ISEE Middle Level Reading : Literature Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ISEE Middle Level Reading

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store

Example Questions

Example Question #61 : Content Of Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from A Room With a View by E.M. Forster (1908)

"The Signora had no business to do it," said Miss Bartlett, "no business at all. She promised us south rooms with a view close together, instead of which here are north rooms, looking into a courtyard, and a long way apart. Oh, Lucy!"

"And a Cockney, besides!" said Lucy, who had been further saddened by the Signora's unexpected accent. "It might be London." She looked at the two rows of English people who were sitting at the table; at the row of white bottles of water and red bottles of wine that ran between the English people; at the portraits of the late Queen and the late Poet Laureate that hung behind the English people, heavily framed; at the notice of the English church (Rev. Cuthbert Eager, M. A. Oxon.), that was the only other decoration of the wall. "Charlotte, don't you feel, too, that we might be in London? I can hardly believe that all kinds of other things are just outside. I suppose it is one's being so tired."

"This meat has surely been used for soup," said Miss Bartlett, laying down her fork.

"I want so to see the Arno. The rooms the Signora promised us in her letter would have looked over the Arno. The Signora had no business to do it at all. Oh, it is a shame!"

"Any nook does for me," Miss Bartlett continued, "but it does seem hard that you shouldn't have a view."

Lucy felt that she had been selfish. "Charlotte, you mustn't spoil me; of course, you must look over the Arno, too. I meant that. The first vacant room in the front—" "You must have it," said Miss Bartlett, part of whose traveling expenses were paid by Lucy's mother—a piece of generosity to which she made many a tactful allusion.

"No, no. You must have it."

"I insist on it. Your mother would never forgive me, Lucy."

"She would never forgive me."

The ladies' voices grew animated, and—if the sad truth be owned—a little peevish. They were tired, and under the guise of unselfishness they wrangled. Some of their neighbors interchanged glances, and one of them—one of the ill-bred people whom one does meet abroad—leant forward over the table and actually intruded into their argument. He said:

"I have a view, I have a view."

Miss Bartlett was startled. Generally at a pension people looked them over for a day or two before speaking, and often did not find out that they would "do" till they had gone. She knew that the intruder was ill-bred, even before she glanced at him. He was an old man, of heavy build, with a fair, shaven face and large eyes. There was something childish in those eyes, though it was not the childishness of senility. What exactly it was Miss Bartlett did not stop to consider, for her glance passed on to his clothes. These did not attract her. He was probably trying to become acquainted with them before they got into the swim. So she assumed a dazed expression when he spoke to her, and then said: "A view? Oh, a view! How delightful a view is!”

Evidence in the passage tells us that the two women are in the process of __________ in the passage.

Possible Answers:

checking out of the pension

eating a meal

waiting for a visitor to arrive

checking in to the pension

writing a letter

Correct answer:

eating a meal

Explanation:

While the answer choices stating that the women are checking into or out of the passage may seem potentially correct, they are not, as Miss Bartlett and Lucy already have their rooms in the passage, though they are unhappy with them. No mention is made of them waiting for a visitor or writing a letter. However, as Miss Bartlett says ""This meat has surely been used for soup" while "laying down her fork," we can infer that the women are in the process of eating a meal.

Example Question #2 : Identifying And Analyzing Supporting Ideas In Literature Passages

Adapted from "The Three Musketeers" in Volume Sixteen of The Romances of Alexandre Dumas (1844; 1893 ed.)

As they rode along, the duke endeavored to draw from d'Artagnan not all that had happened, but what d'Artagnan himself knew. By adding all that he heard from the mouth of the young man to his own remembrances, he was enabled to form a pretty exact idea of a position of the seriousness of which, for the rest, the queen's letter, short but explicit, gave him the clue. But that which astonished him most was that the cardinal, so deeply interested in preventing this young man from setting his foot in England, had not succeeded in arresting him on the road. It was then, upon the manifestation of this astonishment, that d'Artagnan related to him the precaution taken, and how, thanks to the devotion of his three friends, whom he had left scattered and bleeding on the road, he had succeeded in coming off with a single sword thrust, which had pierced the queen's letter and for which he had repaid Monsieur de Wardes with such terrible coin. While he was listening to this recital, delivered with the greatest simplicity, the duke looked from time to time at the young man with astonishment, as if he could not comprehend how so much prudence, courage, and devotedness could be allied with a countenance which indicated not more than twenty years.

The horses went like the wind, and in a few minutes they were at the gates of London. D'Artagnan imagined that on arriving in town the duke would slacken his pace, but it was not so. He kept on his way at the same rate, heedless about upsetting those whom he met on the road. In fact, in crossing the city two or three accidents of this kind happened; but Buckingham did not even turn his head to see what became of those he had knocked down. D'Artagnan followed him amid cries which strongly resembled curses.

On entering the court of his hotel, Buckingham sprang from his horse, and without thinking what became of the animal, threw the bridle on his neck, and sprang toward the vestibule. D'Artagnan did the same, with a little more concern, however, for the noble creatures, whose merits he fully appreciated; but he had the satisfaction of seeing three or four grooms run from the kitchens and the stables, and busy themselves with the steeds.

Which of the following words would the duke NOT use to describe d’Artagnan?

Possible Answers:

Excitable

Mature

Cautious

Loyal

Brave

Correct answer:

Excitable

Explanation:

At the end of the first paragraph, the passage describes the duke's reaction to d'Artagnan's story: "While he was listening to this recital, delivered with the greatest simplicity, the duke looked from time to time at the young man with astonishment, as if he could not comprehend how so much prudence, courage, and devotedness could be allied with a countenance which indicated not more than twenty years." From this statement, we can infer that the duke would describe d'Artagnan as "brave," "loyal," and "cautious," as d'Artagnan's "prudence" (cautiousness), "courage" (bravery), and "devotedness" (loyalty) are directly mentioned. Because the duke is surprised that all of these qualities "could be allied with a countenance which indicated not more than twenty years," we can also infer that the duke would describe d'Artagnan as "mature." This leaves us with one remaining answer choice, "excitable." Nothing about the passage suggests that the duke would describe d'Artagnan as "excitable"; in fact, the fact that d'Artagnan tells his story "with the greatest simplicity" suggests the opposite. "Excitable" is thus the correct answer.

Example Question #1284 : Passage Based Questions

Adapted from Once on a Time by A. A. Milne (1922)

The Princess was still puzzled. "But I'm grown up," she said. "I don't want a mother so much now."

The King turned his flagon round and studied the other side of it.

"A mother's—er—tender hand," he said, "is—er—never——" and then the outrageous thing happened.

It was all because of a birthday present to the King of Barodia, and the present was nothing less than a pair of seven-league boots. The King being a busy man, it was a week or more before he had an opportunity of trying those boots. Meanwhile he used to talk about them at meals, and he would polish them up every night before he went to bed. When the great day came for the first trial of them to be made, he took a patronizing farewell of his wife and family, ignored the many eager noses pressed against the upper windows of the Palace, and sailed off. The motion, as perhaps you know, is a little disquieting at first, but one soon gets used to it. After that it is fascinating. He had gone some two thousand miles before he realized that there might be a difficulty about finding his way back. The difficulty proved at least as great as he had anticipated. For the rest of that day he toured backwards and forwards across the country; and it was by the merest accident that a very angry King shot in through an open pantry window in the early hours of the morning. He removed his boots and went softly to bed.

It was, of course, a lesson to him. He decided that in the future he must proceed by a recognized route, sailing lightly from landmark to landmark. Such a route his Geographers prepared for him—an early morning constitutional, of three hundred miles or so, to be taken ten times before breakfast. He gave himself a week in which to recover his nerve and then started out on the first of them.

Based on the passage, the primary purpose for the landmarks was to __________.

Possible Answers:

distinguish one country from another

establish the borders in which the King could travel

provide resting points for the King on his journey

give the Geographers an occupation

allow the King to find his way

Correct answer:

allow the King to find his way

Explanation:

We know that the King and his Geographers decided to use landmarks to allow the King to find his way as it says as much in the last paragraph: “He decided that in the future he must proceed by a recognized route, sailing lightly from landmark to landmark. Such a route his Geographers prepared for him.”

Example Question #1 : Identifying And Analyzing Supporting Ideas In Literature Passages

Adapted from “The Little Mermaid” by Hans Christian Andersen in Hans Anderson’s Fairy Tales: A New Translation by Mrs. Paull (1867 ed.)

The Sea King had been a widower for many years, and his aged mother kept house for him. She was a very wise woman, and exceedingly proud of her high birth; on that account she wore twelve oysters on her tail, while others, also of high rank, were only allowed to wear six. She was, however, deserving of very great praise, especially for her care of the little sea princesses, her granddaughters. They were six beautiful children; but the youngest was the prettiest of them all. Like all the others, she had no feet, and her body ended in a fish's tail. 

All day long they played in the great halls of the castle, or among the living flowers that grew out of the walls. The large amber windows were open, and the fish swam in, just as the swallows fly into our houses when we open the windows, excepting that the fishes swam up to the princesses, ate out of their hands, and allowed themselves to be stroked. 

Outside the castle there was a beautiful garden, in which grew bright red and dark blue flowers, and blossoms like flames of fire; the fruit glittered like gold, and the leaves and stems waved to and fro continually. Each of the young princesses had a little plot of ground in the garden, where she might dig and plant as she pleased. One arranged her flower-bed into the form of a whale; another thought it better to make hers like the figure of a little mermaid; but that of the youngest was round like the sun, and contained flowers as red as its rays at sunset. 

She was a strange child, quiet and thoughtful; and while her sisters would be delighted with the wonderful things which they obtained from the wrecks of vessels, she cared for nothing but her pretty red flowers, like the sun, excepting a beautiful marble statue. It was the representation of a handsome boy, carved out of pure white stone, which had fallen to the bottom of the sea from a wreck. She planted by the statue a rose-colored weeping willow. It grew splendidly, and very soon hung its fresh branches over the statue, almost down to the blue sands. Nothing gave her so much pleasure as to hear about the world above the sea. She made her old grandmother tell her all she knew of the ships and of the towns, the people and the animals. To her it seemed most wonderful and beautiful to hear that the flowers of the land should have fragrance, and not those below the sea; that the trees of the forest should be green; and that the fishes among the trees could sing so sweetly, that it was quite a pleasure to hear them. Her grandmother called the little birds fishes, or she would not have understood her; for she had never seen birds.

Who is the main character in this passage?

Possible Answers:

One of the fish that swims around in the castle

The Sea King’s youngest daughter

The Sea King’s mother

The Sea King

One of the Sea King’s older daughters

Correct answer:

The Sea King’s youngest daughter

Explanation:

The main character in this passage is the Sea King’s youngest daughter. She is discussed as a distinct individual apart from the rest of her sisters, and the passage relates her actions, such as when she plants the weeping willow by the statue and listens to her grandmother’s stories.

Example Question #31 : Locating Details In Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (1876)

Within two minutes, or even less, he had forgotten all his troubles. Not because his troubles were one whit less heavy and bitter to him than a man's are to a man, but because a new and powerful interest bore them down and drove them out of his mind for the time—just as men's misfortunes are forgotten in the excitement of new enterprises. This new interest was a valued novelty in whistling, which he had just acquired, and he was suffering to practice it undisturbed. It consisted in a peculiar bird-like turn, a sort of liquid warble, produced by touching the tongue to the roof of the mouth at short intervals in the midst of the music—the reader probably remembers how to do it, if he has ever been a boy. Diligence and attention soon gave him the knack of it, and he strode down the street with his mouth full of harmony and his soul full of gratitude. He felt much as an astronomer feels who has discovered a new planet—no doubt, as far as strong, deep, unalloyed pleasure is concerned, the advantage was with the boy, not the astronomer.

The summer evenings were long. It was not dark, yet. Presently Tom checked his whistle. A stranger was before him—a boy a shade larger than himself. A newcomer of any age or either sex was an impressive curiosity in the poor little shabby village of St. Petersburg. This boy was well-dressed, too—well-dressed on a weekday. This was simply astounding. His cap was a dainty thing, his close-buttoned blue cloth roundabout was new and natty, and so were his pantaloons. He had shoes on—and it was only Friday. He even wore a necktie, a bright bit of ribbon. He had a citified air about him that ate into Tom's vitals. The more Tom stared at the splendid marvel, the higher he turned up his nose at his finery and the shabbier and shabbier his own outfit seemed to him to grow. Neither boy spoke. If one moved, the other moved—but only sidewise, in a circle; they kept face to face and eye to eye all the time.

Which of the following is a comparison that the passage makes between Tom and the new boy?

Possible Answers:

American vs. European

Dressed in fancy clothing vs. dressed in unremarkable clothing

Able to swim vs. unable to swim

Older vs. younger

Able to whistle vs. unable to whistle

Correct answer:

Dressed in fancy clothing vs. dressed in unremarkable clothing

Explanation:

Nothing in the passage tells us whether Tom and/or the new boy are American or European. While we know that Tom can whistle, we don't know whether or not the new boy can whistle. While the new boy is said to be "a shade larger than" Tom, we don't know if he is any older than Tom. Nothing is mentioned about either boy knowing or not knowing how to swim. The passage's second paragraph focuses instead on how each boy is dressed—specifically, how the new boy is dressed in clothes that are fancier than Tom's.

Example Question #2 : Comparing And Contrasting In Literature Passages

Adapted from Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll (1871)

One thing was certain, that the white kitten had had nothing to do with it—it was the black kitten's fault entirely. For the white kitten had been having its face washed by the old cat for the last quarter of an hour (and bearing it pretty well, considering); so you see that it COULDN'T have had any hand in the mischief.

The way Dinah washed her children's faces was this: first she held the poor thing down by its ear with one paw, and then with the other paw she rubbed its face all over, the wrong way, beginning at the nose: and just now, as I said, she was hard at work on the white kitten, which was lying quite still and trying to purr—no doubt feeling that it was all meant for its good.

But the black kitten had been finished with earlier in the afternoon, and so, while Alice was sitting curled up in a corner of the great arm-chair, half talking to herself and half asleep, the kitten had been having a grand game of romps with the ball of worsted Alice had been trying to wind up, and had been rolling it up and down till it had all come undone again; and there it was, spread over the hearth-rug, all knots and tangles, with the kitten running after its own tail in the middle.

'Oh, you wicked little thing!' cried Alice, catching up the kitten, and giving it a little kiss to make it understand that it was in disgrace. 'Really, Dinah ought to have taught you better manners! You OUGHT, Dinah, you know you ought!' she added, looking reproachfully at the old cat, and speaking in as cross a voice as she could manage—and then she scrambled back into the arm-chair, taking the kitten and the worsted with her, and began winding up the ball again. But she didn't get on very fast, as she was talking all the time, sometimes to the kitten, and sometimes to herself. Kitty sat very demurely on her knee, pretending to watch the progress of the winding, and now and then putting out one paw and gently touching the ball, as if it would be glad to help, if it might.

One kitten could be described as __________, the other as __________.

Possible Answers:

frustrated . . . glum

pitiful . . . angry

cooperative . . . mischievous

a troublemaker . . . playful

unfriendly . . . feral

Correct answer:

cooperative . . . mischievous

Explanation:

This question is tricky because the kittens are not specified; either adjective could refer to either kitten, so you must attribute one adjective in each answer to each kitten and see if the answer makes sense. Let’s consider each answer choice individually:

“unfriendly . . . feral”: Neither kitten can be said to be “unfriendly” or “feral” (semi-wild), so this answer choice cannot be correct.

“pitiful . . . angry”: The white kitten might seem somewhat “pitiful,” but neither kitten can be described as “angry,” so this answer choice cannot be correct. 

“frustrated . . . glum”: The white kitten might be described as somewhat “frustrated,” but the black kitten never seems “glum” in the passage, so this answer cannot be correct.

“a troublemaker . . . playful”: The black kitten could be described as “a troublemaker” and “playful,” but neither of these adjectives accurately describes the white kitten, so this answer choice cannot be correct.

“cooperative . . . mischievous”: The white kitten can be described as “cooperative” since while it is being cleaned, it is “lying quite still and trying to purr—no doubt feeling that it was all meant for its good.” The black kitten can be described as mischievous because it plays in the ball of worsted, unwinds it, and gets in trouble with Alice. This is thus the correct answer.

Example Question #2 : Comparing And Contrasting In Literature Passages

Adapted from The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss (1879 Kingston ed.)

Thus talking, we pushed on until we came to a pleasant grove which stretched down to the water's edge. Here, we halted to rest, seating ourselves under a large tree, by a rivulet that murmured and splashed along its pebbly bed into the great ocean before us. A thousand gaily-plumaged birds flew twittering above us, and Fritz and I gazed up at them. 

My son suddenly started up.

"A monkey," he exclaimed. “I am nearly sure I saw a monkey." 

As he spoke, he sprang round to the other side of the tree, and in doing so, stumbled over a small round object. He handed it to me, remarking as he did so that it was a round bird's nest, of which he had often heard. "You may have done so," said I, laughing, "but this is a coconut."

We split open the nut, but, to our disgust, found the kernel dry and uneatable. 

"Hullo," cried Fritz, "I always thought a coconut was full of delicious sweet liquid, like almond milk."

"So it is," I replied, "when young and fresh, but as it ripens the milk becomes congealed, and in course of time is solidified into a kernel. This kernel then dries as you see here, but when the nut falls on favorable soil, the germ within the kernel swells until it bursts through the shell, and, taking root, springs up a new tree."

"I do not understand," said Fritz, "how the little germ manages to get through this great thick shell, which is not like an almond or hazelnut shell, which is divided down the middle already."

"Nature provides for all things," I answered, taking up the pieces. " Look here, do you see these three round holes near the stalk? It is through them that the germ obtains egress. Now let us find a good nut if we can." 

As coconuts must be overripe before they fall naturally from the tree, it was not without difficulty that we obtained one in which the kernel was not dried up. When we succeeded, however, we were so refreshed by the fruit that we could defer eating until later in the day, and so spare our stock of provisions.

According to Fritz, almond shells and hazelnut shells have something in common that coconuts don't have. What feature is that?

Possible Answers:

They are both divided down the middle.

They are both used in recipes.

They are both very expensive.

They are both hard.

They are both inedible.

Correct answer:

They are both divided down the middle.

Explanation:

In the eighth paragraph, Fritz says, "I do not understand," said Fritz, "how the little germ manages to get through this great thick shell, which is not like an almond or hazelnut shell, which is divided down the middle already." From this, we can correctly answer this question in saying that Fritz says almond shells and hazelnut shells are "both divided down the middle." While almond shells, hazelnut shells, and coconut shells may all be "inedible" and "hard," we are looking for the feature which is common to almond and hazelnut shells but not applicable to coconut shells, so neither of these can be the correct answer.

Example Question #4 : Textual Relationships In Literature Passages

Adapted from “The Little Mermaid” by Hans Christian Andersen in Hans Anderson’s Fairy Tales: A New Translation by Mrs. Paull (1867 ed.)

The Sea King had been a widower for many years, and his aged mother kept house for him. She was a very wise woman, and exceedingly proud of her high birth; on that account she wore twelve oysters on her tail, while others, also of high rank, were only allowed to wear six. She was, however, deserving of very great praise, especially for her care of the little sea princesses, her granddaughters. They were six beautiful children; but the youngest was the prettiest of them all. Like all the others, she had no feet, and her body ended in a fish's tail. 

All day long they played in the great halls of the castle, or among the living flowers that grew out of the walls. The large amber windows were open, and the fish swam in, just as the swallows fly into our houses when we open the windows, excepting that the fishes swam up to the princesses, ate out of their hands, and allowed themselves to be stroked. 

Outside the castle there was a beautiful garden, in which grew bright red and dark blue flowers, and blossoms like flames of fire; the fruit glittered like gold, and the leaves and stems waved to and fro continually. Each of the young princesses had a little plot of ground in the garden, where she might dig and plant as she pleased. One arranged her flower-bed into the form of a whale; another thought it better to make hers like the figure of a little mermaid; but that of the youngest was round like the sun, and contained flowers as red as its rays at sunset. 

She was a strange child, quiet and thoughtful; and while her sisters would be delighted with the wonderful things which they obtained from the wrecks of vessels, she cared for nothing but her pretty red flowers, like the sun, excepting a beautiful marble statue. It was the representation of a handsome boy, carved out of pure white stone, which had fallen to the bottom of the sea from a wreck. She planted by the statue a rose-colored weeping willow. It grew splendidly, and very soon hung its fresh branches over the statue, almost down to the blue sands. Nothing gave her so much pleasure as to hear about the world above the sea. She made her old grandmother tell her all she knew of the ships and of the towns, the people and the animals. To her it seemed most wonderful and beautiful to hear that the flowers of the land should have fragrance, and not those below the sea; that the trees of the forest should be green; and that the fishes among the trees could sing so sweetly, that it was quite a pleasure to hear them. Her grandmother called the little birds fishes, or she would not have understood her; for she had never seen birds.

Which of the following is NOT true about the Sea King’s youngest daughter in comparison to her sisters?

Possible Answers:

She is more curious than her sisters about hearing stories of the world above the sea.

She is less interested in the variety of things recovered from shipwrecks than her sisters are.

She has more of an interest in the sun than her sisters.

She is much more boisterous, talkative, and outgoing than her sisters.

None of the other answer choices is a false statement.

Correct answer:

She is much more boisterous, talkative, and outgoing than her sisters.

Explanation:

Let’s consider each of the answer choices individually to find the correct one.

She is more curious than her sisters about hearing stories of the world above the sea. - This is true, because at the end of the story, we are told that “Nothing gave [the Sea King’s youngest daughter] so much pleasure as to hear about the world above the sea. She made her old grandmother tell her all she knew of the ships and of the towns, the people and the animals.”

She has more of an interest in the sun than her sisters. - This is true, because we are told that “Each of the young princesses had a little plot of ground in the garden, where she might dig and plant as she pleased. One arranged her flower-bed into the form of a whale; another thought it better to make hers like the figure of a little mermaid; but that of the youngest was round like the sun, and contained flowers as red as its rays at sunset.”

She is less interested in the variety of things recovered from shipwrecks than her sisters are. - This is true, because we are told “She was a strange child, quiet and thoughtful; and while her sisters would be delighted with the wonderful things which they obtained from the wrecks of vessels, she cared for nothing but her pretty red flowers, like the sun, excepting a beautiful marble statue.”

This last quotation allows us to choose the correct answer—the one that is not true— which is “She is much more boisterous, talkative, and outgoing than her sisters.” The Sea King’s youngest daughter is described as “a strange child, quiet and thoughtful,” so we certainly cannot call her “boisterous,” and definitely not “more boisterous, talkative, and outgoing than her sisters.”

Example Question #527 : Ssat Upper Level Reading Comprehension

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 Troutham is supported by the passage?

Possible Answers:

He is undemanding.

He is severe. 

He is a small man. 

He pays his employees well.

He is well spoken. 

Correct answer:

He is severe. 

Explanation:

Troutham's violent reaction to Jude's discretion shows that he is a violent man, which is equal to “severe.” He may think he pays his employees well, but a sixpence was about one fortieth of a pound, so it was not a great deal of money.

Example Question #7 : Language In Literature Passages

Adapted from Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (1883)

He was a very silent man by custom. All day he hung round the cove or upon the cliffs with a brass telescope; all evening he sat in a corner of the parlor next the fire and drank rum and water very strong. Mostly he would not speak when spoken to, only look up sudden and fierce and blow through his nose like a fog-horn; and we and the people who came about our house soon learned to let him be. Every day when he came back from his stroll he would ask if any seafaring men had gone by along the road. At first we thought it was the want of company of his own kind that made him ask this question, but at last we began to see he was desirous to avoid them. When a seaman did put up at the Admiral Benbow (as now and then some did, making by the coast road for Bristol) he would look in at him through the curtained door before he entered the parlor; and he was always sure to be as silent as a mouse when any such was present. For me, at least, there was no secret about the matter, for I was, in a way, a sharer in his alarms. He had taken me aside one day and promised me a silver fourpenny on the first of every month if I would only keep my "weather-eye open for a seafaring man with one leg" and let him know the moment he appeared. Often enough when the first of the month came round and I applied to him for my wage, he would only blow through his nose at me and stare me down, but before the week was out he was sure to think better of it, bring me my four-penny piece, and repeat his orders to look out for "the seafaring man with one leg.”

How that personage haunted my dreams, I need scarcely tell you. I would see him in a thousand forms, and with a thousand diabolical expressions. Now the leg would be cut off at the knee, now at the hip; now he was a monstrous kind of a creature who had never had but the one leg, and that in the middle of his body. To see him leap and run and pursue me over hedge and ditch was the worst of nightmares. And altogether I paid pretty dear for my monthly fourpenny piece, in the shape of these abominable fancies.

The man in the passage asks the writer if he will “keep [his] ‘weather-eye open for a seafaring man with one leg’.” Which of the following most accurately restates the meaning of “keep his weather eye open for” in this phrase?

Possible Answers:

Be on the watch for

Leave a window open for

Pay attention to the weather for

Be suspicious of

Do a favor for

Correct answer:

Be on the watch for

Explanation:

To “keep a weather-eye open” for something means to look out carefully for that thing or person, or in other words, to be on the watch for him, her, or it. “Pay attention to the weather for” doesn’t make sense in the passage. “Do a favor for” and “be suspicious of” might seem like potentially correct answers, but since the man with the wooden leg isn’t actually a character in the same location as the man described in the passage and the narrator, neither of these answer choices make sense. If you thought that a “weather-eye” was a type of window, you may have chosen “leave a window open for,” but again, this makes no sense in the context of the passage.

Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors