LSAT Reading : Analyzing Humanities Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for LSAT Reading

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Example Questions

Example Question #171 : Humanities

Adapted from an article in The New Statesman by Bertrand Russell (May 24th, 1913)

Science, to the ordinary reader of newspapers, is represented by a varying selection of sensational triumphs, such as wireless telegraphy, airplanes, radio-activity, and the marvels of modern alchemy. It is not of this aspect of science that I wish to speak. Science, in this aspect, consists of detached up-to-date fragments, interesting only until they are replaced by something newer and more up-to-date, displaying nothing of the systems of patiently constructed knowledge out of which, almost as a casual incident, have come the practically useful results which interest the man in the street. The increased command over the forces of nature which is derived from science is undoubtedly an amply sufficient reason for encouraging scientific research, but this reason has been so often urged and is so easily appreciated that other reasons, to my mind quite as important, are apt to be overlooked. It is with these other reasons, especially with the intrinsic value of a scientific habit of mind in forming our outlook on the world that I shall be concerned in what follows.

From the point of view of training the mind, of giving that well-informed, impersonal outlook which constitutes culture in the good sense of this much-misused word, it seems to be generally held indisputable that a literary education is superior to one based on science. Even the warmest advocates of science are apt to rest their claims on the contention that culture ought to be sacrificed to utility. Those men of science who respect culture, when they associate with men learned in the classics, are apt to admit, not merely politely, but sincerely, a certain inferiority on their side, compensated doubtless by the services which science renders to humanity, but none the less real. And so long as this attitude exists among men of science, it tends to verify itself: the intrinsically valuable aspects of science tend to be sacrificed to the merely useful, and little attempt is made to preserve that leisurely, systematic survey by which the finer quality of mind is formed and nourished.

But even if there be, in present fact, any such inferiority as is supposed in the educational value of science, this is, I believe, not the fault of science itself, but the fault of the spirit in which science is taught. If its full possibilities were realized by those who teach it, I believe that its capacity of producing those habits of mind which constitute the highest mental excellence would be at least as great as that of literature, and more particularly of Greek and Latin literature. In saying this I have no wish whatever to disparage a classical education. One defect, however, does seem inherent in a purely classical education—namely, a too exclusive emphasis on the past. By the study of what is absolutely ended and can never be renewed, a habit of criticism towards the present and the future is engendered. The qualities in which the present excels are qualities to which the study of the past does not direct attention, and to which, therefore, the student of Greek civilization may easily become blind. In what is new and growing there is apt to be something crude, insolent, even a little vulgar, which is shocking to the man of sensitive taste; quivering from the rough contact, he retires to the trim gardens of a polished past, forgetting that they were reclaimed from the wilderness by men as rough and earth-soiled as those from whom he shrinks in his own day. The habit of being unable to recognize merit until it is dead is too apt to be the result of a purely bookish life, and a culture based wholly on the past will seldom be able to pierce through everyday surroundings to the essential splendor of contemporary things, or to the hope of still greater splendor in the future.

What is the primary purpose of the second paragraph?

Possible Answers:

To express a disgust at the manner in which scientific education is rendered inferior by the opinions of the common man and classicists

To discuss the inferiority felt on the part of men of science when conversing with classicists and how this inferiority negatively impacts a true appreciation of the benefits of scientific inquiry

To provide a nuanced comparison between the benefits of scientific and classical education

To reinforce the author’s argument about the problems with studying the classics and the past

To correct the notion that a literary education is better than a scientific education by refuting the claims of classicists that scientific study is vulgar and less culturally aware

Correct answer:

To discuss the inferiority felt on the part of men of science when conversing with classicists and how this inferiority negatively impacts a true appreciation of the benefits of scientific inquiry

Explanation:

The primary purpose of the second paragraph is to explain the inferiority felt on the part of many scientists when conversing with classicists and to reveal how this inferiority is unfounded and negatively impacts an appreciation of the real worth of scientific inquiry. This can be best observed at the end of the second paragraph, when the author states, “And so long as this attitude exists among men of science, it tends to verify itself: the intrinsically valuable aspects of science tend to be sacrificed to the merely useful, and little attempt is made to preserve that leisurely, systematic survey by which the finer quality of mind is formed and nourished.”

Example Question #172 : Humanities

Adapted from Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818)

The being finished speaking and fixed his looks upon me in the expectation of a reply. But I was bewildered, perplexed, and unable to arrange my ideas sufficiently to understand the full extent of his proposition. He continued, "You must create a female for me with whom I can live in the interchange of those sympathies necessary for my being. This you alone can do, and I demand it of you as a right which you must not refuse to concede."

The latter part of his tale had kindled anew in me the anger that had died away while he narrated his peaceful life among the cottagers, and as he said this I could no longer suppress the rage that burned within me.

"I do refuse it," I replied; "and no torture shall ever extort a consent from me. You may render me the most miserable of men, but you shall never make me base in my own eyes. Shall I create another like yourself, whose joint wickedness might desolate the world. Begone!"

"You are in the wrong," replied the fiend; "and instead of threatening, I am content to reason with you. I am malicious because I am miserable. Am I not shunned and hated by all mankind? Let man live with me in the interchange of kindness, and instead of injury I would bestow every benefit upon him with tears of gratitude at his acceptance. But that cannot be . . . Yet mine shall not be the submission of abject slavery. I will revenge my injuries; if I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear, and chiefly towards you my arch-enemy. Have a care; I will work at your destruction, nor finish until I desolate your heart, so that you shall curse the hour of your birth."

A fiendish rage animated him as he said this; his face was wrinkled into contortions too horrible for human eyes to behold; but presently he calmed himself and proceeded—

"I intended to reason. What I ask of you is reasonable and moderate; I demand a creature of another sex, but as hideous as myself. Our lives will not be happy, but they will be harmless and free from the misery I now feel. Oh! My creator, make me happy; let me feel gratitude towards you for one benefit!”

I was moved. I shuddered when I thought of the possible consequences of my consent, but I felt that there was some justice in his argument. His tale and the feelings he now expressed proved him to be a creature of fine sensations, and did I not as his maker owe him all the portion of happiness that it was in my power to bestow? He saw my change of feeling and continued,

"If you consent, neither you nor any other human being shall ever see us again; I will go to the vast wilds of South America. We shall make our bed of dried leaves; the sun will shine on us as on man and will ripen our food, acorns and berries. The picture I present to you is peaceful and human, and you must feel that you could deny it only in the wantonness of power and cruelty. Pitiless as you have been towards me, I now see compassion in your eyes; let me seize the favorable moment and persuade you to promise what I so ardently desire."

The primary purpose of the passage is most likely to do what?

Possible Answers:

To show the distress of a creation which is deceived by its creator

To show the relationship between the motivations of good and the wiles of evil

To show the distress of a parent when their child begins to have romantic relationships

To show the feelings of a creator both impelled and repelled by his creation

To show the persuasiveness of a well-structured argument

Correct answer:

To show the feelings of a creator both impelled and repelled by his creation

Explanation:

You could make an argument for many of these statements, but the most fitting is the one that considers the creator and the creation. In the passage, the recurring image is that of the creator who is disgusted but intrigued by that which he has created. The obvious and correct choice are one and the same here.

Example Question #173 : Humanities

Adapted from Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818)

The being finished speaking and fixed his looks upon me in the expectation of a reply. But I was bewildered, perplexed, and unable to arrange my ideas sufficiently to understand the full extent of his proposition. He continued, "You must create a female for me with whom I can live in the interchange of those sympathies necessary for my being. This you alone can do, and I demand it of you as a right which you must not refuse to concede."

The latter part of his tale had kindled anew in me the anger that had died away while he narrated his peaceful life among the cottagers, and as he said this I could no longer suppress the rage that burned within me.

"I do refuse it," I replied; "and no torture shall ever extort a consent from me. You may render me the most miserable of men, but you shall never make me base in my own eyes. Shall I create another like yourself, whose joint wickedness might desolate the world. Begone!"

"You are in the wrong," replied the fiend; "and instead of threatening, I am content to reason with you. I am malicious because I am miserable. Am I not shunned and hated by all mankind? Let man live with me in the interchange of kindness, and instead of injury I would bestow every benefit upon him with tears of gratitude at his acceptance. But that cannot be . . . Yet mine shall not be the submission of abject slavery. I will revenge my injuries; if I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear, and chiefly towards you my arch-enemy. Have a care; I will work at your destruction, nor finish until I desolate your heart, so that you shall curse the hour of your birth."

A fiendish rage animated him as he said this; his face was wrinkled into contortions too horrible for human eyes to behold; but presently he calmed himself and proceeded—

"I intended to reason. What I ask of you is reasonable and moderate; I demand a creature of another sex, but as hideous as myself. Our lives will not be happy, but they will be harmless and free from the misery I now feel. Oh! My creator, make me happy; let me feel gratitude towards you for one benefit!”

I was moved. I shuddered when I thought of the possible consequences of my consent, but I felt that there was some justice in his argument. His tale and the feelings he now expressed proved him to be a creature of fine sensations, and did I not as his maker owe him all the portion of happiness that it was in my power to bestow? He saw my change of feeling and continued,

"If you consent, neither you nor any other human being shall ever see us again; I will go to the vast wilds of South America. We shall make our bed of dried leaves; the sun will shine on us as on man and will ripen our food, acorns and berries. The picture I present to you is peaceful and human, and you must feel that you could deny it only in the wantonness of power and cruelty. Pitiless as you have been towards me, I now see compassion in your eyes; let me seize the favorable moment and persuade you to promise what I so ardently desire."

The author most likely intended the final paragraph to show what?

Possible Answers:

The persuasiveness of the fiend

The pitiful situation of the fiend

The intentions of the fiend

The humanity of the fiend

The misunderstanding of the narrator

Correct answer:

The persuasiveness of the fiend

Explanation:

We can tell from the fiend's recognition and use of the change in the narrator's feelings that the paragraph is mainly showing how persuasive the fiend can be. For this reason, we cannot say if the things said are the fiend's true intentions. It is important here to pick up on the subtle notions presented by the author, such as “let me seize the favorable moment and persuade you to promise what I so ardently desire.” Here, the fiend himself admits that he is attempting to be persuasive.

Example Question #174 : Humanities

Adapted from The Diary Of Samuel Pepys (1893) by Samuel Pepys.

September 1st. Up and at the office all the morning, and then dined at home. Got my new closet made mighty clean against to-morrow. Sir W. Pen and my wife and Mercer and I to "Polichinelly," but were there horribly frighted to see Young Killigrew come in with a great many more young sparks; but we hid ourselves, so as we think they did not see us. By and by, they went away, and then we were at rest again; and so, the play being done, we to Islington, and there eat and drank and mighty merry; and so home singing, and, after a letter or two at the office, to bed.

2nd (Lord's day). Some of our maids sitting up late last night to get things ready against our feast to-day, Jane called us up about three in the morning, to tell us of a great fire they saw in the City. So I rose and slipped on my nightgowne, and went to her window, and thought it to be on the backside of Marke-lane at the farthest; but, being unused to such fires as followed, I thought it far enough off; and so went to bed again and to sleep. About seven rose again to dress myself, and there looked out at the window, and saw the fire not so much as it was and further off. So to my closet to set things to rights after yesterdays cleaning. By and by Jane comes and tells me that she hears that above 300 houses have been burned down to-night by the fire we saw, and that it is now burning down all Fish-street, by London Bridge. So I made myself ready presently, and walked to the Tower, and there got up upon one of the high places, Sir J. Robinson's little son going up with me; and there I did see the houses at that end of the bridge all on fire, and an infinite great fire on this and the other side the end of the bridge; which, among other people, did trouble me for poor little Michell and our Sarah on the bridge. So down, with my heart full of trouble, to the Lieutenant of the Tower, who tells me that it begun this morning in the King's baker's' house in Pudding-lane, and that it hath burned St. Magnus's Church and most part of Fish-street already. So I down to the water-side, and there got a boat and through bridge, and there saw a lamentable fire. Poor Michell's house, as far as the Old Swan, already burned that way, and the fire running further, that in a very little time it got as far as the Steeleyard, while I was there. Everybody endeavouring to remove their goods, and flinging into the river or bringing them into lighters that layoff; poor people staying in their houses as long as till the very fire touched them, and then running into boats, or clambering from one pair of stairs by the water-side to another. And among other things, the poor pigeons, I perceive, were loath to leave their houses, but hovered about the windows and balconies till they were, some of them burned, their wings, and fell down. Having staid, and in an hour's time seen the fire: rage every way, and nobody, to my sight, endeavouring to quench it, but to remove their goods, and leave all to the fire, and having seen it get as far as the Steele-yard, and the wind mighty high and driving it into the City; and everything, after so long a drought, proving combustible, even the very stones of churches, and among other things the poor steeple by which pretty Mrs.————lives, and whereof my old school-fellow Elborough is parson, taken fire in the very top, an there burned till it fell down: I to White Hall (with a gentleman with me who desired to go off from the Tower, to see the fire, in my boat); to White Hall, and there up to the Kings house in the Chappell, where people come about me, and did give them an account dismayed them all, and word was carried in to the King. So I was called for, and did tell the King and Duke of Yorke what I saw, and that unless his Majesty did command houses to be pulled down nothing could stop the fire. They seemed much troubled, and the King commanded me to go to my Lord Mayor—[Sir Thomas Bludworth.]—from him, and command him to spare no houses, but to pull down before the fire every way. The Duke of York bid me tell him that if he would have any more soldiers he shall; and so did my Lord Arlington afterwards, as a great secret.

Here meeting, with Captain Cocke, I in his coach, which he lent me, and Creed with me to Paul's, and there walked along Watlingstreet, as well as I could, every creature coming away laden with goods to save, and here and there sick people carried away in beds. Extraordinary good goods carried in carts and on backs. At last met my Lord Mayor in Canningstreet, like a man spent, with a handkerchief about his neck. To the King's message he cried, like a fainting woman, "Lord! What can I do? I am spent: people will not obey me. I have been pulling down houses; but the fire overtakes us faster than we can do it." That he needed no more soldiers; and that, for himself, he must go and refresh himself, having been up all night. So he left me, and I him, and walked home, seeing people all almost distracted, and no manner of means used to quench the fire. The houses, too, so very thick thereabouts, and full of matter for burning, as pitch and tar, in Thames-street; and warehouses of oil, and wines, and brandy, and other things. Here I saw Mr. Isaake Houblon, the handsome man, prettily dressed and dirty, at his door at Dowgate, receiving some of his brothers' things, whose houses were on fire; and, as he says, have been removed twice already; and he doubts (as it soon proved) that they must be in a little time removed from his house also, which was a sad consideration.

The primary purpose of the passage is most likely to

Possible Answers:

Act as a witness statement of a crime.

Detail quotidian events in the life of one man. 

Act as an interesting event in an otherwise boring narrative.

Act as a first person narrative of an important historical event.

Biographically detail the lives of Londoners in the past.

Correct answer:

Detail quotidian events in the life of one man. 

Explanation:

Besides the title, from the dates put before sections we can tell that this is a diary. Therefore it is a detailing of daily events in the life of one man who just happened to witness key moments such as the Great Fire of London. We cannot easily state that the life was boring as we firstly do not have enough information from before the narrative of the fire and even during the fire the author seems to have connections to important people so the narrative is most likely to be quite intriguing if not exciting.

Example Question #175 : Humanities

Adapted from Rough Riders (1899) By Theodore Roosevelt

Up to the last moment we were spending every ounce of energy we had in getting the regiment into shape. Fortunately, there were a good many vacancies among the officers, as the original number of 780 men was increased to 1,000; so that two companies were organized entirely anew. This gave the chance to promote some first-rate men.

One of the most useful members of the regiment was Dr. Robb Church, formerly a Princeton football player. He was appointed as Assistant Surgeon, but acted throughout almost all the Cuban campaign as the Regimental Surgeon. It was Dr. Church who first gave me an idea of Bucky O'Neill's versatility, for I happened to overhear them discussing Aryan word roots together, and then sliding off into a review of the novels of Balzac, and a discussion as to how far Balzac could be said to be the founder of the modern realistic school of fiction. Church had led almost as varied a life as Bucky himself, his career including incidents as far apart as exploring and elk hunting in the Olympic Mountains, cooking in a lumber camp, and serving as doctor on an emigrant ship.

Woodbury Kane was given a commission, and also Horace Devereux, of Princeton. Kane was older than the other college men who entered in the ranks; and as he had the same good qualities to start with, this resulted in his ultimately becoming perhaps the most useful soldier in the regiment. He escaped wounds and serious sickness, and was able to serve through every day of the regiment's existence.

Two of the men who made Second Lieutenants by promotion from the ranks while in San Antonio were John Greenway, a noted Yale football player and catcher on her baseball nine, and David Goodrich, for two years captain of the Harvard crew. They were young men, Goodrich having only just graduated; while Greenway, whose father had served with honor in the Confederate Army, had been out of Yale three or four years. They were natural soldiers, and it would be well nigh impossible to overestimate the amount of good they did the regiment. They were strapping fellows, entirely fearless, modest, and quiet. Their only thought was how to perfect themselves in their own duties, and how to take care of the men under them, so as to bring them to the highest point of soldierly perfection. I grew steadily to rely upon them, as men who could be counted upon with absolute certainty, not only in every emergency, but in all routine work. They were never so tired as not to respond with eagerness to the slightest suggestion of doing something new, whether it was dangerous or merely difficult and laborious. They not merely did their duty, but were always on the watch to find out some new duty which they could construe to be theirs. Whether it was policing camp, or keeping guard, or preventing straggling on the march, or procuring food for the men, or seeing that they took care of themselves in camp, or performing some feat of unusual hazard in the fight—no call was ever made upon them to which they did not respond with eager thankfulness for being given the chance to answer it. Later on I worked them as hard as I knew how, and the regiment will always be their debtor.

Greenway was from Arkansas. We could have filled up the whole regiment many times over from the South Atlantic and Gulf States alone, but were only able to accept a very few applicants. One of them was John McIlhenny, of Louisiana; a planter and manufacturer, a big-game hunter and book-lover, who could have had a commission in the Louisiana troops, but who preferred to go as a trooper in the Rough Riders because he believed we would surely see fighting. He could have commanded any influence, social or political, he wished; but he never asked a favor of any kind. He went into one of the New Mexican troops, and by his high qualities and zealous attention to duty speedily rose to a sergeantcy, and finally won his lieutenancy for gallantry in action.

The tone of the officers' mess was very high. Everyone seemed to realize that he had undertaken most serious work. They all earnestly wished for a chance to distinguish themselves, and fully appreciated that they ran the risk not merely of death, but of what was infinitely worse—namely, failure at the crisis to perform duty well; and they strove earnestly so to train themselves, and the men under them, as to minimize the possibility of such disgrace. Every officer and every man was taught continually to look forward to the day of battle eagerly, but with an entire sense of the drain that would then be made upon his endurance and resolution. They were also taught that, before the battle came, the rigorous performance of the countless irksome duties of the camp and the march was demanded from all alike, and that no excuse would be tolerated for failure to perform duty. Very few of the men had gone into the regiment lightly, and the fact that they did their duty so well may be largely attributed to the seriousness with which these eager, adventurous young fellows approached their work. This seriousness, and a certain simple manliness which accompanied it, had one very pleasant side. During our entire time of service, I never heard in the officers' mess a foul story or a foul word; and though there was occasional hard swearing in moments of emergency, even this was the exception.

The primary purpose of the passage is most likely to:

Possible Answers:

Describe the distinction between high and low command.

Talk about the final preparations before war. 

Introduce the training phase of the regiment.

Detail the command structure of the regiment.

Talk about how it was easy for a doctor to become an officer.

Correct answer:

Talk about the final preparations before war. 

Explanation:

It is quite obvious from the first line, “Up to the last moment we were spending every ounce of energy we had in getting the regiment into shape.” that the author is talking about the final preparations before going into battle. Specifically he is talking about the training and promotion of officers but we can assume he will talk about the rest of the men and their preparations after this.

Example Question #176 : Humanities

Adapted from an essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson in The Oxford Book of American Essays (1914)

It is natural to believe in great men. If the companions of our childhood should turn out to be heroes, and their condition regal, it would not surprise us. All mythology opens with demigods, and the circumstance is high and poetic; that is, their genius is paramount. In the legends of the Gautama, the first men ate the earth, and found it deliciously sweet.

Nature seems to exist for the excellent. The world is upheld by the veracity of good men: they make the earth wholesome. They who lived with them found life glad and nutritious. Life is sweet and tolerable only in our belief in such society, and actually or ideally we manage to live with superiors. We call our children and our lands by their names. Their names are wrought into the verbs of language, their works and effigies are in our houses, and every circumstance of the day recalls an anecdote of them.

The search after the great is the dream of youth and the most serious occupation of manhood. We travel into foreign parts to find his works—if possible, to get a glimpse of him. But we are put off with fortune instead. You say the English are practical; the Germans are hospitable; in Valencia the climate is delicious; and in the hills of the Sacramento there is gold for the gathering. Yes, but I do not travel to find comfortable, rich, and hospitable people, or clear sky, or ingots that cost too much. But if there were any magnet that would point to the countries and houses where are the persons who are intrinsically rich and powerful, I would sell all, and buy it, and put myself on the road today.

The people go with us on their credit. The knowledge that in the city is a man who invented the railroad raises the credit of all the citizens. But enormous populations, if they be beggars, are disgusting, like moving cheese, like hills of ants or of fleas—the more, the worse.

Our religion is the love and cherishing of these patrons. The gods of fable are the shining moments of great men. We run all our vessels into one mould. Our colossal theologies of Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, are the necessary and structural action of the human mind. The student of history is like a man going into a warehouse to buy clothes or carpets. He fancies he has a new article. If he goes to the factory, he shall find that his new stuff still repeats the scrolls and rosettes which are found on the interior walls of the pyramids of Thebes. Our theism is the purification of the human mind. Man can paint, or make, or think nothing but man. He believes that the great material elements had their origin from his thought. And our philosophy finds one essence collected or distributed.

Other men are lenses through which we read our own minds. I count him a great man who inhabits a higher sphere of thought, into which other men rise with labor and difficulty; he has but to open his eyes to see things in a true light, and in large relations, whilst they must make painful corrections and keep a vigilant eye on many sources of error. His service to us is of like sort. It costs a beautiful person no exertion to paint his or her image on our eyes; yet how splendid is that benefit! It costs no more for a wise soul to convey his quality to other men. And everyone can do his best thing easiest. He is great who is what he is from nature, and who never reminds us of others.

The primary purpose of the passage is most likely __________.

Possible Answers:

to define greatness as a logical fallacy

to argue against the appointment of people as being “great”

to talk about the way we use greatness in society

to distinguish between greatness and mediocrity

to introduce a piece on the criticism of greatness

Correct answer:

to talk about the way we use greatness in society

Explanation:

The author notes greatness in many different spheres of society: nature, youth, religion, commerce, and services, to name some of them. We can say from this, and from the inadequacies of the other answers, that this is the primary purpose of the passage: to look at the uses of greatness in society. We cannot say the author distinguishes primarily between the great and the mediocre, and there is no great criticism of greatness, only the ways in which we react to it.

Example Question #177 : Humanities

Adapted from The Monk by Matthew Lewis (1796)

The monks having attended their abbot to the door of his cell, he dismissed them with an air of conscious superiority in which humility's semblance combated with the reality of pride. He was no sooner alone, than he gave free loose to the indulgence of his vanity. When he remembered the enthusiasm that his discourse had excited, pride told him loudly that he was superior to the rest of his fellow-creatures.

“Who,” thought he; “Who but myself has passed the ordeal of youth, yet sees no single stain upon his conscience? Who else has subdued the violence of strong passions and an impetuous temperament, and submitted even from the dawn of life to voluntary retirement? I seek for such a man in vain. I see no one but myself possessed of such resolution. Religion cannot boast Ambrosio's equal! How powerful an effect did my discourse produce upon its auditors! How they loaded me with benedictions, and pronounced me the sole uncorrupted stalwart of the church! What then now is left for me to do? Nothing, but to watch as carefully over the conduct of my brothers as I have hitherto watched over my own. Yet hold! May I not be tempted from those paths which till now I have pursued without one moment's wandering? I must now abandon the solitude of my retreat; the fairest and noblest dames of Madrid continually present themselves at the abbey, and will use no other confessor. Should I meet some lovely female in that world that I am constrained to enter, lovely . . . as you, Madonna . . . !”

As he said this, he fixed his eyes upon a picture of the Virgin, which was suspended opposite to him. This for two years had been the object of his increasing wonder and adoration. He paused, and gazed upon it with delight.

“What beauty in that countenance!” He continued after a silence of some minutes. “Oh! If such a creature existed, and existed but for me! Gracious God, should I then resist the temptation? Should I not barter for a single embrace the reward of my sufferings for thirty years? Should I not abandon . . . Fool that I am! Whither do I suffer my admiration of this picture to hurry me? Away, impure ideas! Let me remember that woman is forever lost to me. Never was mortal formed so perfect as this picture. But even did such exist, the trial might be too mighty for a common virtue, but Ambrosio's is proof against temptation. Temptation, did I say? To me it would be none. It is not the woman's beauty that fills me with such enthusiasm; it is the painter's skill that I admire, it is the divinity that I adore! Are not the passions dead in my bosom? Have I not freed myself from the frailty of mankind? Fear not, Ambrosio! Take confidence in the strength of your virtue.”

Here his reverie was interrupted by three soft knocks at the door of his cell. With difficulty did the abbot awake from his delirium. The knocking was repeated.

“Who is there?” said Ambrosio at length.

“It is only Rosario,” replied a gentle voice.

“Enter! Enter, my son!”

The door was immediately opened, and Rosario appeared with a small basket in his hand.

Rosario was a young novice belonging to the monastery, who in three months intended to make his profession. A sort of mystery enveloped this youth, which rendered him at once an object of interest and curiosity.

The primary purpose of the passage is most likely __________.

Possible Answers:

to reveal another side to the established character of the abbot

to denounce the Abbot as a hypocrite

to turn the plot in an unforeseen direction

to introduce the abbot to the reader

to foreshadow how the narrative will unfold

Correct answer:

to reveal another side to the established character of the abbot

Explanation:

Of the five answer options, there are perhaps three that are possible. The three which could be chosen are "to reveal another side to the established character of the abbot," "to foreshadow how the narrative will unfold," and "to turn the plot in an unforeseen direction." The statement about foreshadowing cannot be chosen as we cannot possibly know from the passage alone what will happen next. We can guess how it might turn out, but we cannot say for certain what will happen. The answer about the plot is incorrect as there isn't much which shifts in the passage. Perhaps it is an unexpected direction, but we cannot say a reader would not foresee it. We can tell that the abbot is already an established character as the beginning of the passage starts mid-action. We know the passage is giving us new information and that it is revealing a side to the character of the abbot that is contrary to his situation.

Example Question #178 : Humanities

Adapted from Talks to Teachers on Psychology and to Students on Some of Life’s Ideals by William James (1900)

In the general uprising of ideal interests discernible all about us in American life, there is perhaps no more promising feature than the fermentation that has been going on among the teachers. In whatever sphere of education their functions may lie, there is to be seen among them a really inspiring amount of searching of the heart about the highest concerns of their profession. The renovation of nations begins always at the top, among the reflective members of the state, and spreads slowly outward and downward. The teachers of this country, one may say, have its future in their hands. The outward organization of education which we have in our United States is perhaps, on the whole, the best organization that exists in any country. The state school systems give a diversity and flexibility, an opportunity for experiment and keenness of competition, nowhere else to be found on such an important scale. The independence of so many of the colleges and universities; their emulation, and their happy organic relations to the lower schools; the traditions of instruction in them, evolved from the older American recitation-method (and so avoiding on the one hand the pure lecture-system prevalent in Germany and Scotland, which considers too little the individual student, and yet not involving the sacrifice of the instructor to the individual student, which the English tutorial system would seem too often to entail),—all these things are most happy features of our scholastic life, and from them the most sanguine auguries may be drawn.

No one has profited more by the fermentation of which I speak, in pedagogical circles, than we psychologists. The desire of the schoolteachers for a more thorough professional training has led them more and more to turn to us for light on fundamental principles.

Psychology ought certainly to give the teacher radical help. And yet I confess that, acquainted as I am with the height of some of your expectations, I feel a little anxious lest, at the end of these simple talks of mine, not a few of you may experience some disappointment at the net results. In other words, I am not sure that you may not be indulging fancies that are just a shade exaggerated. That would not be altogether astonishing, for we have been having something like a 'boom' in psychology in this country. 'The new psychology' has thus become a term to conjure up portentous ideas withal; and you teachers, docile and receptive and aspiring as many of you are, have been plunged in an atmosphere of vague talk about our science, which to a great extent has been more mystifying than enlightening. 

As regards this subject of psychology, now, I wish at the very threshold to do what I can to dispel the mystification. So I say at once that in my humble opinion there is no 'new psychology' worthy of the name. There is nothing but the old psychology which began in Locke's time, plus a little physiology of the brain and senses and theory of evolution, and a few refinements of introspective detail, for the most part without adaptation to the teacher's use. It is only the fundamental conceptions of psychology which are of real value to the teacher; and they, apart from the aforesaid theory of evolution, are very far from being new.

I say moreover that you make a great, a very great mistake, if you think that psychology, being the science of the mind's laws, is something from which you can deduce definite programs and schemes and methods of instruction for immediate schoolroom use. Psychology is a science, and teaching is an art; and sciences never generate arts directly out of themselves. An intermediary inventive mind must make the application, by using its originality.

The science of logic never made a man reason rightly, and the science of ethics (if there be such a thing) never made a man behave rightly. A science only lays down lines within which the rules of the art must fall, laws which the follower of the art must not transgress; but what particular thing he shall positively do within those lines is left exclusively to his own genius.

The author’s primary intention in this passage is most likely __________.

Possible Answers:

to demean the interest of teachers in psychology

to temper the unrealistic expectations of his audience

to praise the profession of teaching for its interest in psychology

to undermine the impact of recent psychological theory

to urge the reconsideration of the relationship between science and art

Correct answer:

to temper the unrealistic expectations of his audience

Explanation:

All of these answers are part of the author’s argument, with the possible exception of the answer choice "demean the interest of teachers in psychology," as "demean" is too strong a word for the context of the passage. The author's primary intention is most likely to temper what the author believes are unrealistic expectations on the part of his audience. This is clear throughout, but can be evidenced in quotations like “And yet I confess that, acquainted as I am with the height of some of your expectations, I feel a little anxious lest, at the end of these simple talks of mine, not a few of you may experience some disappointment at the net results. In other words, I am not sure that you may not be indulging fancies that are just a shade exaggerated" and “ say moreover that you make a great, a very great mistake, if you think that psychology, being the science of the mind's laws, is something from which you can deduce definite programs and schemes and methods of instruction for immediate schoolroom use.”

Example Question #179 : Humanities

Adapted from English Literature: Its History and Its Significance for the Life of the English Speaking World by William J. Long (1909)

Coleridge left Cambridge in 1794 without taking his degree, and presently we find him with the youthful Southey—a kindred spirit who had been fired to wild enthusiasm by the French Revolution—founding his famous Pantisocracy for the regeneration of human society. "The Fall of Robespierre," a poem composed by the two enthusiasts, is full of the new revolutionary spirit. The Pantisocracy was to be an ideal community that combined farming and literature; work was to be limited to two hours each day. Moreover, each member of the community was to marry a good woman and take her with him. The two poets obeyed the latter injunction first, marrying two sisters, and then found that they had no money to pay even their traveling expenses to the new utopia.

During all the rest of his career a tragic weakness of will takes possession of Coleridge, making it impossible for him, with all his genius and learning, to hold himself steadily to any one work or purpose. He studied in Germany; worked as a private secretary, till the drudgery wore upon his free spirit; then he went to Rome and remained for two years, lost in study. Later he started The Friend, a paper devoted to truth and liberty; lectured on poetry and the fine arts to enraptured audiences in London, until his frequent failures to meet his engagements scattered his hearers; was offered an excellent position and a half interest (amounting to some £2000) in the Morning Post and The Courier, but declined it, saying "that I would not give up the country and the lazy reading of old folios for two thousand times two thousand pounds—in short, that beyond £350 a year I considered money a real evil.” His family, meanwhile, was almost entirely neglected; he lived apart, following his own way. Needing money, he was on the point of becoming a Unitarian minister, when a small pension from two friends enabled him to live for a few years without regular employment.

A terrible shadow in Coleridge's life was the apparent cause of most of his dejection. In early life he suffered from neuralgia, and to ease the pain began to use opiates. The result on such a temperament was almost inevitable. He became a slave to the drug habit; his naturally weak will lost all its directing and sustaining force, until, after fifteen years of pain and struggle and despair, he gave up and put himself in charge of a physician, one Mr. Gillman of Highgate. Carlyle, who visited him at this time, calls him "a king of men," but records that "he gave you the idea of a life that had been full of sufferings, a life heavy-laden, half-vanquished."

The shadow is dark indeed; but there are gleams of sunshine that occasionally break through the clouds. One of these is his association with Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy, out of which came the famous Lyrical Ballads of 1798. Another was his loyal devotion to poetry for its own sake. With the exception of his tragedy Remorse, for which he was paid £400, he received almost nothing for his poetry. Indeed, he seems not to have desired it; for he says: "Poetry has been to me its own exceeding great reward; it has soothed my afflictions; it has multiplied and refined my enjoyments; it has endeared solitude, and it has given me the habit of wishing to discover the good and the beautiful in all that meets and surrounds me." One can better understand his exquisite verse after such a declaration. A third ray of sunlight came from the admiration of his contemporaries; for though he wrote comparatively little, he was by his talents and learning a leader among literary men. Wordsworth says of him that, though other men of the age had done some wonderful things, Coleridge was the only wonderful man he had ever known. Of his conversation it is recorded: "Throughout a long-drawn summer's day would this man talk to you in low, equable but clear and musical tones, concerning things human and divine; marshaling all history, harmonizing all experiment, probing the depths of your consciousness, and revealing visions of glory and terror to the imagination."

The primary purpose of the passage is most likely __________.

Possible Answers:

to give a short summary of the life of an influential man

to discuss Coleridge's view of poetry

to explore Coleridge's work with Wordsworth

to introduce a biography

to act as part of an argument against opiates

Correct answer:

to give a short summary of the life of an influential man

Explanation:

The passage is quite simply a short summary of the life of Coleridge, who, by the author's account, can be considered an influential man in the world of literature. It cannot be the introduction to a biography; the title of the piece tells us this much, but also the analysis is too quick. There is no depth to the consideration of the man's life; only highlighted points are discussed. Likewise, the subjects of Wordsworth, opiates, and Coleridge's view of poetry only occur at a few points in the passage and not enough is really said of them for them to be part of the main point of the passage.

Example Question #180 : Humanities

Adapted from “The King of Spain” by Oscar Wilde in Selected Prose of Oscar Wilde (1914)

From a window in the palace the sad melancholy king watched them. Behind him stood his brother, Don Pedro of Aragon, who he hated, and his confessor, the Grand Inquisitor of Granada, sat by his side. Sadder even than usual was the king, for as he looked at the Infanta bowing with childish gravity to the assembling counters, or laughing behind her fan at the grim Duchess of Albuquerque who always accompanied her, he thought of the young queen, her mother, who but a short time before—so it seemed to him—had come from the gay country of France, and had withered away in the somber splendor of the Spanish court, dying just six months after the birth of her child, and before she had seen the almonds blossom twice in the orchard or plucked the second year’s fruit from the old gnarled fig-tree that stood in the center of the now grass-grown courtyard. So great had been his love for her that he had not suffered even the grave to hide her from him. She had been embalmed by a Moorish physician, who in return for this service had been granted his life, which for heresy and suspicion of magical practices had been already forfeited, men said, to the Holy Office, and her body was still lying on its tapestried bier in the black marble chapel of the Palace, just as the monks had borne her in on that windy March day nearly twelve years before. Once every month the king, wrapped in a dark cloak and with a muffled lantern in his hand, went in and knelt by her side calling out, “Mi reina! Mi reina!” and sometimes breaking through the formal etiquette that in Spain governs every separate action of life and sets limits even to the sorrow of a king, he would clutch at the pale jeweled hands in a wild agony of grief, and try to wake by his mad kisses the cold painted face.

Certainly he had loved her madly, and to the ruin, many thought, of his country, then at war with England for the possession of the empire of the New World. He had hardly ever permitted her to be out of his sight; for her, he had forgotten, or seemed to have forgotten, all grave affairs of State; and, with that terrible blindness that passion brings upon its servants, he had failed to notice that the elaborate ceremonies by which he sought to please her did but aggravate the strange malady from which she suffered. When she died he was, for a time, like one bereft of reason. Indeed, there is no doubt but that he would have formally abdicated and retired to the great Trappist monastery at Granada, of which he was already titular Prior, had he not been afraid to leave the little Infanta at the mercy of his brother, whose cruelty, even in Spain, was notorious, and who was suspected by many of having caused the queen’s death by means of a pair of poisoned gloves that he had presented to her on the occasion of her visiting his castle in Aragon. Even after the expiration of the three years of public mourning that he had ordained throughout his whole dominions by royal edict, he would never suffer his ministers to speak about any new alliance, and when the Emperor himself sent to him, and offered him the hand of the lovely Archduchess of Bohemia, his niece, in marriage, he bade the ambassadors tell their master that the king of Spain was already wedded to Sorrow, and that though she was a barren bride, he loved her better than Beauty; an answer that cost his crown the rich provinces of the Netherlands, which soon after, at the Emperor’s instigation, revolted against him under the leadership of some fanatics of the reformed church.

The author mentions the war with England in order to highlight which of the following?

Possible Answers:

The detrimental impact the King’s grief had on the prosperity of his kingdom

The positive impact of religious orthodoxy on the power of the Spanish kingdom

The fractious relations between England and Spain that resulted from the King’s marriage

The harmful role that the King’s love had on the Spanish war effort

How the King’s refusal to take a new wife was causing the Spanish kingdom to lose alliances in Europe

Correct answer:

The detrimental impact the King’s grief had on the prosperity of his kingdom

Explanation:

Throughout the passage, the author refers to the detrimental impact that the king’s grief has on the prosperity of his kingdom. The author mentions the war with England to highlight this point. This becomes clear when the opening clause of the second paragraph, “Certainly he had loved [the queen] madly, and to the ruin, many thought, of his country," is considered.

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