SAT II Literature : Grammar and Syntax: Prose

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT II Literature

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Example Questions

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Example Question #31 : Grammar And Syntax

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 type of sentences does this passage primarily contain?

Possible Answers:

Imperative

Paratactic

Telegraphic

Ekphrastic

Hypotactic

Correct answer:

Hypotactic

Explanation:

Hypotaxis or hypotactic sentences are ones in which clauses are subordinate to other clauses (e.g. “I am late because I overslept”), and these are the kind of sentences we have here. Don’t confuse this with paratactic sentences, ones in which short, simple clauses are placed beside each other without subordination (e.g. “I am late; I overslept”). Telegraphic sentences are sentences with five or fewer words, and imperative sentences are commands. Ekphrasis is a poetic technique that does not generally apply to prose.

Passage adapted from Charles Dickens’ Little Dorrit (1857)

Example Question #32 : Grammar And Syntax

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 pronoun “them” (sentence 11) refers to _____________.

Possible Answers:

night and morning

excessive thought

barriers

close and crowded houses

majestic beauties

Correct answer:

majestic beauties

Explanation:

In the previous sentence the author says, ". . . we see what majestic beauties daily wrap us in their bosom." Sentence 11 continues that thought, exclaiming how wonderful it would be to "escape the barriers which render them comparatively impotent" -- that is, to evade the mental obstacles that prevent him from experiencing the full power of nature's "majestic beauties."

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

Example Question #33 : Grammar And Syntax

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.

What is the direct object of the verb “forced” (sentence 6)?

Possible Answers:

The gates of the forest

The surprised man of the world

City estimates

To leave

Nature

Correct answer:

The surprised man of the world

Explanation:

Sentence 6 is a passive construction: i.e., a sentence with a transitive verb and a direct object, but no subject. It is the "surprised man of the world" who is being forced (by an unspecified agent).

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

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