SAT Critical Reading : Making Inferences About the Author or Humanities Passage Content

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT Critical Reading

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Drawing Conclusions In Social Science Passages

Adapted from "On the Death of Marie Antoinette" by Edmund Burke (1793)

It is now sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the Queen of France, then the Dauphiness, at Versailles; and surely never lighted on this orb, which she hardly seemed to touch, a more delightful vision. I saw her just above the horizon, decorating and cheering the elevated sphere she had just begun to move in, glittering like the morning star full of life and splendor and joy.

Oh, what a revolution! And what a heart must I have, to contemplate without emotion that elevation and that fall! Little did I dream, when she added titles of veneration to those of enthusiastic, distant, respectful love, that she should ever be obliged to carry the sharp antidote against disgrace concealed in that bosom; little did I dream that I should have lived to see such disasters fallen upon her, in a nation of gallant men and of cavaliers! I thought ten thousand swords must have leaped from their scabbards, to avenge even a look that threatened her with insult.

But the age of chivalry is gone; that of sophistry, economists, and calculators has succeeded, and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever. Never, never more, shall we behold that generous loyalty to rank and sex, that proud submission, that dignified obedience, that subordination of the heart, which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of an exalted freedom! The unsought grace of life, the cheap defense of nations, the nurse of manly sentiment and heroic enterprise is gone. It is gone, that sensibility of principle, that chastity of honor, which felt a stain like a wound, which inspired courage whilst it mitigated ferocity, which ennobled whatever it touched, and under which vice itself lost half its evil, by losing all its grossness.

It can be inferred from the passage that the Queen of France __________.

Possible Answers:

was the victim of an assassination attempt

was well protected

has suffered a disaster

improved French quality of life

reigned for several decades

Correct answer:

has suffered a disaster

Explanation:

From the whole of this passage, you can infer that some disaster must have befallen the Queen of France. This is apparent because the author laments her “fall” and the “disasters” that she suffered. You might suppose that it can be inferred that the Queen was the victim of an assassination attempt; however, this is a far more specific answer and would require much more evidence in order to be reliably inferred.

Example Question #2 : Authorial Purpose In Humanities Passages

Adapted from Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads by John A. Lomax (1910)

The big ranches of the West are now being cut up into small farms. The nester has come, and come to stay. Gone is the buffalo and the free grass of the open plain—even the stinging lizard, the horned frog, the centipede, the prairie dog, the rattlesnake, are fast disappearing. Save in some of the secluded valleys of southern New Mexico, the old-time round-up is no more; the trails to Kansas and to Montana have become grass-grown or lost in fields of waving grain; the maverick steer, the regal longhorn, has been supplanted by his unpoetic but more beefy and profitable Polled Angus, Durham, and Hereford cousins from across the seas. The changing and romantic West of the early days lives mainly in story and in song. The last figure to vanish is the cowboy, the animating spirit of the vanishing era. He sits his horse easily as he rides through a wide valley, enclosed by mountains, clad in the hazy purple of coming night,—with his face turned steadily down the long, long road, "the road that the sun goes down." Dauntless, reckless, without the unearthly purity of Sir Galahad though as gentle to a woman as King Arthur, he is truly a knight of the twentieth century. A vagrant puff of wind shakes a corner of the crimson handkerchief knotted loosely at his throat; the thud of his pony's feet mingling with the jingle of his spurs is borne back; and as the careless, gracious, lovable figure disappears over the divide, the breeze brings to the ears, faint and far yet cheery still, the refrain of a cowboy song.

As can be inferred from the passage, the author most values __________.

Possible Answers:

a scholarly approach to legends

the ranching culture of the American West

supporting local farms and ranches

the profitability of farms and ranches

preserving the natural ecosystem

Correct answer:

the ranching culture of the American West

Explanation:

By describing the cowboy as a homegrown hero, the author presents him as a cultural figure instead of a historical or political one. He says that the legends are carried through stories and songs, both cultural art forms. It is therefore reasonable to say that he most values the ranching culture of the American West, as opposed to, say, the economic value of ranching or the ecosystem of the prairies.

Example Question #411 : Humanities Passages

Passage adapted from Henry David Thoreau's Walden (1854).

The shore is irregular enough not to be monotonous. I have in my mind's eye the western, indented with deep bays, the bolder northern, and the beautifully scalloped southern shore, where successive capes overlap each other and suggest unexplored coves between. The forest has never so good a setting, nor is so distinctly beautiful, as when seen from the middle of a small lake amid hills which rise from the water's edge; for the water in which it is reflected not only makes the best foreground in such a case, but, with its winding shore, the most natural and agreeable boundary to it. There is no rawness or imperfection in its edge there, as where the axe has cleared a part, or a cultivated field abuts on it. The trees have ample room to expand on the water side, and each sends forth its most vigorous branch in that direction. There Nature has woven a natural selvage, and the eye rises by just gradations from the low shrubs of the shore to the highest trees. There are few traces of man's hand to be seen. The water laves the shore as it did a thousand years ago.

A lake is the landscape's most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth's eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature. The fluviatile trees next to the shore are the slender eyelashes which fringe it, and the wooded hills and cliffs around are its overhanging brows. 

Standing on the smooth sandy beach at the east end of the pond, in a calm September afternoon, when a slight haze makes the opposite shore-line indistinct, I have seen whence came the expression, "the glassy surface of a lake." When you invert your head, it looks like a thread of finest gossamer stretched across the valley, and gleaming against the distant pine woods, separating one stratum of the atmosphere from another. You would think that you could walk dry under it to the opposite hills, and that the swallows which skim over might perch on it. Indeed, they sometimes dive below the line, as it were by mistake, and are undeceived. As you look over the pond westward you are obliged to employ both your hands to defend your eyes against the reflected as well as the true sun, for they are equally bright; and if, between the two, you survey its surface critically, it is literally as smooth as glass, except where the skater insects, at equal intervals scattered over its whole extent, by their motions in the sun produce the finest imaginable sparkle on it, or, perchance, a duck plumes itself, or, as I have said, a swallow skims so low as to touch it. It may be that in the distance a fish describes an arc of three or four feet in the air, and there is one bright flash where it emerges, and another where it strikes the water; sometimes the whole silvery arc is revealed; or here and there, perhaps, is a thistle-down floating on its surface, which the fishes dart at and so dimple it again. It is like molten glass cooled but not congealed, and the few motes in it are pure and beautiful like the imperfections in glass. You may often detect a yet smoother and darker water, seperated from the rest as if by an invisible cobweb, boom of the water nymphs, resting on it. From a hilltop you can see a fish leap in almost any part; for not a pickerel or shiner picks an insect from this smooth surface but it manifestly disturbs the equilibrium of the whole lake. It is wonderful with what elaborateness this simple fact is advertised--this piscine murder will out--and from my distant perch I distinguish the circling undulations when they are half a dozen rods in diameter. You can even detect a water-bug ceaselessly progressing over the smooth surface a quarter of a mile off; for they furrow the water slightly, making a conspicuous ripple bounded by two diverging lines, but the skaters glide over it without rippling it perceptibly. When the surface is considerably agitated there are no skaters nor water-bugs on it, but apparently, in calm days, they leave their havens and adventurously glide forth from the shore by short impulses till they completely cover it. It is a soothing employment, on one of those fine days in the fall when all the warmth of the sun is fully appreciated, to sit on a stump on such a height as this, overlooking the pond, and study the dimpling circles which are incessantly inscribed on its otherwise invisible surface amid the reflected skies and trees.

What can reasonably be inferred from the underlined portion of the passage?

Possible Answers:

The author thinks there is a tunnel beneath the lake

The water is very shallow

The author has observed swallows sitting on the surface of the water

The author is describing an optical illusion

The author doesn't trust what he sees

Correct answer:

The author is describing an optical illusion

Explanation:

The reader can infer that the author is describing an optical illusion created by inverting his head as he stares at the surface of the lake. 

The author does not distrust what he sees, he is simply describing the illusion created by looking at the water with his head tilted. The author does not comment on whether the water is shallow or deep. The author is describing the optical illusion, "...you would think that you could walk dry under it..." and "swallows...might perch on it," and the reader can infer that these are not facts about the lake.

Example Question #31 : Making Inferences About The Author Or Humanities Passage Content

Passage adapted from Henry David Thoreau's Walden (1854).

The shore is irregular enough not to be monotonous. I have in my mind's eye the western, indented with deep bays, the bolder northern, and the beautifully scalloped southern shore, where successive capes overlap each other and suggest unexplored coves between. The forest has never so good a setting, nor is so distinctly beautiful, as when seen from the middle of a small lake amid hills which rise from the water's edge; for the water in which it is reflected not only makes the best foreground in such a case, but, with its winding shore, the most natural and agreeable boundary to it. There is no rawness or imperfection in its edge there, as where the axe has cleared a part, or a cultivated field abuts on it. The trees have ample room to expand on the water side, and each sends forth its most vigorous branch in that direction. There Nature has woven a natural selvage, and the eye rises by just gradations from the low shrubs of the shore to the highest trees. There are few traces of man's hand to be seen. The water laves the shore as it did a thousand years ago.

A lake is the landscape's most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth's eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature. The fluviatile trees next to the shore are the slender eyelashes which fringe it, and the wooded hills and cliffs around are its overhanging brows. 

Standing on the smooth sandy beach at the east end of the pond, in a calm September afternoon, when a slight haze makes the opposite shore-line indistinct, I have seen whence came the expression, "the glassy surface of a lake." When you invert your head, it looks like a thread of finest gossamer stretched across the valley, and gleaming against the distant pine woods, separating one stratum of the atmosphere from another. You would think that you could walk dry under it to the opposite hills, and that the swallows which skim over might perch on it. Indeed, they sometimes dive below the line, as it were by mistake, and are undeceived. As you look over the pond westward you are obliged to employ both your hands to defend your eyes against the reflected as well as the true sun, for they are equally bright; and if, between the two, you survey its surface critically, it is literally as smooth as glass, except where the skater insects, at equal intervals scattered over its whole extent, by their motions in the sun produce the finest imaginable sparkle on it, or, perchance, a duck plumes itself, or, as I have said, a swallow skims so low as to touch it. It may be that in the distance a fish describes an arc of three or four feet in the air, and there is one bright flash where it emerges, and another where it strikes the water; sometimes the whole silvery arc is revealed; or here and there, perhaps, is a thistle-down floating on its surface, which the fishes dart at and so dimple it again. It is like molten glass cooled but not congealed, and the few motes in it are pure and beautiful like the imperfections in glass. You may often detect a yet smoother and darker water, seperated from the rest as if by an invisible cobweb, boom of the water nymphs, resting on it. From a hilltop you can see a fish leap in almost any part; for not a pickerel or shiner picks an insect from this smooth surface but it manifestly disturbs the equilibrium of the whole lake. It is wonderful with what elaborateness this simple fact is advertised--this piscine murder will out--and from my distant perch I distinguish the circling undulations when they are half a dozen rods in diameter. You can even detect a water-bug ceaselessly progressing over the smooth surface a quarter of a mile off; for they furrow the water slightly, making a conspicuous ripple bounded by two diverging lines, but the skaters glide over it without rippling it perceptibly. When the surface is considerably agitated there are no skaters nor water-bugs on it, but apparently, in calm days, they leave their havens and adventurously glide forth from the shore by short impulses till they completely cover it. It is a soothing employment, on one of those fine days in the fall when all the warmth of the sun is fully appreciated, to sit on a stump on such a height as this, overlooking the pond, and study the dimpling circles which are incessantly inscribed on its otherwise invisible surface amid the reflected skies and trees.

It can be inferred from the underlined portion of the passage that the surface of the lake __________.

Possible Answers:

is always tumultuous

is always perfectly flat

is unaffected by the movements of insects and birds

is naturally in an equilibrium, and any action creates a ripple that affects the whole surface of the lake

is disturbed by boats

Correct answer:

is naturally in an equilibrium, and any action creates a ripple that affects the whole surface of the lake

Explanation:

The reader can infer from the underlined portion of the passage that the surface of the lake is in an equilibrium, and any action creates a ripple that affects the whole surface of the lake. The author does not suggest that the surface of the lake is always flat or tumultuous. The passage states the surface of the lake is affected by the movements of insects and birds, and the passage contains no mention of boats.

Example Question #2 : Other Author And Tone Questions

Passage adapted from Giuseppe Mazzini's The Duties of Man (1860)

Your first Duties— first, at least, in importance— are, as I have told you, to Humanity. You are men before you are citizens or fathers. If you do not embrace the whole human family in your love, if you do not confess your faith in its unity— consequent on the unity of God— and in the brotherhood of the Peoples who are appointed to reduce that unity to fact— if wherever one of your fellowmen groans, wherever the dignity of human nature is violated by falsehood or tyranny, you are not prompt, being able, to succor that wretched one, or do not feel yourself called, being able, to fight for the purpose of relieving the deceived or oppressed— you disobey your law of life, or do not comprehend the religion which will bless the future.

But what can each of you, with his isolated powers, do for the moral improvement, for the progress of Humanity? You can, from time to time, give sterile expression to your belief; you may, on some rare occasion, perform an act of charity to a brother not belonging to your own land, no more. Now, charity is not the watchword of the future faith. The watchword of the future faith is association, fraternal cooperation towards a common aim, and this is as much superior to charity as the work of many uniting to raise with one accord a building for the habitation of all together would be superior to that which you would accomplish by raising a separate hut each for himself, and only helping one another by exchanging stones and bricks and mortar. But divided as you are in language tendencies, habits, and capacities, you cannot attempt this common work. The individual is too weak, and Humanity too vast… But God gave you this means when he gave you a Country, when, like a wise overseer of labour, who distributes the different parts of the work according to the capacity of the workmen, he divided Humanity into distinct groups upon the face of our globe, and thus planted the seeds of nations. Bad governments have disfigured the design of God, which you may see clearly marked out, as far, at least, as regards Europe, by the courses of the great river, by the lines of the lofty mountains, and by other geographical conditions; they have disfigured it by conquest, by greed, by jealously of the just sovereignty of others; disfigured it so much that to-day there is perhaps no nation except England and France whose confines correspond to this design.

They did not, and they do not, recognize any country except their own families and dynasties, the egoism of caste. But the divine design will infallibly be fulfilled. Natural divisions, the innate spontaneous tendencies of the people will replace the arbitrary divisions sanctioned by bad governments. The map of Europe will be remade. The Countries of the People will rise, defined by the voice of the free, upon the ruins of the Countries of Kings and privileged castes. Between these Countries there will be harmony and brotherhood. And then the work of Humanity for the general amelioration, for the discovery and application of the real law of life, carried on in association and distributed according to local capacities, will be accomplished by peaceful and progressive development; then each of you, strong in the affections and in the aid of many millions of men speaking the same language, endowed with the same tendencies, and educated by the same historic tradition, may hope by your personal effort to benefit the whole of Humanity. 

Which of the following best describes the author's view of the individual?

Possible Answers:

One individual has the ability to fundamentally alter interactions among members of Humanity.

The individual is too weak to achieve change independently but has a duty to seek betterment for Humanity.

Individuals should leave changes in the workings of Humanity to God.

One individual is unable to take action but should encourage government leaders to enact change.

Correct answer:

The individual is too weak to achieve change independently but has a duty to seek betterment for Humanity.

Explanation:

The author's attitude toward the individual is best described by the following question: "The individual is too weak to achieve change independently but has a duty to seek betterment for Humanity." We find evidence for this when the author notes, "The individual is too weak, and Humanity too vast… [for independent change]" but the author outlines the duties of man to attempt to reform humanity in the first paragraph. The author, although he places emphasis on the power of "God," does not say that all changes should be left to God; rather that he endowed humans with the ability to form nations. The author is not concerned with government leaders (so does not believe that individuals should just appeal to government leaders), but likewise does not believe that one individual has the ability to fundamentally alter humanity's interactions ("The individual is too weak...").

Example Question #932 : Passage Based Questions

Passage adapted from Giuseppe Mazzini's The Duties of Man (1860)

Your first Duties— first, at least, in importance— are, as I have told you, to Humanity. You are men before you are citizens or fathers. If you do not embrace the whole human family in your love, if you do not confess your faith in its unity— consequent on the unity of God— and in the brotherhood of the Peoples who are appointed to reduce that unity to fact— if wherever one of your fellowmen groans, wherever the dignity of human nature is violated by falsehood or tyranny, you are not prompt, being able, to succor that wretched one, or do not feel yourself called, being able, to fight for the purpose of relieving the deceived or oppressed— you disobey your law of life, or do not comprehend the religion which will bless the future.

But what can each of you, with his isolated powers, do for the moral improvement, for the progress of Humanity? You can, from time to time, give sterile expression to your belief; you may, on some rare occasion, perform an act of charity to a brother not belonging to your own land, no more. Now, charity is not the watchword of the future faith. The watchword of the future faith is association, fraternal cooperation towards a common aim, and this is as much superior to charity as the work of many uniting to raise with one accord a building for the habitation of all together would be superior to that which you would accomplish by raising a separate hut each for himself, and only helping one another by exchanging stones and bricks and mortar. But divided as you are in language tendencies, habits, and capacities, you cannot attempt this common work. The individual is too weak, and Humanity too vast… But God gave you this means when he gave you a Country, when, like a wise overseer of labour, who distributes the different parts of the work according to the capacity of the workmen, he divided Humanity into distinct groups upon the face of our globe, and thus planted the seeds of nations. Bad governments have disfigured the design of God, which you may see clearly marked out, as far, at least, as regards Europe, by the courses of the great river, by the lines of the lofty mountains, and by other geographical conditions; they have disfigured it by conquest, by greed, by jealously of the just sovereignty of others; disfigured it so much that to-day there is perhaps no nation except England and France whose confines correspond to this design.

They did not, and they do not, recognize any country except their own families and dynasties, the egoism of caste. But the divine design will infallibly be fulfilled. Natural divisions, the innate spontaneous tendencies of the people will replace the arbitrary divisions sanctioned by bad governments. The map of Europe will be remade. The Countries of the People will rise, defined by the voice of the free, upon the ruins of the Countries of Kings and privileged castes. Between these Countries there will be harmony and brotherhood. And then the work of Humanity for the general amelioration, for the discovery and application of the real law of life, carried on in association and distributed according to local capacities, will be accomplished by peaceful and progressive development; then each of you, strong in the affections and in the aid of many millions of men speaking the same language, endowed with the same tendencies, and educated by the same historic tradition, may hope by your personal effort to benefit the whole of Humanity. 

In the final paragraph, the author anticipates which of the following occurring?

Possible Answers:

Bad governments will strengthen their sovereignty.

The People will rise to fulfill the concept of divine design.

Governments will begin to recognize those outside of their own dynasties.

Governments will attain peaceful and progressive development.

Correct answer:

The People will rise to fulfill the concept of divine design.

Explanation:

The author believes that "the people will rise to fulfill the concept of divine design." The evidence for this occurs in the last paragraph: "But the divine design will infallibly be fulfilled... The Countries of the People will rise, defined by the voice of the free, upon the ruins of the Countries of Kings and privileged castes. Between these Countries there will be harmony and brotherhood."  The author explicitly notes that governments will still not recognize those outside of their own dynasties ("They did not, and they do not, recognize any country except their own families and dynasties, the egoism of caste"). The author notes that the people (but not the governments) will attain peaceful and progressive development; however, the author explicitly notes that bad governments will topple to the people and thus will not strengthen their sovereignty. 

Example Question #411 : Humanities Passages

Passage adapted from Edmund Morel's King Leopold’s Rule in Africa (1904)

Everywhere [in the Congo] we see the same policy [of forced labor] at work, with the same results. What are the chief symptoms of the effects of that policy upon native life?

Outwardly the most striking effect is depopulation: slaughter, mutilation, emigration, sickness, largely aggravated by cruel and systematic oppression; poverty, and even positive starvation, induced by unlimited taxation in food-stuffs and live stocks; a hopeless despair, and mental depression engendered by ears of grinding tyranny; neglect of children by the general maltreatment of women, one of the most odious and disgraceful features of the system— these are some of the many recorded cases of depopulation which, in certain districts, has assumed gigantic proportions…

What a sum total of human wretchedness does not lie behind that bald word “depopulation”! To my mind, the horror of this curse which has come upon the Congo peoples reaches its maximum of intensity when we force ourselves to consider its everyday concomitants; the crushing weight of perpetual, remorseless oppression; the gradual elimination of everything in the daily life of the natives which makes that life worth living. Under a prevailing system, every village is a penal settlement. Armed soldiers are quartered in every hamlet; the men pass nearly their whole lives in satisfying the ceaseless demands of the “Administration,” or its affiliates the Trusts…

The cumulative effects of depopulation and infantile mortality by dragging women away from their homes for forced labour requisitions— seizing them as “hostages,” and “tying them up,” whether virgins, wives, mothers, or those about to become mothers, in order to bring pressure to bear upon brothers, husbands, and fathers for the adequate supply of rubber or food taxes; flinging them into “prison,” together with their children, often to die of starvation and neglect…

What has come over the civilized people of the globe that they can allow their government to remain inactive and apathetic in the face of incidents which recall in aggravated form the worst horrors of the over-sea slave trade, which surpass the exploits of Arab slave catchers? What could be worse than scenes such as these, which can be culled by the dozen…

The Congo Government boasts that, in stopping the intertribal warfare, it has stopped the selling of tribal prisoners of war into domestic slavery. The condition of the domestic slave under the African system is blissful beyond words, if you compare his lot with that of the degraded serf under the Leopoldian system…

Enough has been said to show that under this system of “moral and material regeneration,” constituting a monstrous invasion of primitive rights which has no parallel in the whole world, the family life and social ties of the people are utterly destroyed…

Why are these people allowed to suffer thus cruelly? What crime have they collectively committed in past ages that they should undergo to-day so terrible an expiation? Are they “groaning and dying” under this murderous system as a great object-lesson to Europe?... Belgium, technically unconcerned, is morally responsible, and Belgium will suffer…  If the Congo Basin were capable of being colonized by the Caucasian race, the policy we condemn and reprobate would still be a crime against humanity, an outrage upon civilization. But the Congo territories can never be a white man’s country; the “Congo State” is naught but a collection of individuals— with one supreme above the all— working for their own selfish ends, caring nothing for posterity, callous of the present, indifferent of the future, as of the past, animated by no fanaticism other than the fanaticism of dividends— and so upon the wickedness of this thing is grafted the fatuous stupidity and inhumanity of the Powers in allowing the extermination of the Congo races to go on unchecked, barely, if at all, reproved. 

Which of the following best describes the author's attitude toward Belgium?

Possible Answers:

Disdaining

Ambivalent

Disrespectful

Frustrated

Correct answer:

Disdaining

Explanation:

The author's attitude toward Belgium could best be described as disdainful, as the author notes, "Belgium, technically unconcerned, is morally responsible [for the atrocities], and Belgium will suffer." While disrespect might be one aspect of the author's attitude toward Belgium, he reflects contempt at Belgium's policies much more than a lack of courtesy toward the country and its policies. The author similarly does not exhibit frustration toward Belgium, only condemnation, and the author's strong language toward the country indicates that the author is not ambivalent about Belgium's policies.

Example Question #31 : Making Inferences About The Author Or Humanities Passage Content

Passage adapted from Edmund Morel's King Leopold’s Rule in Africa (1904)

Everywhere [in the Congo] we see the same policy [of forced labor] at work, with the same results. What are the chief symptoms of the effects of that policy upon native life?

Outwardly the most striking effect is depopulation: slaughter, mutilation, emigration, sickness, largely aggravated by cruel and systematic oppression; poverty, and even positive starvation, induced by unlimited taxation in food-stuffs and live stocks; a hopeless despair, and mental depression engendered by ears of grinding tyranny; neglect of children by the general maltreatment of women, one of the most odious and disgraceful features of the system— these are some of the many recorded cases of depopulation which, in certain districts, has assumed gigantic proportions…

What a sum total of human wretchedness does not lie behind that bald word “depopulation”! To my mind, the horror of this curse which has come upon the Congo peoples reaches its maximum of intensity when we force ourselves to consider its everyday concomitants; the crushing weight of perpetual, remorseless oppression; the gradual elimination of everything in the daily life of the natives which makes that life worth living. Under a prevailing system, every village is a penal settlement. Armed soldiers are quartered in every hamlet; the men pass nearly their whole lives in satisfying the ceaseless demands of the “Administration,” or its affiliates the Trusts…

The cumulative effects of depopulation and infantile mortality by dragging women away from their homes for forced labour requisitions— seizing them as “hostages,” and “tying them up,” whether virgins, wives, mothers, or those about to become mothers, in order to bring pressure to bear upon brothers, husbands, and fathers for the adequate supply of rubber or food taxes; flinging them into “prison,” together with their children, often to die of starvation and neglect…

What has come over the civilized people of the globe that they can allow their government to remain inactive and apathetic in the face of incidents which recall in aggravated form the worst horrors of the over-sea slave trade, which surpass the exploits of Arab slave catchers? What could be worse than scenes such as these, which can be culled by the dozen…

The Congo Government boasts that, in stopping the intertribal warfare, it has stopped the selling of tribal prisoners of war into domestic slavery. The condition of the domestic slave under the African system is blissful beyond words, if you compare his lot with that of the degraded serf under the Leopoldian system…

Enough has been said to show that under this system of “moral and material regeneration,” constituting a monstrous invasion of primitive rights which has no parallel in the whole world, the family life and social ties of the people are utterly destroyed…

Why are these people allowed to suffer thus cruelly? What crime have they collectively committed in past ages that they should undergo to-day so terrible an expiation? Are they “groaning and dying” under this murderous system as a great object-lesson to Europe?... Belgium, technically unconcerned, is morally responsible, and Belgium will suffer…  If the Congo Basin were capable of being colonized by the Caucasian race, the policy we condemn and reprobate would still be a crime against humanity, an outrage upon civilization. But the Congo territories can never be a white man’s country; the “Congo State” is naught but a collection of individuals— with one supreme above the all— working for their own selfish ends, caring nothing for posterity, callous of the present, indifferent of the future, as of the past, animated by no fanaticism other than the fanaticism of dividends— and so upon the wickedness of this thing is grafted the fatuous stupidity and inhumanity of the Powers in allowing the extermination of the Congo races to go on unchecked, barely, if at all, reproved.

What does the author imply is the duty of civilized people in the fifth paragraph ("What has come...")?

Possible Answers:

To understand that the horrors suffered by the Congolese people are less severe than those perpetuated by Arab slave-traders 

To acknowledge that forced labor is an unfortunate aspect of all intertribal warfare 

To intervene in the Congo personally, even without government support 

To encourage their government to become involved

Correct answer:

To encourage their government to become involved

Explanation:

The author implies that the duty of all civilized people is to encourage their government to become involved when he notes, "What has come over the civilized people of the globe that they can allow their government to remain inactive and apathetic in the face of incidents which recall in aggravated form the worst horrors of the over-sea slave trade, which surpass the exploits of Arab slave catchers?" This quotation also demonstrates that the author does not view the Arab slave-traders as perpetuating worse horrors than those in the Congo, and the author does not call on readers to understand that forced labor is an unfortunate but inevitable aspect of intertribal warfare. Finally, the author does not at any point encourage the reader to intervene personally in the problems of the Congo.

Example Question #31 : Extrapolating From The Text In Humanities Passages

Passage adapted from Maximilien Robespierre's Speech on Terror (1794)

What is the aim we want to achieve? The peaceful enjoyment of liberty and equality, the reign of that eternal justice whose laws have been engraved, not in stone and marble, but in the hearts of all men, even in the heart of the slave who forgets them or of the tyrant who denies them.

We want a state of affairs where all despicable and cruel passions are unknown and all kind and generous passions are aroused by the laws; where ambition is the desire to deserve glory and to serve the fatherland; where distinctions arise only from equality itself; where the citizen submits to the magistrate, the magistrate to the people and the people to justice; where the fatherland guarantees the well-being of each individual, and where each individual enjoys with pride the prosperity and glory of the fatherland; where all souls elevate themselves through constant communication of republican sentiments and through the need to deserve the esteem of a great people; whether the arts are the decorations of liberty that ennobles them, where commerce is the source of public wealth and not only of the monstrous opulence of a few houses.

In our country we want to substitute morality for egoism, honesty for honor, principles for customs, duties for decorum, the rate of reason for the tyranny of custom, the contempt of vice for the contempt of misfortune, pride for insolence, magnanimity for vanity, love of glory for love of money, good people for well-bred people, merit for intrigue, genius for wit, truth for pompous action, warmth of happiness for boredom of sensuality, greatness of man for pettiness of the great; a magnanimous, powerful, happy people for the polite, frivolous, despicable people— that is to say, all the virtues and all the miracles of the Republic for all the vices and all the absurdities of the monarchy.

In one word, we want to fulfill the wishes of nature, accomplish the destiny of humanity, keep the promises of philosophy, absolve Providence from the long reign of crime and tyranny.

What kind of government can realize these marvels? Only a democratic or republican government.

But what is the fundamental principle of the democratic or popular government, that is to say, the essential strength that sustains it and make it move. It is virtue: I am speaking of the public virtue which brought about so many marvels in Greece and Rome and which must bring about much more astonishing ones yet in republican France; of that virtue which is nothing more than love of fatherland and of its laws.

If the strength of popular government in peacetime is virtue, the strength of popular government in revolution is both virtue and terror; terror without virtue is disastrous, virtue without terror is powerless. Terror is nothing without prompt, severe, and inflexible justice; it is thus an emanation of virtue; but is less a particular principle than a consequence of the general principle of democracy applied to the most urgent needs of the fatherland. It is said that terror is the strength of despotic government. Does ours then resemble despotism? Yes, as the sword that shines in the hands of the heroes of liberty resemble the one with which the satellites of tyranny are armed. Let the despot govern his brutalized subjects through terror and you will be right as founders of the Republic. The government of revolution is the despotism of liberty against tyranny. 

Which of the following best describes why the author repeatedly uses the word "we" throughout the passage?

Possible Answers:

To foster solidarity among a group of people, in this case his readers

To encourage the formation of individual identities 

To illustrate the social divisions in the country

To take a stand against terror

Correct answer:

To foster solidarity among a group of people, in this case his readers

Explanation:

The author repeatedly uses the word "we" in order to foster solidarity among a group of people, namely those listening to his speech, as he hopes to encourage them to embrace democracy and a republican government. The author is not encouraging the formation of individual identities, nor is he illustrating social divisions. While the speech is titled "Speech on Terror" and the author emphasizes the need to shift away from a reign of crime and tyranny, the use of the word "we" does not further his stand against terror.

Example Question #417 : Humanities Passages

Passage adapted from Maximilien Robespierre's Speech on Terror (1794)

What is the aim we want to achieve? The peaceful enjoyment of liberty and equality, the reign of that eternal justice whose laws have been engraved, not in stone and marble, but in the hearts of all men, even in the heart of the slave who forgets them or of the tyrant who denies them.

We want a state of affairs where all despicable and cruel passions are unknown and all kind and generous passions are aroused by the laws; where ambition is the desire to deserve glory and to serve the fatherland; where distinctions arise only from equality itself; where the citizen submits to the magistrate, the magistrate to the people and the people to justice; where the fatherland guarantees the well-being of each individual, and where each individual enjoys with pride the prosperity and glory of the fatherland; where all souls elevate themselves through constant communication of republican sentiments and through the need to deserve the esteem of a great people; whether the arts are the decorations of liberty that ennobles them, where commerce is the source of public wealth and not only of the monstrous opulence of a few houses.

In our country we want to substitute morality for egoism, honesty for honor, principles for customs, duties for decorum, the rate of reason for the tyranny of custom, the contempt of vice for the contempt of misfortune, pride for insolence, magnanimity for vanity, love of glory for love of money, good people for well-bred people, merit for intrigue, genius for wit, truth for pompous action, warmth of happiness for boredom of sensuality, greatness of man for pettiness of the great; a magnanimous, powerful, happy people for the polite, frivolous, despicable people— that is to say, all the virtues and all the miracles of the Republic for all the vices and all the absurdities of the monarchy.

In one word, we want to fulfill the wishes of nature, accomplish the destiny of humanity, keep the promises of philosophy, absolve Providence from the long reign of crime and tyranny.

What kind of government can realize these marvels? Only a democratic or republican government.

But what is the fundamental principle of the democratic or popular government, that is to say, the essential strength that sustains it and make it move. It is virtue: I am speaking of the public virtue which brought about so many marvels in Greece and Rome and which must bring about much more astonishing ones yet in republican France; of that virtue which is nothing more than love of fatherland and of its laws.

If the strength of popular government in peacetime is virtue, the strength of popular government in revolution is both virtue and terror; terror without virtue is disastrous, virtue without terror is powerless. Terror is nothing without prompt, severe, and inflexible justice; it is thus an emanation of virtue; but is less a particular principle than a consequence of the general principle of democracy applied to the most urgent needs of the fatherland. It is said that terror is the strength of despotic government. Does ours then resemble despotism? Yes, as the sword that shines in the hands of the heroes of liberty resemble the one with which the satellites of tyranny are armed. Let the despot govern his brutalized subjects through terror and you will be right as founders of the Republic. The government of revolution is the despotism of liberty against tyranny.

It can reasonably be inferred that the author believes he is presently living under what kind of government?

Possible Answers:

Democracy

Autocracy

Meritocracy

Republic

Correct answer:

Autocracy

Explanation:

The author clearly believes that he is presently living in an "autocracy," as he repeatedly references despotism and tyranny, although he desires to have a government that is "a democratic or republican government." The author makes no mention of "meritocracy," or a government in which people gain positions based on their abilities.

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