SAT II Literature : Form, Structure, Grammar, and Syntax

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT II Literature

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Example Questions

Example Question #37 : Structure And Form: Poetry

1. Better to see your cheek grown hollow,
2. Better to see your temple worn,
3. Than to forget to follow, follow,
4. After the sound of a silver horn.

5. Better to bind your brow with willow
6. And follow, follow until you die,
7. Than to sleep with your head on a golden pillow,
8. Nor lift it up when the hunt goes by.

9. Better to see your cheek grow sallow
10. And your hair grown gray, so soon, so soon,
11. Than to forget to hallo, hallo,
12. After the milk-white hounds of the moon.

“Sleep with your head on a golden pillow” is contrasted with _________________.

Possible Answers:

Bind your brow with willow

See your cheek grow sallow

See your temple worn

Follow after the sound of a silver horn

Nor lift it up when the hunt goes by

Correct answer:

Bind your brow with willow

Explanation:

The second stanza contains two comparisons:

1.  “Bind your brow with willow” vs. “Sleep with your head on a golden pillow”, and

2.  “follow, follow until you die” vs. “Nor lift it up when the hunt goes by.”

The author is saying that you can choose either to bind your brow with willow (i.e., live with grief and suffering) while remaining open to intense life experience, or you can choose to live in comfort and material luxury while remaining inwardly asleep — that is, oblivious to the heights and depths of passion.

Passage adapted from Eleanor Wylie's "A Madman's Song" (1921)

Example Question #38 : Structure And Form: Poetry

1. Better to see your cheek grown hollow,
2. Better to see your temple worn,
3. Than to forget to follow, follow,
4. After the sound of a silver horn.

5. Better to bind your brow with willow
6. And follow, follow until you die,
7. Than to sleep with your head on a golden pillow,
8. Nor lift it up when the hunt goes by.

9. Better to see your cheek grow sallow
10. And your hair grown gray, so soon, so soon,
11. Than to forget to hallo, hallo,
12. After the milk-white hounds of the moon.

The poem is comprised of ___________.

I.   3 quatrains
II.  3 stanzas
III. 6 couplets

Possible Answers:

II only

I only

I and III only

I, II, and III

I and II only

Correct answer:

I and II only

Explanation:

A stanza is a set of lines grouped together in a poem. Quatrains are stanzas with four lines, and sestets are stanzas with 6 lines. (We usually associate sestets with Italian sonnets.) Couplets are pairs of successive rhyming lines. This poem comprises 6 stanzas which are also quatrains. It contains no sestets or couplets.

Passage adapted from Eleanor Wylie's "A Madman's Song" (1921)

Example Question #1 : Structure And Form: Prose

Passage adapted from Cape Cod by Henry David Thoreau (1865) 

Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Charleston, New Orleans, and the rest, are the names of wharves projecting into the sea (surrounded by the shops and dwellings of the merchants), good places to take in and to discharge a cargo (to land the products of other climes and load the exports of our own). I see a great many barrels and fig-drums, piles of wood for umbrella-sticks, blocks of granite and ice, great heaps of goods, and the means of packing and conveying them, much wrapping-paper and twine, many crates and hogsheads and trucks, and that is Boston. The more barrels, the more Boston. The museums and scientific societies and libraries are accidental. They gather around the sands to save carting. The wharf-rats and customhouse officers, and broken-down poets, seeking a fortune amid the barrels. Their better or worse lyceums, and preachings, and doctorings, these, too, are accidental, and the malls of commons are always small potatoes....

When we reached Boston that October, I had a gill of Provincetown sand in my shoes, and at Concord there was still enough left to sand my pages for many a day; and I seemed to hear the sea roar, as if I lived in a shell, for a week afterward.

The places which I have described may seem strange and remote to my townsmen, indeed, from Boston to Provincetown is twice as far as from England to France; yet step into the cars, and in six hours you may stand on those four planks, and see the Cape which Gosnold is said to have discovered, and which I have so poorly described. If you had started when I first advised you, you might have seen our tracks in the sand, still fresh, and reaching all the way from the Nauset Lights to Race Point, some thirty miles, for at every step we made an impression on the Cape, though we were not aware of it, and though our account may have made no impression on your minds. But what is our account? In it there is no roar, no beach-birds, no tow-cloth.

Which of the following best describes the author's rhetorical strategy in the underlined section?

Possible Answers:

He implies that the best way to experience Provincetown is through the written word

He plays upon the reader's prejudice against Boston

He implies that the written word is inadequate to describe Provincetown

He implies that Provincetown does not make a lasting impression

He implies that Provincetown is impossible to understand

Correct answer:

He implies that the written word is inadequate to describe Provincetown

Explanation:

This question asks you to analyze the rhetorical devices the author uses to express his argument. When the author states "But what is our account? In it there is no roar, no beach-birds, no tow-cloth" he is questioning the effectiveness of any written description of Provincetown. Although he has described these factors in an attempt to give the reader an impression of the town, he suggests that simply reading about it is not the same as being there since the reader will not truly experience the sounds and sights.

Example Question #14 : Comparisons And Contrasts

From The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane (1875)

After complicated journeyings with many pauses, there had come months of monotonous life in a camp. He had had the belief that real war was a series of death struggles with small time in between for sleep and meals; but since his regiment had come to the field the army had done little but sit still and try to keep warm.

He was brought then gradually back to his old ideas. Greek-like struggles would be no more. Men were better, or more timid. Secular and religious education had effaced the throat-grappling instinct, or else firm finance held in check the passions.

He had grown to regard himself merely as a part of a vast blue demonstration. His province was to look out, as far as he could, for his personal comfort. For recreation he could twiddle his thumbs and speculate on the thoughts which must agitate the minds of the generals. Also, he was drilled and drilled and reviewed, and drilled and drilled and reviewed.

The only foes he had seen were some pickets along the river bank. They were a sun-tanned, philosophical lot, who sometimes shot reflectively at the blue pickets. When reproached for this afterward, they usually expressed sorrow, and swore by their gods that the guns had exploded without their permission. The youth, on guard duty one night, conversed across the stream with one of them. He was a slightly ragged man, who spat skillfully between his shoes and possessed a great fund of bland and infantile assurance. The youth liked him personally.

"Yank," the other had informed him, "yer a right dum good feller." This sentiment, floating to him upon the still air, had made him temporarily regret war.

Various veterans had told him tales. Some talked of gray, bewhiskered hordes who were advancing with relentless curses and chewing tobacco with unspeakable valor; tremendous bodies of fierce soldiery who were sweeping along like the Huns. Others spoke of tattered and eternally hungry men who fired despondent powders. "They'll charge through hell's fire an' brimstone t' git a holt on a haversack, an' sech stomachs ain't a'lastin' long," he was told. From the stories, the youth imagined the red, live bones sticking out through slits in the faded uniforms.

Still, he could not put a whole faith in veteran's tales, for recruits were their prey. They talked much of smoke, fire, and blood, but he could not tell how much might be lies. They persistently yelled "Fresh fish!" at him, and were in no wise to be trusted.

However, he perceived now that it did not greatly matter what kind of soldiers he was going to fight, so long as they fought, which fact no one disputed. There was a more serious problem. He lay in his bunk pondering upon it. He tried to mathematically prove to himself that he would not run from a battle.

Previously he had never felt obliged to wrestle too seriously with this question. In his life he had taken certain things for granted, never challenging his belief in ultimate success, and bothering little about means and roads. But here he was confronted with a thing of moment. It had suddenly appeared to him that perhaps in a battle he might run. He was forced to admit that as far as war was concerned he knew nothing of himself.

A sufficient time before he would have allowed the problem to kick its heels at the outer portals of his mind, but now he felt compelled to give serious attention to it.

What two things are being contrasted in the underlined selection?

Possible Answers:

Bravery and fear

Certainty and self-doubt

Bravery and cowardice

Questioning and perplexity

Joy and pain

Correct answer:

Certainty and self-doubt

Explanation:

Though the question of bravery and cowardice factor highly in the self-consideration expressed in this selection, they are not the primary contrast. Instead, the two things being contrasted are (1) the character's former certainty about himself and (2) his new-found awareness that—in war, at least—he knew little about himself.

Example Question #2 : Structure And Form: Prose

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)

There is a shift between the first and second paragraph from __________________.

Possible Answers:

A description of setting to a description of characters

One character's point-of-view to another character's point-of-view

Metaphorical to literal descriptions 

Third-person narration to first-person narration 

A negative tone to a positive tone 

Correct answer:

A description of setting to a description of characters

Explanation:

The first paragraph deals primarily with setting. We don't learn any details about the characters until the second paragraph, in which the narrator switches focus from describing her surroundings to describing the people she is with. There is no indication that the narrator has changed between the two paragraphs and both paragraphs are narrated in first-person. Both paragraphs contain mostly literal, rather than metaphorical, descriptions and there is no significant shift in tone.

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

Example Question #1 : Structure And Form: Drama

MEPHISTOPHELES: Tut, Faustus,

Marriage is but a ceremonial toy;

And if thou lovest me, think no more of it.        

I’ll cull thee out the fairest courtesans,

And bring them every morning to thy bed;(5)

She whom thine eye shall like, thy heart shall have,

Be she as chaste as was Penelope,

As wise as Saba, or as beautiful        

As was bright Lucifer before his fall.

Here, take this book peruse it thoroughly:  [Gives a book.] (10)

The iterating of these lines brings gold;

The framing of this circle on the ground

Brings whirlwinds, tempests, thunder and lightning;

Pronounce this thrice devoutly to thyself…

(1592)

This passage is an example of what literary form?

Possible Answers:

Epistolary poem

Petrarchan sonnet 

Eclogue

Soliloquy

Monologue

Correct answer:

Monologue

Explanation:

Here, we have to be careful to distinguish between a monologue and a soliloquy. The former is an extended speech given when other characters are on stage, and the latter is an extended speech given when no other characters are on stage (or when the speaker thinks there are no other characters on stage). Based on the fact that the speaker here is addressing someone directly, we can deduce that this passage is a monologue.

Passage adapted from Christopher Marlowe’s The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus (1592)

Example Question #81 : Form, Structure, Grammar, And Syntax

HENRY V: And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,

From this day to the ending of the world,

But we in it shall be remember'd;

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he today that sheds his blood with me   (5)

Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,

This day shall gentle his condition:

And gentlemen in England now a-bed

Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,

And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks   (10)

That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

(1600)

This passage is an example of what dramatic form?

Possible Answers:

Deus Ex Machina

Monologue

Aside

Dramatis personae

Soliloquy

Correct answer:

Monologue

Explanation:

In this passage, King Henry V addresses a large group of soldiers. Because the extended speech is thus presented in front of others, it is a monologue and not a soliloquy. An aside, on the other hand, is a lengthy speech delivered to or for the benefit of the audience and not the other characters. A dramatis personae is a list of characters at the beginning of a play. Deus ex machina is the use of a contrived plot device or outside power to solve a problem in a story, novel, or play (e.g. Shakespeare’s use of pirates in Hamlet).

Passage adapted from William Shakespeare’s Henry V (1600)

Example Question #1 : Structure And Form: Drama

KING LEAR: Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!

You cataracts and hurricanes, spout

Till you have drench'd our steeples, drown'd the cocks! 

You sulph'rous and thought-executing fires,

Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,   (5)

Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,

Strike flat the thick rotundity o' th' world,

Crack Nature's moulds, all germains spill at once, 

That makes ingrateful man!

(1606)

What is this passage’s poetic meter?

Possible Answers:

Heroic couplets

Blank verse

Dactylic hexameter

Hendecasyllabics

Free verse

Correct answer:

Free verse

Explanation:

Unlike much of Shakespeare’s work, which is typically in iambic pentameter, this poem does not have a fixed meter. It also does not have a fixed rhyme scheme. This makes it an example of free verse.

Passage adapted from William Shakespeare’s King Lear (1606)

Example Question #1 : Syntax And Structure Of Excerpts

Adapted from Coriolanus by William Shakespeare (III.iii.152-167)

 

You common cry of curs! whose breath I hate

As reek o' the rotten fens, whose loves I prize

As the dead carcasses of unburied men

That do corrupt my air, I banish you;

And here remain with your uncertainty!

Let every feeble rumor shake your hearts!

Your enemies, with nodding of their plumes,

Fan you into despair! Have the power still

To banish your defenders; till at length

Your ignorance, which finds not till it feels,

Making not reservations of yourselves,

Still your own foes, deliver you as most 

Abated captives to some nation

That won you without blows! Despising,

For you, the city, thus I turn my back:

There is a world elsewhere.

The syntax and punctuation of the highlighted lines __________.

Possible Answers:

emphasize the speaker's anger through the use directives and exclamation points

emphasize the speaker's desperation to stay in the city through the use of exclamation points

suggest that the listeners are confused about what to do with the speaker

imply that speaker is the one who is uncertain and fearful

suggest that the speaker is unreliable

Correct answer:

emphasize the speaker's anger through the use directives and exclamation points

Explanation:

The highlighted lines emphasize the speaker's anger through the use of exclamation points (for emphasis) and mean-spirited directives to those listening to him. The use of these directives, combined with the exclamation points, gives the sense that the speaker is shouting angrily at his listeners.

He does not seem uncertain, nor does he seem desperate to stay, as he is wishing ill on those who will. There is nothing in the highlighted lines to directly suggest that he is unreliable or that he is the one who is uncertain and fearful.

Example Question #1 : Structure And Form: Drama

TROILUS: Peace, you ungracious clamours! peace, rude sounds!

Fools on both sides! Helen must needs be fair,

When with your blood you daily paint her thus.

I cannot fight upon this argument;

It is too starved a subject for my sword.    (5)

What is the meter of the majority of this passage?

Possible Answers:

None of these choices

Iambic tetrameter

Blank verse

Trochaic pentameter

Dactylic hexameter

Correct answer:

Blank verse

Explanation:

This passage is mostly written in iambic pentameter: a pattern of five pairs of unstressed-stressed syllables.

Passage adapted from William Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida (1602).

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