SAT II Literature : Effect of Specified Text: Prose

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT II Literature

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Example Questions

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Example Question #11 : Effect Of Specified Text: Prose

“Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them.  This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!”

… The speaker, and the schoolmaster, and the third grown person present, all backed a little, and swept with their eyes the inclined plane of little vessels then and there arranged in order, ready to have imperial gallons of facts poured into them until they were full to the brim.

What is the author’s primary reason for capitalizing “Facts”?

Possible Answers:

To denote a specific kind of scientific fact

None of these

To emphasize their importance to the reader

To show that the speaker worships them

To provide clarity for the reader

Correct answer:

To show that the speaker worships them

Explanation:

Capitalizing “Facts” may emphasize their importance to the speaker but not to the reader, as the passage is clearly designed to criticize the speaker’s opinions. Capitalizing “Facts” shows that they are paramount in the speaker’s mind. (Consider the capitalization of deities’ names, for example.)

Passage adapted from Charles Dickens’s Hard Times (1854)

Example Question #202 : Overall Language Or Specific Words, Phrases, Or Sentences

1 Thirty years ago, Marseilles lay burning in the sun, one day.

2 A blazing sun upon a fierce August day was no greater rarity in southern France then, than at any other time, before or since. 3 Everything in Marseilles, and about Marseilles, had stared at the fervid sky, and been stared at in return, until a staring habit had become universal there. 4 Strangers were stared out of countenance by staring white houses, staring white walls, staring white streets, staring tracts of arid road, staring hills from which verdure was burnt away. 5 The only things to be seen not fixedly staring and glaring were the vines drooping under their load of grapes. 6 These did occasionally wink a little, as the hot air barely moved their faint leaves.

… 7 The churches were the freest from [the stare]. 8 To come out of the twilight of pillars and arches—dreamily dotted with winking lamps, dreamily peopled with ugly old shadows piously dozing, spitting, and begging—was to plunge into a fiery river, and swim for life to the nearest strip of shade. 9 So, with people lounging and lying wherever shade was, with but little hum of tongues or barking of dogs, with occasional jangling of discordant church bells and rattling of vicious drums, Marseilles, a fact to be strongly smelt and tasted, lay broiling in the sun one day.

What is the primary purpose of this passage?

Possible Answers:

To establish setting

To call into question a central tenet of the readers’ faith

To make the reader empathize with the characters

To provide contradictory tones

To showcase the author’s use of imagery

Correct answer:

To establish setting

Explanation:

The tone of the passage does not change or contradict itself, and the only characters here are nameless townspeople and strangers. While the passage does contain vivid imagery, that is not its only purpose. The passage is mainly establishing the details of the city in the midst of a summer heat wave: in other words, it is establishing setting.

Passage adapted from Charles Dickens’ Little Dorrit (1857)

Example Question #203 : Overall Language Or Specific Words, Phrases, Or Sentences

There are days which occur in this climate, at almost any season of the year, wherein the world reaches its perfection, when the air, the heavenly bodies, and the earth, make a harmony, as if nature would indulge her offspring; when, in these bleak upper sides of the planet, nothing is to desire that we have heard of the happiest latitudes, and we bask in the shining hours of Florida and Cuba; when everything that has life gives sign of satisfaction, and the cattle that lie on the ground seem to have great and tranquil thoughts. 2. These halcyons may be looked for with a little more assurance in that pure October weather, which we distinguish by the name of the Indian Summer.  3. The day, immeasurably long, sleeps over the broad hills and warm wide fields. 4. To have lived through all its sunny hours, seems longevity enough. 5. The solitary places do not seem quite lonely. 6. At the gates of the forest, the surprised man of the world is forced to leave his city estimates of great and small, wise and foolish. 7. The knapsack of custom falls off his back with the first step he makes into these precincts. 8. Here is sanctity which shames our religions, and reality which discredits our heroes. 9. Here we find nature to be the circumstance which dwarfs every other circumstance, and judges like a god all men that come to her. 10. We have crept out of our close and crowded houses into the night and morning, and we see what majestic beauties daily wrap us in their bosom. 11. How willingly we would escape the barriers which render them comparatively impotent, escape the sophistication and second thought, and suffer nature to intrance us. 12. The tempered light of the woods is like a perpetual morning, and is stimulating and heroic. 13. The anciently reported spells of these places creep on us. 14. The stems of pines, hemlocks, and oaks, almost gleam like iron on the excited eye. 15. The incommunicable trees begin to persuade us to live with them, and quit our life of solemn trifles. 16. Here no history, or church, or state, is interpolated on the divine sky and the immortal year. 17. How easily we might walk onward into the opening landscape, absorbed by new pictures, and by thoughts fast succeeding each other, until by degrees the recollection of home was crowded out of the mind, all memory obliterated by the tyranny of the present, and we were led in triumph by nature.

The author’s syntax suggests _________________.

Possible Answers:

profound loneliness

spacious periods of uninterrupted thought

a confused pathway through life

climbing a high mountain

the gradual dawning of awareness

Correct answer:

spacious periods of uninterrupted thought

Explanation:

The sentences in this passage are complex, with many comprising several clauses. They create a leisurely cadence that suggests that the author enjoys spacious periods of uninterrupted thought.

Though the author is talking about strong emotion, his syntax does not suggest urgency, confusion, or loneliness. His sentences do not "build" to a climax, but keep the same controlled tempo from beginning to end. This emphasizes his solitude in nature, and the freedom that it gives him to develop his ideas at leisure.

Passage adapted from Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Essay VI, Nature" (1836)

Example Question #204 : Overall Language Or Specific Words, Phrases, Or Sentences

All that day the heat was terrible. The wind blew close to the ground; it rooted among the tussock grass, slithered along the road, so that the white pumice dust swirled in our faces, settled and sifted over us and was like a dry-skin itching for growth on our bodies. The  horses stumbled along, coughing and chuffing. The pack horse was sick -- with a big open sore rubbed under the belly. Now and again she stopped short, threw back her head, looked at us as though she were going to cry, and whinnied. Hundreds of larks shrilled; the sky was slate colour, and the sound of the larks reminded me of slate pencils scraping over its surface. There was nothing to be seen but wave after wave of tussock grass, patched with purple orchids and manuka bushes covered with thick spider webs.  

Jo rode ahead. He wore a blue galatea shirt, corduroy trousers and riding boots. A white handkerchief, spotted with red -- it looked as though his nose had been bleeding on it -- was knotted round his throat. Wisps of white hair straggled from under his wideawake -- his moustache and eyebrows were called white -- he slouched in the saddle, grunting. Not once that day had he sung "I don't care, for don't you see, My wife' mother was in front  of me!... ” It was the first day we had been without it for a month, and now there seemed something uncanny in his silence. Hin rode beside me, white as a clown; his black eyes glittered, and he kept shooting out his tongue and moistening his lips. He was dressed in a Jaeger vest, and a pair of blue duck trousers, fastened round the waist with a plaited leather belt. We had hardly spoken since dawn. At noon we had lunched off fly biscuits and apricots by the side of a swampy creek.

(1912)

The narrator's comparison of the sky to slate and the larks to slate pencils emphasizes __________________.

Possible Answers:

The harsh sound of the birds' cries

The narrator's fear of open spaces 

The beauty of the birds' songs 

The narrator's fear of birds 

That a storm is imminent 

Correct answer:

The harsh sound of the birds' cries

Explanation:

The narrator compares the sky to slate and the birds to slate pencils, emphasizing the fact that the birds' cries are harsh, not beautiful, sort of like nails on a chalkboard. We know before this comparison that the narrator does not find the bird sounds pleasant, because of the line, "hundreds of larks shrilled." The use of the word "shrilled," rather than "sang" or "called" tells us that their sound is unpleasant. There is no evidence in the passage that the narrator fears birds or open spaces. Although we know that the characters are not traveling under blue skies, there is no direct reference to a storm. 

Passage adapted from Katherine Mansfield's "The Woman at the Store" (1912)

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