ISEE Upper Level Reading : Identifying and Analyzing Supporting Ideas in Literature Passages

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

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Example Questions

Example Question #51 : Literature Passages

Adapted from "The Modern Essay" in The Times Literary Supplement by Virginia Woolf (November 30, 1922)

As Mr. Rhys truly says, it is unnecessary to go profoundly into the history and origin of the essay—whether it derives from Socrates or Siranney the Persian—since, like all living things, its present is more important than its past. Moreover, the family is widely spread; and while some of its representatives have risen in the world and wear their coronets with the best, others pick up a precarious living in the gutter near Fleet Street. The form, too, admits variety. The essay can be short or long, serious or trifling, about God and Spinoza, or about turtles and Cheapside. But as we turn over the pages of these five little volumes, containing essays written between 1870 and 1920, certain principles appear to control the chaos, and we detect in the short period under review something like the progress of history.

Of all forms of literature, however, the essay is the one which least calls for the use of long words. The principle which controls it is simply that it should give pleasure; the desire which impels us when we take it from the shelf is simply to receive pleasure. Everything in an essay must be subdued to that end. It should lay us under a spell with its first word, and we should only wake, refreshed, with its last. In the interval we may pass through the most various experiences of amusement, surprise, interest, indignation; we may soar to the heights of fantasy with Lamb or plunge to the depths of wisdom with Bacon, but we must never be roused. The essay must lap us about and draw its curtain across the world.

Woolf suggests that the present of the essay is more important than its past because __________.

Possible Answers:

the essay form is a living thing

the essay is not that important

the origin of the essay is untraceable

the origin of the essay is simply not important

Correct answer:

the essay form is a living thing

Explanation:

Woolf refers to the essay as a living thing in the metaphorical sense that it continues to grow, flourish, and be relevant.

Example Question #41 : Identifying And Analyzing Supporting Ideas In Literature Passages

Adapted from "The Modern Essay" in The Times Literary Supplement by Virginia Woolf (November 30, 1922)

The essay must lap us about and draw its curtain across the world. So great a feat is seldom accomplished, though the fault may well be as much on the reader's side as on the writer's. Habit and lethargy have dulled his palate. A novel has a story, a poem rhyme; but what art can the essayist use in these short lengths of prose to sting us wide awake and fix us in a trance which is not sleep but rather an intensification of life—a basking, with every faculty alert, in the sun of pleasure? He must know—that is the first essential—how to write. His learning may be as profound as Mark Pattison's, but in an essay it must be so fused by the magic of writing that not a fact juts out, not a dogma tears the surface of the texture. Macaulay in one way, Froude in another, did this superbly over and over again. They have blown more knowledge into us in the course of one essay than the innumerable chapters of a hundred textbooks. But when Mark Pattison has to tell us, in the space of thirty-five little pages, about Montaigne, we feel that he had not previously assimilated M. Grün. M. Grün was a gentleman who once wrote a bad book. M. Grün and his book should have been embalmed for our perpetual delight in amber. But the process is fatiguing; it requires more time and perhaps more temper than Pattison had at his command. He served M. Grün up raw, and he remains a crude berry among the cooked meats, upon which our teeth must grate for ever. Something of the sort applies to Matthew Arnold and a certain translator of Spinoza. Literal truth-telling and finding fault with a culprit for his good are out of place in an essay, where everything should be for our good and rather for eternity than for the March number of the Fortnightly Review.

The reader may be as much to blame as the essayist for not maintaining interest in an essay, Woolf states, because __________.

Possible Answers:

the reader hasn't the refined taste necessary to appreciate the essay

the reader doesn't have the taste for essays due to laziness and being used to other literary forms

the reader likes fiction and poetry more than essays

the reader cannot read essays properly

Correct answer:

the reader doesn't have the taste for essays due to laziness and being used to other literary forms

Explanation:

Woolf speaks of "habit and lethargy" as reasons the reader hasn't the taste for essays, meaning that the reader is too lazy and not used to reading something that doesn't have a set form.

Example Question #41 : Identifying And Analyzing Supporting Ideas In Literature Passages

Adapted from "The Modern Essay" in The Times Literary Supplement by Virginia Woolf (November 30, 1922)

The essay must lap us about and draw its curtain across the world. So great a feat is seldom accomplished, though the fault may well be as much on the reader's side as on the writer's. Habit and lethargy have dulled his palate. A novel has a story, a poem rhyme; but what art can the essayist use in these short lengths of prose to sting us wide awake and fix us in a trance which is not sleep but rather an intensification of life—a basking, with every faculty alert, in the sun of pleasure? He must know—that is the first essential—how to write. His learning may be as profound as Mark Pattison's, but in an essay it must be so fused by the magic of writing that not a fact juts out, not a dogma tears the surface of the texture. Macaulay in one way, Froude in another, did this superbly over and over again. They have blown more knowledge into us in the course of one essay than the innumerable chapters of a hundred textbooks. But when Mark Pattison has to tell us, in the space of thirty-five little pages, about Montaigne, we feel that he had not previously assimilated M. Grün. M. Grün was a gentleman who once wrote a bad book. M. Grün and his book should have been embalmed for our perpetual delight in amber. But the process is fatiguing; it requires more time and perhaps more temper than Pattison had at his command. He served M. Grün up raw, and he remains a crude berry among the cooked meats, upon which our teeth must grate for ever. Something of the sort applies to Matthew Arnold and a certain translator of Spinoza. Literal truth-telling and finding fault with a culprit for his good are out of place in an essay, where everything should be for our good and rather for eternity than for the March number of the Fortnightly Review.

Woolf states that the first major thing an essayist needs to succeed is __________.

Possible Answers:

the ability to write well

the ability to capture the reader's attention

an ability to make essays read as entertainingly as prose and poetry

a profound knowledge of what he's talking about

Correct answer:

the ability to write well

Explanation:

Woolf states that "the first essential" for the essayist to succeed is to be able to know "how to write."

Example Question #42 : Identifying And Analyzing Supporting Ideas In Literature Passages

Adapted from "The Art of Procuring Pleasant Dreams" by Benjamin Franklin (1786)

As a great part of our life is spent in sleep, during which we have sometimes pleasant and sometimes painful dreams, it becomes of some consequence to obtain the one kind and avoid the other; for whether real or imaginary, pain is pain and pleasure is pleasure. If we can sleep without dreaming, it is well that painful dreams are avoided. If, while we sleep, we can have any pleasant dreams, it is, as the French say, autant de gagné, so much added to the pleasure of life.

To this end it is, in the first place, necessary to be careful in preserving health by due exercise and great temperance; for in sickness the imagination is disturbed, and disagreeable, sometimes terrible, ideas are apt to present themselves. Exercise should precede meals, not immediately follow them; the first promotes, the latter, unless moderate, obstructs digestion. If, after exercise, we feed sparingly, the digestion will be easy and good, the body lightsome, the temper cheerful, and all the animal functions performed agreeably. Sleep, when it follows, will be natural and undisturbed, while indolence, with full feeding, occasions nightmares and horrors inexpressible; we fall from precipices, are assaulted by wild beasts, murderers, and demons, and experience every variety of distress. Observe, however, that the quantities of food and exercise are relative things: those who move much may, and indeed ought to, eat more; those who use little exercise should eat little. In general, mankind, since the improvement of cookery, eat about twice as much as nature requires. Suppers are not bad if we have not dined; but restless nights follow hearty suppers after full dinners. Indeed, as there is a difference in constitutions, some rest well after these meals; it costs them only a frightful dream and an apoplexy, after which they sleep till doomsday. Nothing is more common in the newspapers than instances of people who, after eating a hearty supper, are found dead abed in the morning.

Franklin says all of the following about pleasant dreams EXCEPT __________.

Possible Answers:

unpleasant dreams can be caused by sickness

sleep is far more enjoyable if we can have pleasant dreams during it

even imaginary pain and pleasure are still pain and pleasure

they can sometimes lead to death in our sleep

Correct answer:

they can sometimes lead to death in our sleep

Explanation:

Franklin does not suggest that pleasant dreams can kill us in our sleep.

Example Question #41 : Identifying And Analyzing Supporting Ideas In Literature Passages

Adapted from "An Encomium on Sleep" in Issue 39 of The Adventurer by Samuel Johnson (March 20, 1753)

--Pallas pour'd sweet slumbers on his soul;

And balmy dreams, the gift of soft repose,

Calm'd all his pains, and banish'd all his woes.

(Alexander Pope)

If every day did not produce fresh instances of the ingratitude of mankind, we might, perhaps, be at a loss, why so liberal and impartial a benefactor as sleep, should meet with so few historians or panegyrists. Writers are so totally absorbed by the business of the day, as never to turn their attention to that power whose officious hand so seasonably suspends the burden of life; and without whose interposition, man would not be able to endure the fatigue of labour, however rewarded, or the struggle with opposition, however successful.

Night, though she divides to many the longest part of life, and to almost all the most innocent and happy, is yet unthankfully neglected, except by those who pervert her gifts.

The astronomers, indeed, expect her with impatience, and felicitate themselves upon her arrival: Fontenelle has not failed to celebrate her praises; and to chide the sun for hiding from his view the worlds, which he imagines to appear in every constellation. Nor have the poets been always deficient in her praises: Milton has observed of the night, that it is

--The pleasant time, the cool, the silent.  (Paradise Lost, V. 438)

Johnson opens his essay with the quotation from Pope presumably to __________.

Possible Answers:

show how sleep has helped mankind through the ages

use a poetic example to demonstrate how beneficial sleep is

show how much Pope valued sleep

show that sleep has been written about by poets

Correct answer:

use a poetic example to demonstrate how beneficial sleep is

Explanation:

Johnson opens his essay with this quotation to show a poetic example of the ideas he will be explaining in prose, that is, how beneficial sleep is.

Example Question #42 : Identifying And Analyzing Supporting Ideas In Literature Passages

Adapted from "An Encomium on Sleep" in Issue 39 of The Adventurer by Samuel Johnson (March 20, 1753)

--Pallas pour'd sweet slumbers on his soul;

And balmy dreams, the gift of soft repose,

Calm'd all his pains, and banish'd all his woes.

(Alexander Pope)

If every day did not produce fresh instances of the ingratitude of mankind, we might, perhaps, be at a loss, why so liberal and impartial a benefactor as sleep, should meet with so few historians or panegyrists. Writers are so totally absorbed by the business of the day, as never to turn their attention to that power whose officious hand so seasonably suspends the burden of life; and without whose interposition, man would not be able to endure the fatigue of labour, however rewarded, or the struggle with opposition, however successful.

Night, though she divides to many the longest part of life, and to almost all the most innocent and happy, is yet unthankfully neglected, except by those who pervert her gifts.

The astronomers, indeed, expect her with impatience, and felicitate themselves upon her arrival: Fontenelle has not failed to celebrate her praises; and to chide the sun for hiding from his view the worlds, which he imagines to appear in every constellation. Nor have the poets been always deficient in her praises: Milton has observed of the night, that it is

--The pleasant time, the cool, the silent.  (Paradise Lost, V. 438)

Johnson suggests that writers don't write often enough about the night because __________.

Possible Answers:

they do not pay it any attention

Milton and Fontenelle have already written about it

too many others have written beautiful things about the night already

they are too swept up with daytime concerns

Correct answer:

they are too swept up with daytime concerns

Explanation:

Johnson states that writers are "so totally absorbed by the business of the day" that they neglect the night.

Example Question #43 : Identifying And Analyzing Supporting Ideas In Literature Passages

Adapted from "Conversation" in Issue 188 of The Rambler by Samuel Johnson (January 4th, 1752)

None of the desires dictated by vanity is more general, or less blamable, than that of being distinguished for the arts of conversation. Other accomplishments may be possessed without opportunity of exerting them, or wanted without danger that the defect can often be remarked; but as no man can live, otherwise than in an hermitage, without hourly pleasure or vexation, from the fondness or neglect of those about him, the faculty of giving pleasure is of continual use. Few are more frequently envied than those who have the power of forcing attention wherever they come, whose entrance is considered as a promise of felicity, and whose departure is lamented, like the recess of the sun from northern climates, as a privation of all that enlivens fancy, or inspirits gaiety.

It is apparent, that to excellence in this valuable art some peculiar qualifications are necessary; for every man's experience will inform him, that the pleasure which men are able to give in conversation, holds no stated proportion to their knowledge or their virtue. Many find their way to the tables and the parties of those who never consider them as of the least importance in any other place; we have all, at one time or other, been content to love those whom we could not esteem, and been persuaded to try the dangerous experiment of admitting him for a companion, whom we knew to be too ignorant for a counsellor, and too treacherous for a friend.

I question whether some abatement of character is not necessary to general acceptance. Few spend their time with much satisfaction under the eye of uncontestable superiority; and therefore, among those whose presence is courted at assemblies of jollity, there are seldom found men eminently distinguished for powers or acquisitions. The wit whose vivacity condemns slower tongues to silence, the scholar whose knowledge allows no man to fancy that he instructs him, the critick who suffers no fallacy to pass undetected, and the reasoner who condemns the idle to thought and the negligent to attention, are generally praised and feared, reverenced and avoided.

Johnson states all of the following about the desire to be acknowledged for one's conversational skills EXCEPT __________.

Possible Answers:

it is a desire that everyone aspires to

it is a desire that comes from vanity

it is a desire that is easily achieved

it is a far less blamable desire than others

Correct answer:

it is a desire that is easily achieved

Explanation:

While Johnson does say that "none of the desires dictated by vanity is more general, or less blamable, than that of being distinguished for the arts of conversation," he does not say that the ability to engage in conversation is one that is easily attained.

Example Question #41 : Identifying And Analyzing Supporting Ideas In Literature Passages

Adapted from "The Decay of Friendship" in Issue 23 of The Idler by Samuel Johnson (September 23rd, 1758)

Life has no pleasure higher or nobler than that of friendship. It is painful to consider that this sublime enjoyment may be impaired or destroyed by innumerable causes, and that there is no human possession of which the duration is less certain.

Many have talked in very exalted language, of the perpetuity of friendship, of invincible constancy, and unalienable kindness; and some examples have been seen of men who have continued faithful to their earliest choice, and whose affection has predominated over changes of fortune, and contrariety of opinion.

But these instances are memorable, because they are rare. The friendship which is to be practiced or expected by common mortals, must take its rise from mutual pleasure, and must end when the power ceases of delighting each other.

Many accidents therefore may happen by which the ardor of kindness will be abated, without criminal baseness or contemptible inconstancy on either part. To give pleasure is not always in our power; and little does he know himself who believes that he can be always able to receive it.

Those who would gladly pass their days together may be separated by the different course of their affairs; and friendship, like love, is destroyed by long absence, though it may be increased by short intermissions. What we have missed long enough to want it, we value more when it is regained; but that which has been lost till it is forgotten, will be found at last with little gladness, and with still less if a substitute has supplied the place. A man deprived of the companion to whom he used to open his bosom, and with whom he shared the hours of leisure and merriment, feels the day at first hanging heavy on him; his difficulties oppress, and his doubts distract him; he sees time come and go without his wonted gratification, and all is sadness within, and solitude about him. But this uneasiness never lasts long; necessity produces expedients, new amusements are discovered, and new conversation is admitted.

Johnson suggests that friendship is like love in that __________.

Possible Answers:

it increases with short absences but decreases with long one

it can be strengthened by short absences

it is destroyed if friends spend too little time together

it is destroyed if friends spend too much time together

Correct answer:

it increases with short absences but decreases with long one

Explanation:

Friendship is like love, according to Johnson, because it can be increased by short absences but also destroyed by long ones, as he says when he writes, "and friendship, like love, is destroyed by long absence, though it may be increased by short intermissions."

Example Question #67 : Ideas In Literature Passages

Adapted from "The Decay of Friendship" in Issue 23 of The Idler by Samuel Johnson (September 23rd, 1758)

Life has no pleasure higher or nobler than that of friendship. It is painful to consider that this sublime enjoyment may be impaired or destroyed by innumerable causes, and that there is no human possession of which the duration is less certain.

Many have talked in very exalted language, of the perpetuity of friendship, of invincible constancy, and unalienable kindness; and some examples have been seen of men who have continued faithful to their earliest choice, and whose affection has predominated over changes of fortune, and contrariety of opinion.

But these instances are memorable, because they are rare. The friendship which is to be practiced or expected by common mortals, must take its rise from mutual pleasure, and must end when the power ceases of delighting each other.

Many accidents therefore may happen by which the ardor of kindness will be abated, without criminal baseness or contemptible inconstancy on either part. To give pleasure is not always in our power; and little does he know himself who believes that he can be always able to receive it.

Those who would gladly pass their days together may be separated by the different course of their affairs; and friendship, like love, is destroyed by long absence, though it may be increased by short intermissions. What we have missed long enough to want it, we value more when it is regained; but that which has been lost till it is forgotten, will be found at last with little gladness, and with still less if a substitute has supplied the place. A man deprived of the companion to whom he used to open his bosom, and with whom he shared the hours of leisure and merriment, feels the day at first hanging heavy on him; his difficulties oppress, and his doubts distract him; he sees time come and go without his wonted gratification, and all is sadness within, and solitude about him. But this uneasiness never lasts long; necessity produces expedients, new amusements are discovered, and new conversation is admitted.

Johnson gives all of the following as reasons that someone deprived of his friend will eventually recover EXCEPT __________.

Possible Answers:

he will be too lonely to look for new friendships

he will soon make new friends

he will find new things to amuse him

the need for new friendship will drive him to try to find it

Correct answer:

he will be too lonely to look for new friendships

Explanation:

At the end of the third paragraph, Johnson writes, "A man deprived of the companion to whom he used to open his bosom, and with whom he shared the hours of leisure and merriment, feels the day at first hanging heavy on him; his difficulties oppress, and his doubts distract him; he sees time come and go without his wonted gratification, and all is sadness within, and solitude about him. But this uneasiness never lasts long; necessity produces expedients, new amusements are discovered, and new conversation is admitted." Here, he suggests that someone deprived of friendship will feel sad because of that deprivation at first, but will eventually seeks new connections and diversions.

Example Question #44 : Identifying And Analyzing Supporting Ideas In Literature Passages

Adapted from "The Decay of Friendship" in Issue 23 of The Idler by Samuel Johnson (September 23rd, 1758)

A dispute begun in jest upon a subject that a moment before was on both parts regarded with careless indifference is continued by the desire of conquest, 'till vanity kindles into rage, and opposition rankles into enmity. Against this hasty mischief, I know not what security can be obtained; men will be sometimes surprised into quarrels, and though they might both haste into reconciliation, as soon as their tumult has subsided, yet two minds will seldom be found together, which can at once subdue their discontent, or immediately enjoy the sweets of peace without remembering the wounds of the conflict.

Friendship has other enemies. Suspicion is always hardening the cautious, and disgust repelling the delicate. Very slender differences will sometimes part those whom long reciprocation of civility or beneficence has united. Lonelove and Ranger retired into the country to enjoy the company of each other, and returned in six weeks, cold and petulant; Ranger's pleasure was to walk in the fields, and Lonelove's to sit in a bower; each had complied with the other in his turn, and each was angry that compliance had been exacted.

The most fatal disease of friendship is gradual decay, or dislike hourly increased by causes too slender for complaint, and too numerous for removal. Those who are angry may be reconciled; those who have been injured may receive a recompense: but when the desire of pleasing and willingness to be pleased is silently diminished, the renovation of friendship is hopeless, as, when the vital powers sink into languor, there is no longer any use of the physician.

Johnson refers to Lonelove and Ranger as an example of __________.

Possible Answers:

two friends who have no mutual interests to keep them together

two friends who have a major dispute with each other

two friends who share an interest but eventually tire of each other

two friends with minor differences that become major with time

Correct answer:

two friends with minor differences that become major with time

Explanation:

Johnson refers to these two people as friends who have very minor differences that pull their friendship apart.

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