HiSET: Language Arts - Reading : Literary Texts

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

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Literary Texts

Adapted from Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy (1895)

He sounded the clacker till his arm ached, and at length his heart grew sympathetic with the birds' thwarted desires. They seemed, like himself, to be living in a world which did not want them. Why should he frighten them away? They took upon more and more the aspect of gentle friends and pensioners—the only friends he could claim as being in the least degree interested in him, for his aunt had often told him that she was not. He ceased his rattling, and they alighted anew.

"Poor little dears!" said Jude, aloud. "You shall have some dinner—you shall. There is enough for us all. Farmer Troutham can afford to let you have some. Eat, then my dear little birdies, and make a good meal!"

They stayed and ate, inky spots on the nut-brown soil, and Jude enjoyed their appetite. A magic thread of fellow-feeling united his own life with theirs. Puny and sorry as those lives were, they much resembled his own.

His clacker he had by this time thrown away from him, as being a mean and sordid instrument, offensive both to the birds and to himself as their friend. All at once he became conscious of a smart blow upon his buttocks, followed by a loud clack, which announced to his surprised senses that the clacker had been the instrument of offense used. The birds and Jude started up simultaneously, and the dazed eyes of the latter beheld the farmer in person, the great Troutham himself, his red face glaring down upon Jude's cowering frame, the clacker swinging in his hand.

"So it's 'Eat my dear birdies,' is it, young man? 'Eat, dear birdies,' indeed! I'll tickle your breeches, and see if you say, 'Eat, dear birdies' again in a hurry! And you've been idling at the schoolmaster's too, instead of coming here, ha'n't ye, hey? That's how you earn your sixpence a day for keeping the rooks off my corn!"

From what point of view is this passage told?

Possible Answers:

Third-person point of view

Jude's at the time of the events described

Farmer Troutham's

Jude's as an old man

Second-person point of view

Correct answer:

Third-person point of view

Explanation:

We cannot say from the passage that the narrator is a friend of Jude's, so the only safe answer is “the third-person perspective,” as the passage is written in the third person. The third person can either be totally objective or omniscient, or can be semi-omniscient, meaning that the point of view is aligned with a particular character, but still uses proper nouns and pronouns to refer to characters. The easiest way to ascertain this is that there is no use of the personal pronoun “I," which would mean the passage was in first person. Second person addresses the reader as "you."

Example Question #1 : Analysis

Adapted from Emily Dickinson's "Tell All The Truth But Tell It Slant" (1872)
 
Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —

What is the speaker's overall attitude towards telling the truth?

Possible Answers:

The speaker believes the truth is too harsh, so one should avoid it

The speaker feels that the truth is black and white and should always be told, no exceptions

The speaker believes one should always tell the truth, but tell it gently

The speaker feels that the truth is delightful and surprising

Correct answer:

The speaker believes one should always tell the truth, but tell it gently

Explanation:

The speaker believes one should always tell the truth, but tell it gently. The first line, "tell all the truth but tell it slant" shows that the speaker does value the truth, but feels it should not be told in a straightforward manner. She does not suggest avoiding the truth. Although the speaker feels the truth can be a surprise, ("The truth's superb surprise") she does not imply that it is delightful. The speaker believes in telling the truth, but does not subscribe to a strict moral code to tell the truth with no exceptions. That is why the best answer is that the speaker believes in telling the truth, but going about it gently, or delicately. 

Example Question #1 : Literary Texts

Call me Ishmael. 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. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. 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. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. 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.

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. Right and left, the streets take you waterward. 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. Look at the crowds of water-gazers there.

Circumambulate the city of a dreamy Sabbath afternoon. Go from Corlears Hook to Coenties Slip, and from thence, by Whitehall, northward. What do you see?—Posted like silent sentinels all around the town, stand thousands upon thousands of mortal men fixed in ocean reveries. Some leaning against the spiles; some seated upon the pier-heads; some looking over the bulwarks of ships from China; some high aloft in the rigging, as if striving to get a still better seaward peep. But these are all landsmen; of week days pent up in lath and plaster—tied to counters, nailed to benches, clinched to desks. How then is this? Are the green fields gone? What do they here?

But look! here come more crowds, pacing straight for the water, and seemingly bound for a dive. Strange! Nothing will content them but the extremest limit of the land; loitering under the shady lee of yonder warehouses will not suffice. No. They must get just as nigh the water as they possibly can without falling in. And there they stand—miles of them—leagues. Inlanders all, they come from lanes and alleys, streets and avenues—north, east, south, and west. Yet here they all unite. Tell me, does the magnetic virtue of the needles of the compasses of all those ships attract them thither?

Once more. Say you are in the country; in some high land of lakes. Take almost any path you please, and ten to one it carries you down in a dale, and leaves you there by a pool in the stream. There is magic in it. Let the most absent-minded of men be plunged in his deepest reveries—stand that man on his legs, set his feet a-going, and he will infallibly lead you to water, if water there be in all that region. Should you ever be athirst in the great American desert, try this experiment, if your caravan happen to be supplied with a metaphysical professor. Yes, as every one knows, meditation and water are wedded for ever.

Adapted from Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851)

Based on the above passage, how does the narrator feel about bodies of water?

Possible Answers:

The narrator thinks that the sea should be avoided at all costs

The narrator the fascination that others have with the sea to be strange

The narrator ascribes a mystical and captivating power to the sea and other bodies of water

The narrator finds streams and pools to be preferable to larger bodies of water

The narrator thinks that one should be careful not to fall into the ocean

Correct answer:

The narrator ascribes a mystical and captivating power to the sea and other bodies of water

Explanation:

The clearest indication of the narrator's awe for the sea is the sentence in the last paragraph: "There is magic in it," referring to the metaphysical phenomenon that draws men to water. Throughout the passage, the narrator enumerates the mysterious ways in which all people, even "landsmen" are drawn to the sea. Even on the island of Manhattan, people stand on the riverbanks, captivated by the water. The first paragraph indicates that the narrator shares in this fascination with the sea and is compelled to set sail.

Example Question #1 : Literary Texts

I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricasie, or a ragoust.

I do therefore humbly offer it to publick consideration, that of the hundred and twenty thousand children, already computed, twenty thousand may be reserved for breed, whereof only one fourth part to be males; which is more than we allow to sheep, black cattle, or swine, and my reason is, that these children are seldom the fruits of marriage, a circumstance not much regarded by our savages, therefore, one male will be sufficient to serve four females. That the remaining hundred thousand may, at a year old, be offered in sale to the persons of quality and fortune, through the kingdom, always advising the mother to let them suck plentifully in the last month, so as to render them plump, and fat for a good table. A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends, and when the family dines alone, the fore or hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt, will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter.

I have reckoned upon a medium, that a child just born will weigh 12 pounds, and in a solar year, if tolerably nursed, encreaseth to 28 pounds.

I grant this food will be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for landlords, who, as they have already devoured most of the parents, seem to have the best title to the children.

Infant's flesh will be in season throughout the year, but more plentiful in March, and a little before and after; for we are told by a grave author, an eminent French physician, that fish being a prolifick dyet, there are more children born in Roman Catholick countries about nine months after Lent, the markets will be more glutted than usual, because the number of Popish infants, is at least three to one in this kingdom, and therefore it will have one other collateral advantage, by lessening the number of Papists among us.

I have already computed the charge of nursing a beggar's child (in which list I reckon all cottagers, labourers, and four-fifths of the farmers) to be about two shillings per annum, rags included; and I believe no gentleman would repine to give ten shillings for the carcass of a good fat child, which, as I have said, will make four dishes of excellent nutritive meat, when he hath only some particular friend, or his own family to dine with him. Thus the squire will learn to be a good landlord, and grow popular among his tenants, the mother will have eight shillings neat profit, and be fit for work till she produces another child.

Adapted from A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift (1729)

How would you describe the tone of this passage?

Possible Answers:

Despairing

Satiric

Exuberant 

Melancholy

Histrionic

Correct answer:

Satiric

Explanation:

The suggestion that people sell their children as food is intended as satire. The strongest indication that this suggestion is ironic is that nowhere does the author address the obvious emotional, moral, societal, human rights, personal, psychological (etc., etc., etc., ...) problems with selling children to be eaten as food. Ignoring the most obvious problem with this suggestion and treating the proposal as though it were an ordinary economic proposal indicates that it is not meant seriously. 

Example Question #1 : Literary Texts

Adapted from Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy (1895)

He sounded the clacker till his arm ached, and at length his heart grew sympathetic with the birds' thwarted desires. They seemed, like himself, to be living in a world which did not want them. Why should he frighten them away? They took upon more and more the aspect of gentle friends and pensioners—the only friends he could claim as being in the least degree interested in him, for his aunt had often told him that she was not. He ceased his rattling, and they alighted anew.

"Poor little dears!" said Jude, aloud. "You shall have some dinner—you shall. There is enough for us all. Farmer Troutham can afford to let you have some. Eat, then my dear little birdies, and make a good meal!"

They stayed and ate, inky spots on the nut-brown soil, and Jude enjoyed their appetite. A magic thread of fellow-feeling united his own life with theirs. Puny and sorry as those lives were, they much resembled his own.

His clacker he had by this time thrown away from him, as being a mean and sordid instrument, offensive both to the birds and to himself as their friend. All at once he became conscious of a smart blow upon his buttocks, followed by a loud clack, which announced to his surprised senses that the clacker had been the instrument of offense used. The birds and Jude started up simultaneously, and the dazed eyes of the latter beheld the farmer in person, the great Troutham himself, his red face glaring down upon Jude's cowering frame, the clacker swinging in his hand.

"So it's 'Eat my dear birdies,' is it, young man? 'Eat, dear birdies,' indeed! I'll tickle your breeches, and see if you say, 'Eat, dear birdies' again in a hurry! And you've been idling at the schoolmaster's too, instead of coming here, ha'n't ye, hey? That's how you earn your sixpence a day for keeping the rooks off my corn!"

Which of the following statements about the content of the passage is true?

Possible Answers:

Farmer Troutham is a rich man

The whole scene was just a drawing

Jude's aunt is vocal in her disinterest in him

Jude loves the birds

Jude is using his hands to scare the birds by clapping

Correct answer:

Jude's aunt is vocal in her disinterest in him

Explanation:

We know that Jude's aunt has told him that she is not interested in him from the line, “the only friends he could claim as being in the least degree interested in him, for his aunt had often told him that she was not.” None of the other options can be found in the passage.

Example Question #1 : Analysis

Passage adapted from Thomas Bulfinch’s “Prometheus and Pandora” (1860)

 The creation of the world is a problem naturally fitted to excite the liveliest interest of man, its inhabitant. The ancient pagans, not having the information on the subject which we derive from the pages of Scripture, had their own way of telling the story, which is as follows: Before earth and sea and heaven were created, all things wore one aspect, to which we give the name of Chaos—a confused and shapeless mass, nothing but dead weight, in which, however, slumbered the seeds of things. Earth, sea, and air were all mixed up together; so the earth was not solid, the sea was not fluid, and the air was not transparent. God and Nature at last interposed, and put an end to this discord, separating earth from sea, and heaven from both. The fiery part, being the lightest, sprang up, and formed the skies; the air was next in weight and place. The earth, being heavier, sank below; and the water took the lowest place, and buoyed up the earth.

Here some god—it is not known which—gave his good offices in arranging and disposing the earth. He appointed rivers and bays their places, raised mountains, scooped out valleys, distributed woods, fountains, fertile fields, and stony plains. The air being cleared, the stars began to appear, fishes took possession of the sea, birds of the air, and four-footed beasts of the land.

The origin of which of the following is NOT explained in this passage?

Possible Answers:

Man

Mountains

Birds 

Fish

Correct answer:

Man

Explanation:

The passage mentions the first mountains, birds, and fish, as well as other landforms and animals, but does not mention people. 

Example Question #2 : Literary Texts

HENRY V: And [St. Crispin’s Day] shall ne'er go by,

From this day to the ending of the world,

But we in it shall be remember'd;

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he today that sheds his blood with me   (5)

Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,

This day shall gentle his condition:

And gentlemen in England now a-bed

Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,

And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks   (10)

That fought with us upon St. Crispin's day.

According to the passage, why will the “gentlemen in England… think themselves accursed” (line 9)?

Possible Answers:

Because they did not participate in the glorious battle

Because they will not belong to the “band of brothers”

Because their friends all died without them

Because they will not be made gentle

Because they will be considered stingy by others

Correct answer:

Because they did not participate in the glorious battle

Explanation:

According to the passage, the gentlemen in England will “think themselves accursed that they were not here (line 9). They will also “hold their manhoods cheap” when people mention the St. Crispin’s Day battle. In other words, they will not be considered as noble or masculine as the men who actually did take part in the battle.

Passage adapted from William Shakespeare’s Henry V (1600)

Example Question #1 : Analysis

HENRY V: And [St. Crispin’s Day] shall ne'er go by,

From this day to the ending of the world,

But we in it shall be remember'd;

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he today that sheds his blood with me   (5)

Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,

This day shall gentle his condition:

And gentlemen in England now a-bed

Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,

And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks   (10)

That fought with us upon St. Crispin's day.

According to the passage, what will happen on St. Crispin’s Day?

Possible Answers:

The soldiers will be put to death

The soldiers will be celebrated in perpetuity

The enemy will surrender

The soldiers will be ceremonially burned in effigy

The nobles will join the common soldiers in battle

Correct answer:

The soldiers will be celebrated in perpetuity

Explanation:

In Lines 2-3, we read: “From this day to the ending of the world, / But we in it shall be remember’d.” In other words, every time it’s St. Crispin’s Day, the soldiers will be remembered. Based on the fact that the passage is glorifying the soldiers’ upcoming battle, we can infer that the soldiers will be remembered positively (celebrated), not negatively (denigrated).

Passage adapted from William Shakespeare’s Henry V (1600)

Example Question #41 : Hi Set: High School Equivalency: Reading

HENRY V: And [St. Crispin’s Day] shall ne'er go by,

From this day to the ending of the world,

But we in it shall be remember'd;

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he today that sheds his blood with me   (5)

Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,

This day shall gentle his condition:

And gentlemen in England now a-bed

Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,

And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks   (10)

That fought with us upon St. Crispin's day.

Which of the following ideals does the passage NOT call upon?

Possible Answers:

Pacifism

Camaraderie

Brotherhood

Masculinity

Nobility

Correct answer:

Pacifism

Explanation:

The passage, which is inciting soldiers to fight together in battle, does not invoke pacifism, or peacefulness, at all. It does, however call upon nobility in its mention of “gentlemen” (Line 8), brotherhood (Lines 4 and 6), camaraderie in its mention of “we happy few, we band of brothers” (Line 4), and masculinity in its mention of holding “their manhoods cheap” (Line 10).

Passage adapted from William Shakespeare’s Henry V (1600)

Example Question #41 : Hi Set: High School Equivalency: Reading

(1) The Baron's lady weighed about three hundred and fifty pounds, and was therefore a person of great consideration, and she did the honours of the house with a dignity that commanded still greater respect. (2) Her daughter Cunegonde was seventeen years of age, fresh-coloured, comely, plump, and desirable. (3) The Baron’s son seemed to be in every respect worthy of his father. (4)[Professor] Pangloss was the oracle of the family, and little Candide heard his lessons with all the good faith of his age and character. (5)

Pangloss was professor of metaphysico-theologico-cosmolo-nigology. (6) He proved admirably that there is no effect without a cause, and that, in this best of all possible worlds, the Baron's castle was the most magnificent of castles, and his lady the best of all possible Baronesses.

According to the passage, how is the Baron’s wife treated in her house?

Possible Answers:

She is looked down upon by the learned Professor Pangloss

She is treated with scorn

She is ignored because of her daughter’s loveliness

She is taken advantage of by her children

She is treated with deference

Correct answer:

She is treated with deference

Explanation:

In Sentence 1, the author tells us humorously that the Baron’s obese wife was a person “of great consideration.” The author then goes on to tell us more seriously that “she did the honours of the house with a dignity that commanded still greater respect.” To treat someone with deference means to treat them with respect and submission, and that’s the only answer that makes sense in the context of this passage.

Passage adapted from Voltaire’s Candide (1759)

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