education in his youth


The correct answer is that Frederick Douglass was a slave. There are several clues that will lead the reader to this conclusion: first, he says he lives with Master Hughes. The passage mentions that the mistress is taking on the duties of a slaveholder. Douglass also refers to himself as chattel, which means a person held in slavery. There are no clues in the passage that indicate that Douglass was adopted or that he did not speak English as his first language. There is nothing to indicate that learning to read was a challenge for him due to a disability.

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