SAT Critical Reading : Comparing and Contrasting Paired Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT Critical Reading

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Comparing And Contrasting Content In Paired Passages

Passage One

Adapted from The Every-day Life of Abraham Lincoln by Francis Fisher Browne (1913)

It is stated that Lincoln "had an almost morbid dislike to an escort, or guard, and daily exposed himself to the deadly aim of an assassin." To the remonstrances of friends, who feared his constant exposure to danger, he had but one answer: "If they kill me, the next man will be just as bad for them; and in a country like this, where our habits are simple, and must be, assassination is always possible, and will come if they are determined upon it." A cavalry guard was once placed at the gates of the White House for a while, and Lincoln said that he "worried until he got rid of it." He once remarked to Colonel Halpine: "It would never do for a President to have guards with drawn sabers at his door, as if he fancied he were, or were trying to be, or were assuming to be, an emperor." While the President's family were at their summer-house, near Washington, he rode into town of a morning, or out at night, attended by a mounted escort; but if he returned to town for a while after dark, he rode in unguarded, and often alone, in his open carriage. On more than one occasion, the same writer tells us, he "has gone through the streets of Washington at a late hour of the night with the President, without escort, or even the company of a servant, walking all the way, going and returning. Considering the many open and secret threats to take his life, it is not surprising that Lincoln had many thoughts about his coming to a sudden and violent end.

 

Passage Two

Adapted from Volume Two of Abraham Lincoln: The True Story of a Great Life by William H. Herndon and Jesse W. Weik (1896)

Bancroft's eulogy on Lincoln never pleased the latter's lifelong friends—those who knew him so thoroughly and well. February 16, 1866, David Davis, who had heard it, wrote me: "You will see Mr. Bancroft's oration before this reaches you. It is able, but Mr. Lincoln is in the background. His analysis of Mr. Lincoln's character is superficial. It did not please me. How did it satisfy you?" On the 22nd he again wrote: "Mr. Bancroft totally misconceived Mr. Lincoln's character in applying 'unsteadiness' and confusion to it. Mr. Lincoln grew more steady and resolute, and his ideas were never confused. If there were any changes in him after he got here they were for the better. I thought him always master of his subject. He was a much more self-possessed man than I thought. He thought for himself, which is a rare quality nowadays. How could Bancroft know anything about Lincoln except as he judged of him as the public do? He never saw him, and is himself as cold as an icicle. I should never have selected an old Democratic politician, and that one from Massachusetts, to deliver an eulogy on Lincoln."

In what way does the content of Passage One differ from Passage Two?

Possible Answers:

Passage Two evaluates a eulogy, while Passage One is a eulogy.

Passage Two criticizes a leader, while Passage One praises him.

Passage One speaks out against current funereal practices, while Passage Two avoids the topic.

Passage One is opinionated, while Passage Two is not.

Passage Two examines a eulogy, while Passage One does not.

Correct answer:

Passage Two examines a eulogy, while Passage One does not.

Explanation:

Passage Two is evaluating a eulogy for Abraham Lincoln and criticizing its shortcomings. On the other hand, Passage One is examining Lincoln’s disregard for his personal safety and his refusal to employ bodyguards, both of which may have contributed to his assassination. None of the other answer choices apply here.

Example Question #27 : New Sat

Passage 1

Passage adapted from Samuel Adams’ “Letter to James Warren: November 4, 1775.”

We may look up to Armies for our Defense, but Virtue is our best Security. It is not possible that any State should long remain free, where Virtue is not supremely honored. This is as seasonably as it is justly said by one of the most celebrated Writers of the present time. Perhaps the Form of Government now adopted and set up in the Colony may be permanent. Should it be only temporary the golden opportunity of recovering the Virtue & reforming the Manners of our Country should be industriously improved. Our Ancestors in the most early Times laid an excellent Foundation for the security of Liberty by setting up in a few years after their Arrival a public Seminary of Learning; and by their Laws they obliged every Town consisting of a certain Number of Families to keep and maintain a Grammar School. I shall be very sorry, if it be true as I have been informed, that some of our Towns have dismissed their Schoolmasters, alleging that the extraordinary Expense of defending the Country renders them unable to support them. I hope this Inattention to the Principles of our Forefathers does not prevail. If there should be any Danger of it, would not the leading Gentlemen do eminent Service to the Public, by impressing upon the Minds of the People, the Necessity & Importance of encouraging that System of Education, which in my opinion is so well calculated to diffuse among the Individuals of the Community the Principles of Morality, so essentially necessary to the Preservation of public Liberty.

There are Virtues & vices which are properly called political. "Corruption, Dishonesty to ones Country Luxury and Extravagance tend to the Ruin of States." The opposite Virtues tend to their Establishment. But "there is a Connection between Vices as well as Virtues and one opens the Door for the Entrance of another." Therefore "Wise and able Politicians will guard against other Vices," and be attentive to promote every Virtue. He who is void of virtuous Attachments in private Life, is, or very soon will be void of all Regard for his Country. There is seldom an Instance of a Man guilty of betraying his Country, who had not before lost the Feeling of moral Obligations in his private Connections.

Passage 2

Passage adapted from the "First Inaugural Address" of Thomas Jefferson (March 4th, 1801)

Let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things. And let us reflect that, having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions. During the throes and convulsions of the ancient world, during the agonizing spasms of infuriated man, seeking through blood and slaughter his long-lost liberty, it was not wonderful that the agitation of the billows should reach even this distant and peaceful shore; that this should be more felt and feared by some and less by others, and should divide opinions as to measures of safety.

But every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists. If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it. I know, indeed, that some honest men fear that a republican government can not be strong, that this government is not strong enough; but would the honest patriot, in the full tide of successful experiment, abandon a government which has so far kept us free and firm on the theoretic and visionary fear that this government, the world's best hope, may by possibility want energy to preserve itself? I trust not. I believe this, on the contrary, the strongest government on earth.

How closely related are the two passages?

Possible Answers:

The passages are about entirely different moral and philosophical issues; they have little bearing on one another

The passages are related in terms of the ideas and fundamental principles at play, but are not related to any of the same practical political concerns

The passages are directly opposed treatises on two sides of the same contemporary political issue

None of these answers adequately characterizes the relationship between the passages

The passages are directly related in terms of their fundamental principles and the practical political concerns being specifically discussed

Correct answer:

The passages are related in terms of the ideas and fundamental principles at play, but are not related to any of the same practical political concerns

Explanation:

These two passages are both by founding fathers, and they are both fundamentally concerned with political involvement, and the moral fabric of the political community of the United States. As Adams text was written 26 years prior the specific school closings he is speaking of are not related to the fractures in the union Jefferson is taking about. 

Example Question #1 : Comparing And Contrasting Paired Passages

Passage #1

Adapted from "On War" by James Boswell (1777)

When I saw workingmen engaged with grave assiduity in fashioning weapons of death, I was struck with wonder at the shortsightedness of human beings, who were soberly preparing the instruments of destruction of their own species. I have since found upon a closer study of man, that my wonder might have been spared. The views of most individuals are limited to their own happiness, and the workmen whom I beheld so busy in the arsenal of Venice saw nothing but what was good in the labor for which they received such wages as procured them the comforts of life. That their immediate satisfaction was not hindered by a view of the remote consequential and contingent evils for which they were responsible would not surprise one who has had seen too much of the world. We must have the telescope of philosophy to make us perceive distant ills; further, we know that there are individuals of our species to whom the immediate misery of others is nothing in comparison with their own advantage—for we know that in every age there have been found men very willing to perform the office of executioner.

 

Passage #2

Adapted from "What is Patriotism?" by Max Eastman (1915)

With proper recognition of the possible variation of individuals, we can say that patriotism is one of these unalterable facts of man's nature. A talent for fighting solidarity with a group is a part of the instinct of human beings. It is composed of two tendencies that are laid down in his nervous system when he is born called pugnacity and gregariousness, or group-loyalty. All men and most animals are pugnacious. They love to fight. Everybody loves to fight. Some people get all the fighting they want at the breakfast table, and other people have to carry it out in the law courts or the battlefield, where it makes more noise. [Theodore] Roosevelt loves to charge up San Juan Hill, and then he loves to prosecute for libel anybody that says he didn't charge up San Juan Hill. War people fight for war and peace people fight for peace. When Roosevelt calls the peace people mollycoddles and college sissies, I only want to walk up and smash him.

It is far better though that we should conquer our instinct to fight and put faith in reason. It may seem gigantic; but it is by no means a utopian undertaking to unite the whole world of nations in such a federation. For all the organic interests of men, except their sheer love of patriotic fighting itself, are against the perpetual recurrence of international war. War and the mere joy of existence are incompatible. War makes it impossible to live, and it makes it impossible even to die for a noble purpose. Let men but understand themselves, and the mechanism of their emotions by which they are brought into this perennial catastrophe, and they will be ready enough to take gigantic measures to prevent it.

In what way does Passage 1 differ from Passage 2?

Possible Answers:

passage 1 is more argumentative in tone.

passage 2 constructs a narrative.

passage 1 offers a personal account.

passage 1 draws on a reference to authority.

Correct answer:

passage 1 offers a personal account.

Explanation:

Passage 1 differs from Passage 2 in that the first passage offers a personal account. The author of Passage 1 uses evidence gathered on his visit to an armory in Venice to help make his argument. Specifically, he states, “The views of most individuals are limited to their own happiness, and the workmen whom I beheld so busy in the arsenal of Venice saw nothing but what was good in the labor for which they received such wages as procured them the comforts of life.” Contrast this with the second passage, where the author makes no reference to a personal account.

Example Question #1 : Comparing And Contrasting Arguments Of Paired Passages

Passage #1

Adapted from "On War" by James Boswell (1777)

When I saw workingmen engaged with grave assiduity in fashioning weapons of death, I was struck with wonder at the shortsightedness of human beings, who were soberly preparing the instruments of destruction of their own species. I have since found upon a closer study of man, that my wonder might have been spared. The views of most individuals are limited to their own happiness, and the workmen whom I beheld so busy in the arsenal of Venice saw nothing but what was good in the labor for which they received such wages as procured them the comforts of life. That their immediate satisfaction was not hindered by a view of the remote consequential and contingent evils for which they were responsible would not surprise one who has had seen too much of the world. We must have the telescope of philosophy to make us perceive distant ills; further, we know that there are individuals of our species to whom the immediate misery of others is nothing in comparison with their own advantage—for we know that in every age there have been found men very willing to perform the office of executioner.

 

Passage #2

Adapted from "What is Patriotism?" by Max Eastman (1915)

With proper recognition of the possible variation of individuals, we can say that patriotism is one of these unalterable facts of man's nature. A talent for fighting solidarity with a group is a part of the instinct of human beings. It is composed of two tendencies that are laid down in his nervous system when he is born called pugnacity and gregariousness, or group-loyalty. All men and most animals are pugnacious. They love to fight. Everybody loves to fight. Some people get all the fighting they want at the breakfast table, and other people have to carry it out in the law courts or the battlefield, where it makes more noise. [Theodore] Roosevelt loves to charge up San Juan Hill, and then he loves to prosecute for libel anybody that says he didn't charge up San Juan Hill. War people fight for war and peace people fight for peace. When Roosevelt calls the peace people mollycoddles and college sissies, I only want to walk up and smash him.

It is far better though that we should conquer our instinct to fight and put faith in reason. It may seem gigantic; but it is by no means a utopian undertaking to unite the whole world of nations in such a federation. For all the organic interests of men, except their sheer love of patriotic fighting itself, are against the perpetual recurrence of international war. War and the mere joy of existence are incompatible. War makes it impossible to live, and it makes it impossible even to die for a noble purpose. Let men but understand themselves, and the mechanism of their emotions by which they are brought into this perennial catastrophe, and they will be ready enough to take gigantic measures to prevent it.

How would the author of Passage 2 likely respond to the statement made by the author of Passage 1 that, “the views of most individuals are limited to their own happiness"? 

Possible Answers:

Individual happiness is nonetheless often derived from group association.

Happiness can never come from patriotic fever.

Most individuals lack the understanding to work for anything other than their own happiness.

Happiness is not relevant to the understanding of war.

Correct answer:

Individual happiness is nonetheless often derived from group association.

Explanation:

The author of Passage 2 makes numerous references to the construction of human identity and satisfaction through group association. He states that all human beings are born with a natural tendency towards group-loyalty, and it is clear that the author believes human beings derive happiness from patriotic association. The author of Passage 2 would never agree that happiness is irrelevant to war or that it cannot be derived from patriotic fever. Likewise, the author of Passage 2 clearly believes it is man’s nature to go to war and, as evidenced in the conclusion, that man can work to avoid war and consider the greater good. The author of Passage 2 would view individual happiness and apathy as less significant to the cause of war and would place greater emphasis on group association.

Example Question #2 : Comparing And Contrasting Arguments Of Paired Passages

Passage #1 Adapted from On War (1777) by James Boswell

When I saw workingmen engaged with grave assiduity in fashioning weapons of death, I was struck with wonder at the shortsightedness of human beings, who were soberly preparing the instruments of destruction of their own species. I have since found upon a closer study of man, that my wonder might have been spared. The views of most individuals are limited to their own happiness; and the workmen whom I beheld so busy in the arsenal of Venice saw nothing but what was good in the labor for which they received such wages as procured them the comforts of life. That their immediate satisfaction was not hindered by a view of the remote consequential and contingent evils for which they were responsible, would not surprise one who has had seen too much of the world. We must have the telescope of philosophy to make us perceive distant ills; further, we know that there are individuals of our species to whom the immediate misery of others is nothing in comparison with their own advantage—for we know that in every age there have been found men very willing to perform the office of executioner.

 

Passage #2 Adapted from What is Patriotism? (1915) by Max Eastman

With proper recognition of the possible variation of individuals, we can say that patriotism is one of these unalterable facts of man's nature. A talent for fighting solidarity with a group is a part of the instinct of human beings. It is composed of two tendencies that are laid down in his nervous system when he is born called pugnacity and gregariousness, or group-loyalty. All men and most animals are pugnacious. They love to fight. Everybody loves to fight. Some people get all the fighting they want at the breakfast table, and other people have to carry it out in the law courts or the battlefield, where it makes more noise. [Theodore] Roosevelt loves to charge up San Juan Hill, and then he loves to prosecute for libel anybody that says he didn't charge up San Juan Hill. War people fight for war and peace people fight for peace. When Roosevelt calls the peace people mollycoddles and college sissies, I only want to walk up and smash him.

It is far better though that we should conquer our instinct to fight and put faith in reason. It may seem gigantic; but it is by no means a utopian undertaking to unite the whole world of nations in such a federation. For all the organic interests of men, except their sheer love of patriotic fighting itself, are against the perpetual recurrence of international war. War and the mere joy of existence are incompatible. War makes it impossible to live, and it makes it impossible even to die for a noble purpose. Let men but understand themselves, and the mechanism of their emotions by which they are brought into this perennial catastrophe, and they will be ready enough to take gigantic measures to prevent it.

Which statement made by the author of passage 1 would support the concluding argument made by the author of passage 2 that if “men but understand themselves . . . they will be ready enough to take gigantic measures to prevent [war]?”

Possible Answers:

“Their immediate satisfaction was not hindered by a view of the remote consequential and contingent evils for which they were responsible.”

“For we know that in every age there have been found men very willing to perform the office of executioner.”

“We must have the telescope of philosophy to perceive distant ills.”

“I have since found upon a closer study of man, that my wonder might have been spared.”

Correct answer:

“We must have the telescope of philosophy to perceive distant ills.”

Explanation:

When the author of passage 2 states that if “men but understand themselves . . . they will be ready enough to take gigantic measures to prevent [war]” he is expressing a belief in the ability of wisdom to overcome mankind’s tendency towards warfare. This is very similar in intent and belief to the statement made by the author of passage 1 that, “We must have the telescope of philosophy to perceive distant ills.” Both authors believe that the key to conquering our urge to ignore the suffering of others and make war is consideration and thoughtfulness.

Example Question #1 : Comparing And Contrasting Language And Rhetoric In Paired Passages

Passage One

Adapted from The Every-day Life of Abraham Lincoln by Francis Fisher Browne (1913)

It is stated that Lincoln "had an almost morbid dislike to an escort, or guard, and daily exposed himself to the deadly aim of an assassin." To the remonstrances of friends, who feared his constant exposure to danger, he had but one answer: "If they kill me, the next man will be just as bad for them; and in a country like this, where our habits are simple, and must be, assassination is always possible, and will come if they are determined upon it." A cavalry guard was once placed at the gates of the White House for a while, and Lincoln said that he "worried until he got rid of it." He once remarked to Colonel Halpine: "It would never do for a President to have guards with drawn sabers at his door, as if he fancied he were, or were trying to be, or were assuming to be, an emperor." While the President's family were at their summer-house, near Washington, he rode into town of a morning, or out at night, attended by a mounted escort; but if he returned to town for a while after dark, he rode in unguarded, and often alone, in his open carriage. On more than one occasion, the same writer tells us, he "has gone through the streets of Washington at a late hour of the night with the President, without escort, or even the company of a servant, walking all the way, going and returning. Considering the many open and secret threats to take his life, it is not surprising that Lincoln had many thoughts about his coming to a sudden and violent end.

 

Passage Two

Adapted from Volume Two of Abraham Lincoln: The True Story of a Great Life by William H. Herndon and Jesse W. Weik (1896)

Bancroft's eulogy on Lincoln never pleased the latter's lifelong friends—those who knew him so thoroughly and well. February 16, 1866, David Davis, who had heard it, wrote me: "You will see Mr. Bancroft's oration before this reaches you. It is able, but Mr. Lincoln is in the background. His analysis of Mr. Lincoln's character is superficial. It did not please me. How did it satisfy you?" On the 22nd he again wrote: "Mr. Bancroft totally misconceived Mr. Lincoln's character in applying 'unsteadiness' and confusion to it. Mr. Lincoln grew more steady and resolute, and his ideas were never confused. If there were any changes in him after he got here they were for the better. I thought him always master of his subject. He was a much more self-possessed man than I thought. He thought for himself, which is a rare quality nowadays. How could Bancroft know anything about Lincoln except as he judged of him as the public do? He never saw him, and is himself as cold as an icicle. I should never have selected an old Democratic politician, and that one from Massachusetts, to deliver an eulogy on Lincoln."

The tone of Passage One is more __________ than Passage Two.

Possible Answers:

supercilious

verbose

querulous

superficial

foreboding

Correct answer:

foreboding

Explanation:

Passage One is discussing Lincoln’s disregard for his personal safety, which, in light of his subsequent assassination, gives the passage a grim, foreboding tone. “Superficial” means shallow, “supercilious” means haughty, “querulous” means irritable or complaining, and “verbose” means very wordy. None of these other words accurately describe the tone of the passage.

Example Question #2 : Comparing And Contrasting Language And Rhetoric In Paired Passages

Passage One

Adapted from The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1891)

The studio was filled with the rich odor of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden, there came through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn.

From the corner of the divan of Persian saddlebags on which he was lying, smoking, as was his custom, innumerable cigarettes, Lord Henry Wotton could just catch the gleam of the honey-sweet and honey-colored blossoms of a laburnum, whose tremulous branches seemed hardly able to bear the burden of a beauty so flame-like as theirs; and now and then the fantastic shadows of birds in flight flitted across the long tussore-silk curtains that were stretched in front of the huge window, making him think of those painters of Tokyo who, through the medium of an art that is necessarily immobile, seek to convey the sense of swiftness and motion. The sullen murmur of the bees shouldering their way through the long unmown grass, or circling with monotonous insistence round the dusty gilt horns of the straggling woodbine, seemed to make the stillness more oppressive. The dim roar of London was like the bourdon note of a distant organ.

In the center of the room, clamped to an upright easel, stood the full-length portrait of a young man of extraordinary personal beauty, and in front of it, some little distance away, was sitting the artist himself, Basil Hallward, whose sudden disappearance some years ago caused, at the time, such public excitement, and gave rise to so many strange conjectures.

 

Passage Two

Adapted from Sketches by Boz by Charles Dickens (1836)

How much is conveyed in those two short words—"The parish!" And with how many tales of distress and misery, of broken fortune and ruined hopes, too often of unrelieved wretchedness and successful knavery, are they associated! A poor man, with small earnings, and a large family, just manages to live on from hand to mouth, and to procure food from day to day; he has barely sufficient to satisfy the present cravings of nature, and can take no heed of the future. His taxes are in arrear, quarter-day passes by, another quarter-day arrives: he can procure no more quarter for himself, and is summoned by—the parish. His goods are distrained, his children are crying with cold and hunger, and the very bed on which his sick wife is lying, is dragged from beneath her. What can he do? To whom is he to apply for relief? To private charity? To benevolent individuals? Certainly not—there is his parish. There are the parish vestry, the parish infirmary, the parish surgeon, the parish officers, the parish beadle—gentle, kind-hearted men. The woman dies—she is buried by the parish. The children have no protector—they are taken care of by the parish. The man first neglects, and afterwards cannot obtain, work—he is relieved by the parish; and when distress and drunkenness have done their work upon him, he is maintained, a harmless babbling idiot, in the parish asylum.

The authors of Passages One and Two both rely on which of the following literary techniques?

Possible Answers:

Metaphors

Detailed description

Rhetorical questions

Sarcasm

Hyperbole

Correct answer:

Detailed description

Explanation:

Both passages contain detailed description. In the case of Passage One, we have sentences laden with sensory imagery such as “the gleam of the honey-sweet and honey-colored blossoms of a laburnum, whose tremulous branches seemed hardly able to bear the burden of a beauty so flamelike as theirs.” In the case of Passage Two, we have grimmer but no less detailed descriptions such as “His goods are distrained, his children are crying with cold and hunger, and the very bed on which his sick wife is lying, is dragged from beneath her.”

Example Question #3 : Comparing And Contrasting Language And Rhetoric In Paired Passages

Passage One

Adapted from The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1891)

The studio was filled with the rich odor of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden, there came through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn.

From the corner of the divan of Persian saddlebags on which he was lying, smoking, as was his custom, innumerable cigarettes, Lord Henry Wotton could just catch the gleam of the honey-sweet and honey-colored blossoms of a laburnum, whose tremulous branches seemed hardly able to bear the burden of a beauty so flame-like as theirs; and now and then the fantastic shadows of birds in flight flitted across the long tussore-silk curtains that were stretched in front of the huge window, making him think of those painters of Tokyo who, through the medium of an art that is necessarily immobile, seek to convey the sense of swiftness and motion. The sullen murmur of the bees shouldering their way through the long unmown grass, or circling with monotonous insistence round the dusty gilt horns of the straggling woodbine, seemed to make the stillness more oppressive. The dim roar of London was like the bourdon note of a distant organ.

In the center of the room, clamped to an upright easel, stood the full-length portrait of a young man of extraordinary personal beauty, and in front of it, some little distance away, was sitting the artist himself, Basil Hallward, whose sudden disappearance some years ago caused, at the time, such public excitement, and gave rise to so many strange conjectures.

 

Passage Two

Adapted from Sketches by Boz by Charles Dickens (1836)

How much is conveyed in those two short words—"The parish!" And with how many tales of distress and misery, of broken fortune and ruined hopes, too often of unrelieved wretchedness and successful knavery, are they associated! A poor man, with small earnings, and a large family, just manages to live on from hand to mouth, and to procure food from day to day; he has barely sufficient to satisfy the present cravings of nature, and can take no heed of the future. His taxes are in arrear, quarter-day passes by, another quarter-day arrives: he can procure no more quarter for himself, and is summoned by—the parish. His goods are distrained, his children are crying with cold and hunger, and the very bed on which his sick wife is lying, is dragged from beneath her. What can he do? To whom is he to apply for relief? To private charity? To benevolent individuals? Certainly not—there is his parish. There are the parish vestry, the parish infirmary, the parish surgeon, the parish officers, the parish beadle—gentle, kind-hearted men. The woman dies—she is buried by the parish. The children have no protector—they are taken care of by the parish. The man first neglects, and afterwards cannot obtain, work—he is relieved by the parish; and when distress and drunkenness have done their work upon him, he is maintained, a harmless babbling idiot, in the parish asylum.

The tone of Passage One is more __________ than that of Passage Two. Which of the following words does NOT fit in the blank?

Possible Answers:

idyllic

sensuous

languorous

belligerent

florid

Correct answer:

belligerent

Explanation:

While Passage Two is at times descriptive, indignant, and imploring, Passage One maintains a tone that could be described as languorous (or loose and relaxed), idyllic (or peaceful), florid (ornate and detail-laden), or sensuous (full of sensory detail). The only word that wouldn’t describe the tone is "belligerent" (warlike and aggressive).

Example Question #1 : Comparing And Contrasting Language And Rhetoric In Paired Passages

Passage One

Adapted from The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1891)

The studio was filled with the rich odor of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden, there came through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn.

From the corner of the divan of Persian saddlebags on which he was lying, smoking, as was his custom, innumerable cigarettes, Lord Henry Wotton could just catch the gleam of the honey-sweet and honey-colored blossoms of a laburnum, whose tremulous branches seemed hardly able to bear the burden of a beauty so flame-like as theirs; and now and then the fantastic shadows of birds in flight flitted across the long tussore-silk curtains that were stretched in front of the huge window, making him think of those painters of Tokyo who, through the medium of an art that is necessarily immobile, seek to convey the sense of swiftness and motion. The sullen murmur of the bees shouldering their way through the long unmown grass, or circling with monotonous insistence round the dusty gilt horns of the straggling woodbine, seemed to make the stillness more oppressive. The dim roar of London was like the bourdon note of a distant organ.

In the center of the room, clamped to an upright easel, stood the full-length portrait of a young man of extraordinary personal beauty, and in front of it, some little distance away, was sitting the artist himself, Basil Hallward, whose sudden disappearance some years ago caused, at the time, such public excitement, and gave rise to so many strange conjectures.

 

Passage Two

Adapted from Sketches by Boz by Charles Dickens (1836)

How much is conveyed in those two short words—"The parish!" And with how many tales of distress and misery, of broken fortune and ruined hopes, too often of unrelieved wretchedness and successful knavery, are they associated! A poor man, with small earnings, and a large family, just manages to live on from hand to mouth, and to procure food from day to day; he has barely sufficient to satisfy the present cravings of nature, and can take no heed of the future. His taxes are in arrear, quarter-day passes by, another quarter-day arrives: he can procure no more quarter for himself, and is summoned by—the parish. His goods are distrained, his children are crying with cold and hunger, and the very bed on which his sick wife is lying, is dragged from beneath her. What can he do? To whom is he to apply for relief? To private charity? To benevolent individuals? Certainly not—there is his parish. There are the parish vestry, the parish infirmary, the parish surgeon, the parish officers, the parish beadle—gentle, kind-hearted men. The woman dies—she is buried by the parish. The children have no protector—they are taken care of by the parish. The man first neglects, and afterwards cannot obtain, work—he is relieved by the parish; and when distress and drunkenness have done their work upon him, he is maintained, a harmless babbling idiot, in the parish asylum.

Which of the following comparative statements is true?

Possible Answers:

Passage Two involves more elements of repetition than does Passage One.

The syntax of Passage Two is more varied than the syntax of Passage One.

Passage One intersperses short statements amongst longer sentences, but Passage Two does not.

Passage One uses rhetorical questions, but Passage Two does not.

Passage One primarily describes events that occur, whereas Passage Two is primarily physical description.

Correct answer:

The syntax of Passage Two is more varied than the syntax of Passage One.

Explanation:

The syntax, or sentence style, of Passage Two varies greatly, with short, blunt rhetorical questions interspersed among longer declarative sentences.

Example Question #1 : Analyzing Authorial Tone And Method In Paired Passages

Passage #1

Adapted from "On War" by James Boswell (1777)

When I saw workingmen engaged with grave assiduity in fashioning weapons of death, I was struck with wonder at the shortsightedness of human beings, who were soberly preparing the instruments of destruction of their own species. I have since found upon a closer study of man, that my wonder might have been spared. The views of most individuals are limited to their own happiness, and the workmen whom I beheld so busy in the arsenal of Venice saw nothing but what was good in the labor for which they received such wages as procured them the comforts of life. That their immediate satisfaction was not hindered by a view of the remote consequential and contingent evils for which they were responsible would not surprise one who has had seen too much of the world. We must have the telescope of philosophy to make us perceive distant ills; further, we know that there are individuals of our species to whom the immediate misery of others is nothing in comparison with their own advantage—for we know that in every age there have been found men very willing to perform the office of executioner.

 

Passage #2

Adapted from "What is Patriotism?" by Max Eastman (1915)

With proper recognition of the possible variation of individuals, we can say that patriotism is one of these unalterable facts of man's nature. A talent for fighting solidarity with a group is a part of the instinct of human beings. It is composed of two tendencies that are laid down in his nervous system when he is born called pugnacity and gregariousness, or group-loyalty. All men and most animals are pugnacious. They love to fight. Everybody loves to fight. Some people get all the fighting they want at the breakfast table, and other people have to carry it out in the law courts or the battlefield, where it makes more noise. [Theodore] Roosevelt loves to charge up San Juan Hill, and then he loves to prosecute for libel anybody that says he didn't charge up San Juan Hill. War people fight for war and peace people fight for peace. When Roosevelt calls the peace people mollycoddles and college sissies, I only want to walk up and smash him.

It is far better though that we should conquer our instinct to fight and put faith in reason. It may seem gigantic; but it is by no means a utopian undertaking to unite the whole world of nations in such a federation. For all the organic interests of men, except their sheer love of patriotic fighting itself, are against the perpetual recurrence of international war. War and the mere joy of existence are incompatible. War makes it impossible to live, and it makes it impossible even to die for a noble purpose. Let men but understand themselves, and the mechanism of their emotions by which they are brought into this perennial catastrophe, and they will be ready enough to take gigantic measures to prevent it.

Passage 2 is more __________ in tone and syntax than Passage 1.

Possible Answers:

Restrained

Inflexible 

Moderate

Informal

Correct answer:

Informal

Explanation:

The primary difference between Passage 2 and Passage 1 in terms of tone is that Passage 2 is more informal than Passage 1. Neither passage could rightly be called "restrained" or "moderate" given the strength of feeling each author displays. Similarly, both passages look back on the past as a part of an ongoing problem, and therefore would not be "nostalgic" in tone. Both passages are similarly "inflexible" because the authors clearly feel that flexibility on the topics that they are discussing is wrong. Passage 2 differentiates itself as more informal in the conclusion to its first paragraph when the author states, “When Roosevelt calls the peace people mollycoddles and college sissies, I only want to walk up and smash him.” This momentary shift to the first-person perspective, as well as the actual content of the sentence, is a good deal less formal than the language of the first passage.

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