ISEE Upper Level Reading : Ideas in Literature Passages

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

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store

Example Questions

Example Question #11 : Ideas In Literature 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!”

The “Signora” __________.

Possible Answers:

cleans the pension's rooms

runs the pension

is the wife of a prominent government official

is difficult to understand because of her heavy Italian accent

cooks at the pension

Correct answer:

runs the pension

Explanation:

Throughout the passage, we are told more than once that ""The Signora had no business to do it," "it" meaning give Lucy and Miss Bartlett different rooms than the rooms they were promised. We are also told that the Signora has a Cockney accent, perhaps from London. Based on this information and not extrapolating to any conclusions not supported by the text, we can answer that the Signora "runs the pension"; this we can tell because she is the one the women blame for switching their rooms, and someone who cooks or cleans at the pension would likely not have this power or responsibility. Nowhere is it suggested that the Signora is the wife of a prominent government official, and we are told that she has a Cockney accent, not an Italian one.

Example Question #26 : Ideas In Literature Passages

Adapted from The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (1908)

The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters, then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of whitewash, 'till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms. Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing. It was small wonder, then, that he suddenly flung down his brush on the floor, said "Bother!" and "O blow!" and also "Hang spring cleaning!" and bolted out of the house without even waiting to put on his coat. Something up above was calling him imperiously, and he made for the steep little tunnel which answered in his case to the gaveled carriage-drive owned by animals whose residences are nearer to the sun and air. So he scraped and scratched and scrabbled and scrooged and then he scrooged again and scrabbled and scratched and scraped, working busily with his little paws and muttering to himself, "Up we go! Up we go!" 'till at last, pop! His snout came out into the sunlight, and he found himself rolling in the warm grass of a great meadow.

"This is fine!" he said to himself. "This is better than whitewashing!" The sunshine struck hot on his fur, soft breezes caressed his heated brow, and after the seclusion of the cellarage he had lived in so long, the carol of happy birds fell on his dulled hearing almost like a shout. Jumping off all his four legs at once, in the joy of living and the delight of spring without its cleaning, he pursued his way across the meadow 'till he reached the hedge on the further side.

"Hold up!" said an elderly rabbit at the gap. "Sixpence for the privilege of passing by the private road!" He was bowled over in an instant by the impatient and contemptuous Mole, who trotted along the side of the hedge chaffing the other rabbits as they peeped hurriedly from their holes to see what the row was about. "Onion-sauce! Onion-sauce!" he remarked jeeringly, and was gone before they could think of a thoroughly satisfactory reply. Then they all started grumbling at each other. "How STUPID you are! Why didn't you tell him—" "Well, why didn't YOU say—" "You might have reminded him—" and so on, in the usual way; but, of course, it was then much too late, as is always the case.

What does the elderly rabbit want the mole to do?

Possible Answers:

Stop to chat

Tell him where he is going

Stop and pay a toll

Help him with spring cleaning his burrow

Teach him how to dig underground

Correct answer:

Stop and pay a toll

Explanation:

At the beginning of the third paragraph, the mole encounters the elderly rabbit: "'Hold up!' said an elderly rabbit at the gap. 'Sixpence for the privilege of passing by the private road!'" "Pence" is an old British monetary unit; it is the plural of "penny." So, we can paraphrase what the elderly rabbit says as "Stop! You need to pay six pennies to use the private road." From this, we can tell that the elderly rabbit wants the mole to stop and pay a toll.

Example Question #42 : Understanding And Evaluating Opinions And Arguments In Argumentative Humanities Passages

Adapted from "Civil Disobedience" by Henry David Thoreau (1849)

I heartily accept the motto, "That government is best which governs least," and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe, "That government is best which governs not at all," and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have. Government is at best but an expedient, but most governments are usually, and all governments are sometimes, inexpedient. The objections which have been brought against a standing army, and they are many and weighty, and deserve to prevail, may also at last be brought against a standing government. The standing army is only an arm of the standing government. The government itself, which is only the mode which the people have chosen to execute their will, is equally liable to be abused and perverted before the people can act through it. Witness the present Mexican war, the work of comparatively a few individuals using the standing government as their tool, for in the outset, the people would not have consented to this measure.

This American government—what is it but a tradition, though a recent one, endeavoring to transmit itself unimpaired to posterity, but each instant losing some of its integrity? It has not the vitality and force of a single living man, for a single man can bend it to his will. It is a sort of wooden gun to the people themselves. But it is not the less necessary for this, for the people must have some complicated machinery or other, and hear its din, to satisfy that idea of government which they have. Governments show thus how successfully men can be imposed upon, even impose on themselves, for their own advantage. It is excellent, we must all allow; yet this government never of itself furthered any enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way. It does not keep the country free. It does not settle the West. It does not educate. The character inherent in the American people has done all that has been accomplished; and it would have done somewhat more, if the government had not sometimes got in its way. For government is an expedient, by which men would fain succeed in letting one another alone, and, as has been said, when it is most expedient, the governed are most let alone by it. Trade and commerce, if they were not made of India rubber, would never manage to bounce over obstacles which legislators are continually putting in their way, and if one were to judge these men wholly by the effects of their actions and not partly by their intentions, they would deserve to be classed and punished with those mischievous persons who put obstructions on the railroads.

Concerning the concept of the standing army, Thoreau believes all of the following EXCEPT __________.

Possible Answers:

a standing government is just as bad as a standing army

the arguments against a standing army should win out

there are many good arguments against a standing army

a standing army is necessary to the preservation of the country

Correct answer:

a standing army is necessary to the preservation of the country

Explanation:

Thoreau suggests all of these notions in the last four sentences of the first paragraph, except that the idea that a standing army is necessary in any way.

Example Question #47 : Understanding And Evaluating Opinions And Arguments In Argumentative Humanities Passages

Adapted from "Civil Disobedience" by Henry David Thoreau (1849)

I heartily accept the motto, "That government is best which governs least," and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe, "That government is best which governs not at all," and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have. Government is at best but an expedient, but most governments are usually, and all governments are sometimes, inexpedient. The objections which have been brought against a standing army, and they are many and weighty, and deserve to prevail, may also at last be brought against a standing government. The standing army is only an arm of the standing government. The government itself, which is only the mode which the people have chosen to execute their will, is equally liable to be abused and perverted before the people can act through it. Witness the present Mexican war, the work of comparatively a few individuals using the standing government as their tool, for in the outset, the people would not have consented to this measure.

This American government—what is it but a tradition, though a recent one, endeavoring to transmit itself unimpaired to posterity, but each instant losing some of its integrity? It has not the vitality and force of a single living man, for a single man can bend it to his will. It is a sort of wooden gun to the people themselves. But it is not the less necessary for this, for the people must have some complicated machinery or other, and hear its din, to satisfy that idea of government which they have. Governments show thus how successfully men can be imposed upon, even impose on themselves, for their own advantage. It is excellent, we must all allow; yet this government never of itself furthered any enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way. It does not keep the country free. It does not settle the West. It does not educate. The character inherent in the American people has done all that has been accomplished; and it would have done somewhat more, if the government had not sometimes got in its way. For government is an expedient, by which men would fain succeed in letting one another alone, and, as has been said, when it is most expedient, the governed are most let alone by it. Trade and commerce, if they were not made of India rubber, would never manage to bounce over obstacles which legislators are continually putting in their way, and if one were to judge these men wholly by the effects of their actions and not partly by their intentions, they would deserve to be classed and punished with those mischievous persons who put obstructions on the railroads.

Thoreau suggests that it is the people, not the government, who have done of all of the following EXCEPT __________.

Possible Answers:

educate people

keep the country free

settle the West

Thoreau suggests that the people, not the government, have done all of the things listed in the other answer choices.

invent new technologies

Correct answer:

invent new technologies

Explanation:

In writing, "It is excellent, we must all allow; yet this government never of itself furthered any enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way. It does not keep the country free. It does not settle the West. It does not educate. The character inherent in the American people has done all that has been accomplished," Thoreau lists educating people, keeping the country free, and settling the West as actions that the government has not done, but he does not mention the people inventing new technologies.

Example Question #5 : Determining Authorial Purpose In Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted From "Tony Kytes, The Arch-Deceiver" in Life's Little Ironies: A Set of Tales, with some colloquial sketches, entitled, A Few Crusted Characters by Thomas Hardy (1905 ed.)

I shall never forget Tony’s face. It was a little, round, firm, tight face, with a seam here and there left by the small-pox, but not enough to hurt his looks in a woman's eye, though he'd had it baddish when he was a boy. So very serious looking and unsmiling 'a was, that young man, that it really seemed as if he couldn't laugh at all without great pain to his conscience. He looked very hard at a small speck in your eye when talking to 'ee. And there was no more sign of a whisker or beard on Tony Kytes's face than on the palm of my hand. He used to sing "The Tailor's Breeches," with all its scandelous lyrics, in a religious manner, as if it were a hymn. He was quite the women's favorite.

But in course of time Tony got fixed down to one in particular, Milly Richards – a nice, light, small, tender little thing; and it was soon said that they were engaged to be married. One Saturday he had been to market to do business for his father, and was driving home the wagon in the afternoon. When he reached the foot of the hill, who should he see waiting for him at the top but Unity Sallet, a handsome girl, one of the young women he'd been very tender towards before he'd got engaged to Milly.

As soon as Tony came up to her she said, "My dear Tony, will you give me a lift home?"

"That I will, darling," said Tony. "You don't suppose I could refuse 'ee?"

She smiled a smile, and up she hopped, and on drove Tony.

"Tony," she says, in a sort of tender chide, "Why did ye desert me for that other one? In what is she better than I? I should have made 'ee a finer wife, and a more loving one, too. 'Tisn't girls that are so easily won at first that are the best. Think how long we've known each other—ever since we were children almost—now haven't we, Tony?"

"Yes, that we have," says Tony, struck with the truth o't.

"And you've never seen anything in me to complain of, have ye, Tony? Now tell the truth to me."

"I never have, upon my life," says Tony.

"And—can you say I'm not pretty, Tony? Now look at me.

He let his eyes light upon her for a long while. "I really can't," says he. "In fact, I never knowed you was so pretty before!"

For what purpose does the author reference Tony's smallpox?

Possible Answers:

To state how he had been made unsightly so early in his life

To suggest that he now had an immunity to the virus

To explain why women liked his appearance

To suggest that although he had scars from it, his looks were not affected

To distinguish him from the other characters

Correct answer:

To suggest that although he had scars from it, his looks were not affected

Explanation:

The mention of smallpox comes after the description of Tony's face and before the phrase “but not enough to hurt his looks in a woman's eye, though he'd had it badish when he was a boy.“ This suggests that although Tony was scarred by the smallpox, he retained his looks, which were particularly attractive to women.

Example Question #81 : Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted From "Tony Kytes, The Arch-Deceiver" in Life's Little Ironies: A Set of Tales, with some colloquial sketches, entitled, A Few Crusted Characters by Thomas Hardy (1905 ed.)

I shall never forget Tony’s face. It was a little, round, firm, tight face, with a seam here and there left by the small-pox, but not enough to hurt his looks in a woman's eye, though he'd had it baddish when he was a boy. So very serious looking and unsmiling 'a was, that young man, that it really seemed as if he couldn't laugh at all without great pain to his conscience. He looked very hard at a small speck in your eye when talking to 'ee. And there was no more sign of a whisker or beard on Tony Kytes's face than on the palm of my hand. He used to sing "The Tailor's Breeches," with all its scandelous lyrics, in a religious manner, as if it were a hymn. He was quite the women's favorite.

But in course of time Tony got fixed down to one in particular, Milly Richards – a nice, light, small, tender little thing; and it was soon said that they were engaged to be married. One Saturday he had been to market to do business for his father, and was driving home the wagon in the afternoon. When he reached the foot of the hill, who should he see waiting for him at the top but Unity Sallet, a handsome girl, one of the young women he'd been very tender towards before he'd got engaged to Milly.

As soon as Tony came up to her she said, "My dear Tony, will you give me a lift home?"

"That I will, darling," said Tony. "You don't suppose I could refuse 'ee?"

She smiled a smile, and up she hopped, and on drove Tony.

"Tony," she says, in a sort of tender chide, "Why did ye desert me for that other one? In what is she better than I? I should have made 'ee a finer wife, and a more loving one, too. 'Tisn't girls that are so easily won at first that are the best. Think how long we've known each other—ever since we were children almost—now haven't we, Tony?"

"Yes, that we have," says Tony, struck with the truth o't.

"And you've never seen anything in me to complain of, have ye, Tony? Now tell the truth to me."

"I never have, upon my life," says Tony.

"And—can you say I'm not pretty, Tony? Now look at me.

He let his eyes light upon her for a long while. "I really can't," says he. "In fact, I never knowed you was so pretty before!"

For what purpose does the author reference the song “The Tailor's Breeches” in the first paragraph?

Possible Answers:

To emphasize that Tony was a good singer

To show that Tony was immoral

To show that Tony was a religious man 

To show that Tony was an alcoholic

To demonstrate the close links between churches and public houses

Correct answer:

To show that Tony was immoral

Explanation:

The author says that “[Tony] used to sing "The Tailor's Breeches," with all its scandalous lyrics, in a religious manner, as if it were a hymn." This tells us that Tony was piously immoral, as he could sing a crude song as if it were a hymn.

Example Question #91 : Ideas In Literature Passages

Passage adapted from “Utopia” by Thomas More (1516) in Ideal CommonwealthsComprising More's Utopia, Bacon's New Atlantis, Campanella's City of the Sun, and Harrington's Oceans (1901)

Thus have I described to you, as particularly as I could, the constitution of that commonwealth, which I do not only think the best in the world, but indeed the only commonwealth that truly deserves that name. In all other places it is visible that, while people talk of a commonwealth, every man only seeks his own wealth; but there, where no man has any property, all men zealously pursue the good of the public, and, indeed, it is no wonder to see men act so differently, for in other commonwealths every man knows that unless he provides for himself, how flourishing soever the commonwealth may be, he must die of hunger, so that he sees the necessity of preferring his own concerns to the public; but in Utopia, where every man has a right to everything, they all know that if care is taken to keep the public stores full no private man can want anything, for among them there is no unequal distribution, so that no man is poor, none in necessity, and though no man has anything, yet they are all rich; for what can make a man so rich as to lead a serene and cheerful life, free from anxieties, neither apprehending want himself, nor vexed with the endless complaints of his wife? He is not afraid of the misery of his children, nor is he contriving how to raise a portion for his daughters, but is secure in this, that both he and his wife, his children and grandchildren, to as many generations as he can fancy, will all live both plentifully and happily, since, among them, there is no less care taken of those who were once engaged in labor, but grow afterwards unable to follow it, than there is, elsewhere, of these that continue still employed. I would gladly hear any man compare the justice that is among them with that of all other nations;among whom may I perish if I see anything that looks either like justice or equity; for what justice is there in this: that a nobleman, a goldsmith, a banker, or any other man, who either does nothing at all, or, at best, is employed in things that are of no use to the public, should live in great luxury and splendor upon what is so ill acquired, and a mean man, a carter, a smith, or a plowman, who works harder even than the beasts themselves, and is employed in labors so necessary, that no commonwealth could hold out a year without them, can only earn so poor a livelihood and must lead so miserable a life, that the condition of the beasts is much better than theirs? For as the beasts do not work so constantly, so they feed almost as well, and with more pleasure, and have no anxiety about what is to come, whilst these men are depressed by a barren and fruitless employment, and tormented with the apprehensions of want in their old age; since that which they get by their daily labour does but maintain them at present, and is consumed as fast as it comes in, there is no overplus left to lay up for old age.

Which of the following does the narrator NOT give as a reason why the beasts live better lives than plowmen?

Possible Answers:

The beasts don't need to worry about being able to afford the tools they need to do their jobs.

The beasts don't work as unceasingly as the ploughmen do.

The ploughmen have to worry about whether they will be able to save enough money to live on when they are too old to continue working; the beasts don't.

The beasts don't worry about the future in general.

The food the beasts eat is almost as good as that of the ploughmen in terms of quality and quantity.

Correct answer:

The beasts don't need to worry about being able to afford the tools they need to do their jobs.

Explanation:

The narrator mentions a plowman near the end of the passage, describing him as working "harder even than the beasts themselves." He goes on to say that ploughmen "earn so poor a livelihood and must lead so miserable a life, that the condition of the beasts is much better than theirs." The sentence following this one gives numerous reasons supporting this statement: "For as the beasts do not work so constantly, so they feed almost as well, and with more pleasure, and have no anxiety about what is to come, whilst these men are depressed by a barren and fruitless employment, and tormented with the apprehensions of want in their old age." The only answer choice that is not a reason given by the narrator is that "the beasts don't need to worry about being able to afford the tools needed to do their jobs." While one might infer that the narrator would agree with this reason, it is not given as a reason supporting the narrator's argument in the passage.

Example Question #92 : Ideas In Literature Passages

Adapted from "Review of Wyandotté, or The Hutted Knoll" by Edgar Allan Poe (1843)

The most obvious and most unaccountable faults of The Hutted Knoll are those which appertain to the style—to the mere grammatical construction; for, in other and more important particulars of style, Mr. Cooper, of late days, has made a very manifest improvement. His sentences, however, are arranged with an awkwardness so remarkable as to be matter of absolute astonishment, when we consider the education of the author and his long and continual practice with the pen. In minute descriptions of localities, any verbal inaccuracy or confusion becomes a source of vexation and misunderstanding, detracting very much from the pleasure of perusal; and in these inaccuracies Wyandotté abounds. Although, for instance, we carefully read and reread that portion of the narrative that details the situation of the Knoll, and the construction of the buildings and walls about it, we were forced to proceed with the story without any exact or definite impressions upon the subject. Similar difficulties, from similar causes, occur passim throughout the book. For example, at page 41, vol. I:

“The man gazed at the house with a fierce intentness that sometimes glared, in a manner that had got to be, in its ordinary aspects, dull.”  This it is utterly impossible to comprehend. We presume, however, the intention is to say that although the man’s ordinary manner (of gazing) had “got to be” dull, he occasionally gazed with an intentness that glared, and that he did so in the instance in question. The “got to be” is atrocious, the whole sentence no less so.

Here, at page 9, vol. I, is something excessively vague: “Of the latter character is the face of most of that region that lies in the angle formed by the junction of the Mohawk with the Hudson,” etc. etc. The Mohawk, joining the Hudson, forms two angles, of course—an acute and an obtuse one; and, without farther explanation, it is difficult to say which is intended.

At page 55, vol. I., we read: “The captain, owing to his English education, had avoided straight lines, and formal paths, giving to the little spot the improvement on nature which is a consequence of embellishing her works without destroying them. On each side of this lawn was an orchard, thrifty and young, and that were already beginning to show signs of putting forth their blossoms.”  Here we are tautologically informed that improvement is a consequence of embellishment, and supererogatorily told that the rule holds good only where the embellishment is not accompanied by destruction. Upon the “each orchard were" it is needless to comment.

In the second paragraph, what does Poe say that Cooper is trying to say?

Possible Answers:

The man's usual way of looking at things was dull, but he glared sometimes.

The man's ordinary way of glaring was dull.

The man was glaring with intentness.

The man had to be dull.

Correct answer:

The man's usual way of looking at things was dull, but he glared sometimes.

Explanation:

Poe has problems with this sentence because it seems to suggest that the man glares all the time when he actually is more likely to look at things in a dull way.

Example Question #2 : Identifying Supporting Details

Adapted from "Review of Wyandotté, or The Hutted Knoll" by Edgar Allan Poe (1843)

The most obvious and most unaccountable faults of The Hutted Knoll are those which appertain to the style—to the mere grammatical construction; for, in other and more important particulars of style, Mr. Cooper, of late days, has made a very manifest improvement. His sentences, however, are arranged with an awkwardness so remarkable as to be matter of absolute astonishment, when we consider the education of the author and his long and continual practice with the pen. In minute descriptions of localities, any verbal inaccuracy or confusion becomes a source of vexation and misunderstanding, detracting very much from the pleasure of perusal; and in these inaccuracies Wyandotté abounds. Although, for instance, we carefully read and reread that portion of the narrative that details the situation of the Knoll, and the construction of the buildings and walls about it, we were forced to proceed with the story without any exact or definite impressions upon the subject. Similar difficulties, from similar causes, occur passim throughout the book. For example, at page 41, vol. I:

“The man gazed at the house with a fierce intentness that sometimes glared, in a manner that had got to be, in its ordinary aspects, dull.”  This it is utterly impossible to comprehend. We presume, however, the intention is to say that although the man’s ordinary manner (of gazing) had “got to be” dull, he occasionally gazed with an intentness that glared, and that he did so in the instance in question. The “got to be” is atrocious, the whole sentence no less so.

Here, at page 9, vol. I, is something excessively vague: “Of the latter character is the face of most of that region that lies in the angle formed by the junction of the Mohawk with the Hudson,” etc. etc. The Mohawk, joining the Hudson, forms two angles, of course—an acute and an obtuse one; and, without farther explanation, it is difficult to say which is intended.

At page 55, vol. I., we read: “The captain, owing to his English education, had avoided straight lines, and formal paths, giving to the little spot the improvement on nature which is a consequence of embellishing her works without destroying them. On each side of this lawn was an orchard, thrifty and young, and that were already beginning to show signs of putting forth their blossoms.”  Here we are tautologically informed that improvement is a consequence of embellishment, and supererogatorily told that the rule holds good only where the embellishment is not accompanied by destruction. Upon the “each orchard were" it is needless to comment.

The problem Poe discusses in the third paragraph is that __________.

Possible Answers:

Cooper's description of the Hudson and Mohawk rivers is grammatically poor 

Cooper's description of the Hudson and Mohawk rivers shows he does not know what he is talking about

Cooper's description of the Hudson and Mohawk rivers does not give enough detail

Cooper's description of the Hudson and Mohawk rivers does not tell where they intersect

Correct answer:

Cooper's description of the Hudson and Mohawk rivers does not give enough detail

Explanation:

Poe says this description is "excessively vague" because it refers to one angle rather than two, therefore not giving enough detail. This specific critique of one aspect of Cooper's writing and description acts as evidence of the general fuzziness of thinking, and inattentiveness that Poe argues characterize Cooper's writing in general.

Example Question #4 : Evidence And Argument

Adapted from "Review of Wyandotté, or The Hutted Knoll" by Edgar Allan Poe (1843)

The most obvious and most unaccountable faults of The Hutted Knoll are those which appertain to the style—to the mere grammatical construction; for, in other and more important particulars of style, Mr. Cooper, of late days, has made a very manifest improvement. His sentences, however, are arranged with an awkwardness so remarkable as to be matter of absolute astonishment, when we consider the education of the author and his long and continual practice with the pen. In minute descriptions of localities, any verbal inaccuracy or confusion becomes a source of vexation and misunderstanding, detracting very much from the pleasure of perusal; and in these inaccuracies Wyandotté abounds. Although, for instance, we carefully read and reread that portion of the narrative that details the situation of the Knoll, and the construction of the buildings and walls about it, we were forced to proceed with the story without any exact or definite impressions upon the subject. Similar difficulties, from similar causes, occur passim throughout the book. For example, at page 41, vol. I:

“The man gazed at the house with a fierce intentness that sometimes glared, in a manner that had got to be, in its ordinary aspects, dull.”  This it is utterly impossible to comprehend. We presume, however, the intention is to say that although the man’s ordinary manner (of gazing) had “got to be” dull, he occasionally gazed with an intentness that glared, and that he did so in the instance in question. The “got to be” is atrocious, the whole sentence no less so.

Here, at page 9, vol. I, is something excessively vague: “Of the latter character is the face of most of that region that lies in the angle formed by the junction of the Mohawk with the Hudson,” etc. etc. The Mohawk, joining the Hudson, forms two angles, of course—an acute and an obtuse one; and, without farther explanation, it is difficult to say which is intended.

At page 55, vol. I., we read: “The captain, owing to his English education, had avoided straight lines, and formal paths, giving to the little spot the improvement on nature which is a consequence of embellishing her works without destroying them. On each side of this lawn was an orchard, thrifty and young, and that were already beginning to show signs of putting forth their blossoms.”  Here we are tautologically informed that improvement is a consequence of embellishment, and supererogatorily told that the rule holds good only where the embellishment is not accompanied by destruction. Upon the “each orchard were" it is needless to comment.

Poe says that the biggest problem with Cooper's description of the Knoll is __________.

Possible Answers:

Cooper spends too much time in the novel describing it

the description of the Knoll is too complex

after many re-readings, the reader still can't get a mental picture of it

the reader has too clear a picture of what the Knoll looks like

Correct answer:

after many re-readings, the reader still can't get a mental picture of it

Explanation:

Poe suggests that even after multiple readings, it's hard for the reader to get a sense of what the Knoll really looks like.

Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors