LSAT Reading : Main Idea of Humanities Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for LSAT Reading

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Example Question #390 : Analyzing Humanities Passages

Passage adapted from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass (1845)

I look upon my departure from Colonel Lloyd's plantation as one of the most interesting events of my life. It is possible, and even quite probable, that but for the mere circumstance of being removed from that plantation to Baltimore, I should have to-day, instead of being here seated by my own table, in the enjoyment of freedom and the happiness of home, writing this Narrative, been confined in the galling chains of slavery. Going to live at Baltimore laid the foundation, and opened the gateway, to all my subsequent prosperity. I have ever regarded it as the first plain manifestation of that kind providence which has ever since attended me, and marked my life with so many favors. I regarded the selection of myself as being somewhat remarkable. There were a number of slave children that might have been sent from the plantation to Baltimore. There were those younger, those older, and those of the same age. I was chosen from among them all, and was the first, last, and only choice.

I may be deemed superstitious, and even egotistical, in regarding this event as a special interposition of divine Providence in my favor. But I should be false to the earliest sentiments of my soul, if I suppressed the opinion. I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and incur my own abhorrence. From my earliest recollection, I date the entertainment of a deep conviction that slavery would not always be able to hold me within its foul embrace; and in the darkest hours of my career in slavery, this living word of faith and spirit of hope departed not from me, but remained like ministering angels to cheer me through the gloom. This good spirit was from God, and to him I offer thanksgiving and praise.

The primary purpose of this passage is to ____________________.

Possible Answers:

share the story of his escape from slavery

question how the author received his good fortune

swear allegiance to God

silence critics who accuse the writer of egotism

express a deeply-held belief

Correct answer:

express a deeply-held belief


The passage makes mention of, but does not elaborate on, Douglass' escape from slavery. He allows for critics to accuse him of being self-centered, but does not linger on it- instead, he articulates his strongly held belief that God chose him (pointing toward the correct answer). While it ends with praise of God, the passage is not centrally about that, nor is it about asking how or why the good fortune happened. Rather, it is a passage about his confidence in his feeling of being chosen.

Example Question #391 : Analyzing Humanities Passages

Passage adapted from Shakespearean Playhouses (1917) by Joseph Quincy Adams.

Before the building of regular playhouses, the itinerant troupes of actors were accustomed, except when received into private homes, to give their performances in any place that chance provided, such as open street-squares, barns, town-halls, moot-courts, schoolhouses, churches, and—most frequently of all, perhaps—the yards of inns. These yards, especially those of carriers' inns, were admirably suited to dramatic representations, consisting as they did of a large open court surrounded by two or more galleries. Many examples of such inn-yards are still to be seen in various parts of England... In the yard a temporary platform—a few boards, it may be, set on barrel-heads—could be erected for a stage; in the adjacent stables a dressing-room could be provided for the actors; the rabble—always the larger and more enthusiastic part of the audience—could be accommodated with standing-room about the stage; while the more aristocratic members of the audience could be comfortably seated in the galleries overhead. Thus a ready-made and very serviceable theatre was always at the command of the players; and it seems to have been frequently made use of from the very beginning of professionalism in acting.

One of the earliest extant moralities, Mankind, acted by strollers in the latter half of the fifteenth century, gives us an interesting glimpse of an inn-yard performance. The opening speech makes distinct reference to the two classes of the audience described above as occupying the galleries and the yard:

"O ye sovereigns that sit, and ye brothers that stand right up."

The "brothers," indeed, seem to have stood up so closely about the stage that the actors had great difficulty in passing to and from their dressing-room. Thus, Nowadays leaves the stage with the request:

“Make space, sirs, let me go out!”

New Gyse enters with the threat:

“Out of my way, sirs, for dread of a beating!”

While Nought, with even less respect, shouts:

“Avaunt, knaves! Let me go by!”

Language such as this would hardly be appropriate if addressed to the "sovereigns" who sat in the galleries above; but, as addressed to the "brothers," it probably served to create a general feeling of good nature. And a feeling of good nature was desirable, for the actors were facing the difficult problem of inducing the audience to pay for its entertainment.

The main idea of the above passage is best summarized as: _____________

Possible Answers:

that actors of the fifteenth century had much less ability and worked less diligently than the actors of the sixteenth century

that "moralities" were only meant to be performed in the yards of inns

actors of the fifteenth century had unique challenges in performance brought about by their performance spaces

that theatrical performances of the fifteenth century spoke directly to the audience who attended the shows

that theatrical performances of the fifteenth century were attended by a wide variety of people

Correct answer:

actors of the fifteenth century had unique challenges in performance brought about by their performance spaces


The author is primarily concerned with the spaces that were used to hold theatrical performances in the time before Shakespeare as much as any other aspect of the performances. Additionally, the author discusses the ways in which the impromptu use of inn yards made for specific patterns of performance.

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