HiSET: Language Arts - Reading : Inference and Interpretation

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

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Example Question #1 : Inference And Interpretation

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.

If this passage convinces its intended audience, what event will likely occur?

Possible Answers:

The men will earn the rank of noble

The men will fight well in battle

None of these

The men’s extended families will be united by marriage

The men will sign a peace treaty

Correct answer:

The men will fight well in battle

Explanation:

The purpose of the passage is to convince a group of soldiers to fight (see Line 10: “That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day”). The passage does so by telling the men that they will be united as brothers if they fight together: “For he today that sheds his blood with me   / Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile” (Lines 5-6). Thus, if the passage succeeds, the men will not only fight together, they will also fight well.

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

Example Question #2 : Inference And Interpretation

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)

In the first paragraph, the sentence “This is my substitute for pistol and ball” indicates that _____________.

Possible Answers:

Cato is a friend of the narrator

The narrator lacks the funds to purchase a pistol of his own

Guns are not typically used on ships

The alternative to going to sea would be suicide for the narrator

November is the ideal time for sailing

Correct answer:

The alternative to going to sea would be suicide for the narrator

Explanation:

The paragraph describes the narrator falling into a depression and becoming moody, morose, and discontent. The real allusion to suicide comes in the sentence following the one referenced in the question, with the description of Cato throwing himself on his sword. Even if you do not know that Cato killed himself because he was unable to imagine life in an empire governed by Caesar, the narrator presents Cato’s path and his own (going to sea) as the two choices to cure his depression.

Example Question #3 : Inference And Interpretation

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)

What does the narrator mean by "damp, drizzly November in my soul" in the first paragraph?

Possible Answers:

November is the ideal time to go to sea because of the drizzly weather

He dislikes the month of November

He is experiencing feelings of melancholy and despondency

Bad weather has a negative impact on people's moods

It is primarily feelings of optimism and positivity that lead young men to set sail

Correct answer:

He is experiencing feelings of melancholy and despondency

Explanation:

"Damp, drizzly November in my soul" is a metaphor for the narrator's feeling of depression. It does not literally mean that the calendar month is November, or that the weather is drizzly. Rather, it refers to a gloomy state of mind that the narrator is experiencing. Other clues that he is feeling melancholic and despondent are that he feels involuntarily drawn to coffin warehouses and funeral processions, and is compelled to knock people's hats off. 

Example Question #4 : Inference And Interpretation

Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first a patron, the last a punisher.

6Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer. Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of paradise. For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform, and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every other case advises him out of two evils to choose the least. Wherefore, security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerably follows that whatever form thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least expense and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others.

7In order to gain a clear and just idea of the design and end of government, let us suppose a small number of persons settled in some sequestered part of the earth, unconnected with the rest, they will then represent the first peopling of any country, or of the world. In this state of natural liberty, society will be their first thought. A thousand motives will excite them thereto, the strength of one man is so unequal to his wants, and his mind so unfitted for perpetual solitude, that he is soon obliged to seek assistance and relief of another, who in his turn requires the same. Four or five united would be able to raise a tolerable dwelling in the midst of a wilderness, but one man might labour out of the common period of life without accomplishing any thing; when he had felled his timber he could not remove it, nor erect it after it was removed; hunger in the mean time would urge him from his work, and every different want call him a different way. Disease, nay even misfortune would be death, for though neither might be mortal, yet either would disable him from living, and reduce him to a state in which he might rather be said to perish than to die.

Adapted from Common Sense by Thomas Paine (1776)

What does the author say about the "writers" mentioned in the first line of the passage?

Possible Answers:

That they are uneducated

That they create needless distinctions in their published arguments

That they have made a mistake in confusing government for society

That they would rather the government be a patron than a punisher

That they should settle in a sequestered part of the earth

Correct answer:

That they have made a mistake in confusing government for society

Explanation:

The author states in the first line that these writers have confounded (confused) government and society by assuming that they are the same thing. The author, however, posits that not only are government and society different things, but also that they come from different aspects of human nature. He expounds upon the difference between the two in the following paragraphs.

Example Question #5 : Inference And Interpretation

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)

What is the author proposing in the passage?

Possible Answers:

That infants receive better nourishment in order to increase the average weight of babies

That English children be sold into slavery

That people eat children

That Catholics stop observing Lent

That every four females should be entitled to one male servant

Correct answer:

That people eat children

Explanation:

In order to end the famine in Ireland, the author outlines an argument for eating children. From the first paragraph in the above passage where he outlines a few potential ways to serve babies, to the last paragraph, calling a child "excellent nutritive meat," it is clear that he is outlining how the people would go about eating children. 

Example Question #6 : Inference And Interpretation

“Consider the subtleness of the sea; how its most dreaded creatures glide under water, unapparent for the most part, and treacherously hidden beneath the loveliest tints of azure. Consider also the devilish brilliance and beauty of many of its most remorseless tribes, as the dainty embellished shape of many species of sharks. Consider, once more, the universal cannibalism of the sea; all whose creatures prey upon each other, carrying on eternal war since the world began.

Consider all this; and then turn to the green, gentle, and most docile earth; consider them both, the sea and the land; and do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself? For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half-known life. God keep thee! Push not off from that isle, thou canst never return!”

Passage adapted from Moby Dick, Herman Melville (1851)

What about the sea justifies its description as “subtle?”

Possible Answers:

It appears beautiful at the surface, but all is not beautiful under the surface

Everything is under water and unseen

It is a cannibal

The shapes of creatures within

Sharks live there and pose unforeseen problems

Correct answer:

It appears beautiful at the surface, but all is not beautiful under the surface

Explanation:

The sea appears beautiful at the surface but all is not beautiful beneath the surface. The sea's lovely blue surface hides creatures preying on each other. The surface is vast and its beauty is illusory. A person must know about the sea’s true nature because it cannot be readily seen.

Example Question #7 : Inference And Interpretation

"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."

Passage adapted from Moby Dick, Herman Melville (1851)

Why does Ahab become attracted to coffins and funerals?

Possible Answers:

He unconsciously thinks death might be a way to stop his discomfort

He understands the finality they represent

They are more noticeable in winter

They are serious subjects and should be examined carefully

He’s thinking about working in a coffin warehouse

Correct answer:

He unconsciously thinks death might be a way to stop his discomfort

Explanation:

Ahab finds himself increasingly uncomfortable as his cycle of depression and rage progresses. Looking at coffin warehouses and following funerals are passive reflections of his depression, but knocking off people’s hats is a step toward violent behavior. He thinks that were he dead, he could not progress to violence. Death would be a way out of the cycle.

Example Question #8 : Inference And Interpretation

"As the days went by, the evolution of like into love was accelerated.  White Fang [the wolf] himself began to grow aware of it, though in his consciousness he knew not what love was.  It manifested itself to him as a void in his being—a hungry, aching, yearning void that clamoured to be filled.  It was a pain and an unrest; and it received easement only by the touch of the new god’s presence.  At such times love was joy to him, a wild, keen-thrilling satisfaction.  But when away from his god, the pain and the unrest returned; the void in him sprang up and pressed against him with its emptiness, and the hunger gnawed and gnawed unceasingly. "

Adapted from White Fang by Jack London (1906)

Does the author imply that falling in love is the same for humans and animals?

Possible Answers:

This question is not answered in the text

No

Animals experience an evolution that humans do not experience and it doesn’t include love

Falling in love is not possible for animals

Yes

Correct answer:

This question is not answered in the text

Explanation:

The passage is a description of the wolf’s progressive feelings for a particular person (“his god”). The pleasure of the person’s touch and presence is the wolf’s motivation for being near this person. The text also describes the wolf’s despair when he is not near this person. It chronicles increasingly intense feelings of attachment that the wolf develops for this person and suggests that this constitutes love for the wolf.

Example Question #9 : Inference And Interpretation

Passage adapted from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868)

There were to be no ceremonious performances, everything was to be as natural and homelike as possible, so when Aunt March arrived, she was scandalized to see the bride come running to welcome and lead her in, to find the bridegroom fastening up a garland that had fallen down, and to catch a glimpse of the paternal minister marching upstairs with a grave countenance and a wine bottle under each arm.

“Upon my word, here's a state of things!” cried the old lady, taking the seat of honor prepared for her, and settling the folds of her lavender moire with a great rustle. “You oughtn't to be seen till the last minute, child.”

“I'm not a show, Aunty, and no one is coming to stare at me, to criticize my dress, or count the cost of my luncheon. I'm too happy to care what anyone says or thinks, and I'm going to have my little wedding just as I like it. John, dear, here's your hammer.” And away went Meg to help “that man” in his highly improper employment.

This passage supports the statement that Meg is _____________.

Possible Answers:

silly and simpleminded

mischievous and unrepentant

unconventional and down-to-earth

careless and arrogant

Correct answer:

unconventional and down-to-earth

Explanation:

Meg is unconcerned with others' opinions of her, and is "going to have my little wedding just as I like it." She just wants to enjoy the day and celebrate her happiness without worrying about common conventions of etiquette.

Example Question #10 : Inference And Interpretation

"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."

Passage adapted from Moby Dick, Herman Melville (1851)

What does “a damp, drizzly November in my soul” mean?

Possible Answers:

Death is close

I’ve gotten wet

People think poorly of me

My outlook is dark and cold

It’s close to Christmas

Correct answer:

My outlook is dark and cold

Explanation:

Winter usually begins to show itself in November, so that month can be the first time the difficult weather of cold rain and snow appears. It’s the beginning of the winter season, promising several months of hard weather times. To Ahab, the beginning of winter is like the beginning of a cycle of depression and rage for him.

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