SAT II Literature : Effect of Specified Text

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT II Literature

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Example Questions

Example Question #81 : Ap English Literature And Composition

Passage adapted from “Reconstruction” by Frederick Douglass (1866)

Without attempting to settle here the metaphysical and somewhat theological question (about which so much has already been said and written), whether once in the Union means always in the Union—agreeably to the formula, “Once in grace always in grace”—it is obvious to common sense that the rebellious States stand today, in point of law, precisely where they stood when, exhausted, beaten, conquered, they fell powerless at the feet of Federal authority. Their State governments were overthrown, and the lives and property of the leaders of the Rebellion were forfeited. In reconstructing the institutions of these shattered and overthrown States, Congress should begin with a clean slate, and make clean work of it.

Let there be no hesitation. It would be a cowardly deference to a defeated and treacherous President, if any account were made of the illegitimate, one-sided, sham governments hurried into existence for a malign purpose in the absence of Congress. These pretended governments, which were never submitted to the people, and from participation in which four millions of the loyal people were excluded by Presidential order, should now be treated according to their true character, as shams and impositions, and supplanted by true and legitimate governments, in the formation of which loyal men, black and white, shall participate.

It is not, however, within the scope of this paper to point out the precise steps to be taken, and the means to be employed. The people are less concerned about these than the grand end to be attained. They demand such a reconstruction as shall put an end to the present anarchical state of things in the late rebellious States—where frightful murders and wholesale massacres are perpetrated in the very presence of Federal soldiers. This horrible business they require shall cease. They want a reconstruction such as will protect loyal men, black and white, in their persons and property; such a one as will cause Northern industry, Northern capital, and Northern civilization to flow into the South, and make a man from New England as much at home in Carolina as elsewhere in the Republic. No Chinese wall can now be tolerated. The South must be opened to the light of law and liberty, and this session of Congress is relied upon to accomplish this important work.

What is the purpose of the expression, "Once in grace always in grace"?

Possible Answers:

To provide some explanation for Douglass's mention of theological matters

To provide a theory of grace and redemption for the reader

To express a colloquial way of understanding the problem of reconstruction after the American Civil War

To introduce the theme of grace and redemption into the narrative

To soften the biases of the reader by appealing to the joyful notion of grace

Correct answer:

To provide some explanation for Douglass's mention of theological matters

Explanation:

At the beginning of the passage, Douglass sets aside the more philosophical and "somewhat theological" problems that might be involved in a detailed discussion of reconstruction after the American Civil War. The expression in question is related to Christian notions of salvation. Thus, he is paralleling the political issue expressed as, "Once in the Union means always in the Union," with this more theological notion, namely, "Once in grace always in grace." Of course, given his stated desires, he does not wish to go into the details of this parallel here.

Example Question #81 : Interpreting Words

From The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane (1895)

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 is the effect of the language used by the character in the underlined selection?

Possible Answers:

To show the informality of friends in times of war

To show how unintelligent the soldiers are

To exemplify an aspect of the soldiers' culture

To express the biases of the South during the American Civil War

To express Northern biases about the South during the American Civil War

Correct answer:

To exemplify an aspect of the soldiers' culture

Explanation:

The strange transcription of the discussion is the author's attempt to express the phonetics of the soldiers. This requires him to avoid using standard spellings. While we could infer that the soldiers are perhaps not too intelligent, the author's primary purpose here is to capture and express the sound of the speaker's talking.

Example Question #21 : Word Choice And Effect

Adapted from A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift (1729)

The number of souls in this kingdom being usually reckoned one million and a half, of these I calculate there may be about two hundred thousand couple whose wives are breeders; from which number I subtract thirty thousand couples who are able to maintain their own children, although I apprehend there cannot be so many, under the present distresses of the kingdom; but this being granted, there will remain an hundred and seventy thousand breeders. I again subtract fifty thousand for those women who miscarry, or whose children die by accident or disease within the year. There only remains one hundred and twenty thousand children of poor parents annually born. The question therefore is, how this number shall be reared and provided for, which, as I have already said, under the present situation of affairs, is utterly impossible by all the methods hitherto proposed. For we can neither employ them in handicraft or agriculture; we neither build houses (I mean in the country) nor cultivate land: they can very seldom pick up a livelihood by stealing, till they arrive at six years old, except where they are of towardly parts, although I confess they learn the rudiments much earlier, during which time, they can however be properly looked upon only as probationers, as I have been informed by a principal gentleman in the county of Cavan, who protested to me that he never knew above one or two instances under the age of six, even in a part of the kingdom so renowned for the quickest proficiency in that art.

I am assured by our merchants, that a boy or a girl before twelve years old is no salable commodity; and even when they come to this age they will not yield above three pounds, or three pounds and half-a-crown at most on the exchange; which cannot turn to account either to the parents or kingdom, the charge of nutriment and rags having been at least four times that value.

I shall now therefore humbly propose my own thoughts, which I hope will not be liable to the least objection.

I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout.

I do therefore humbly offer it to public consideration that of the hundred and twenty thousand children already computed, twenty thousand may be reserved for breed, whereof only one-fourth part to be males; which is more than we allow to sheep, black cattle or swine; and my reason is, that these children are seldom the fruits of marriage, a circumstance not much regarded by our savages, therefore one male will be sufficient to serve four females. That the remaining hundred thousand may, at a year old, be offered in the sale to the persons of quality and fortune through the kingdom; always advising the mother to let them suck plentifully in the last month, so as to render them plump and fat for a good table. A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends; and when the family dines alone, the fore or hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter.

I have reckoned upon a medium that a child just born will weigh 12 pounds, and in a solar year, if tolerably nursed, increaseth to 28 pounds.

I grant this food will be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for landlords, who, as they have already devoured most of the parents, seem to have the best title to the children.

What is the denotation of "title" as used in the last sentence?

Possible Answers:

The name of a book

A person's name

Someone's position or job

A right or claim to the ownership or property

A magazine considered as a publication

Correct answer:

A right or claim to the ownership or property

Explanation:

"Title," as used in the last sentence, is best understood in a legal sense as referring to a right or claim to the ownership or property. For example, one has the "title" on one's car. Specifically, the landlords have the claim to the children for purposes of consumption. 

Example Question #1 : Passage Organization And Order

Adapted from A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift (1729)

The number of souls in this kingdom being usually reckoned one million and a half, of these I calculate there may be about two hundred thousand couple whose wives are breeders; from which number I subtract thirty thousand couples who are able to maintain their own children, although I apprehend there cannot be so many, under the present distresses of the kingdom; but this being granted, there will remain an hundred and seventy thousand breeders. I again subtract fifty thousand for those women who miscarry, or whose children die by accident or disease within the year. There only remains one hundred and twenty thousand children of poor parents annually born. The question therefore is, how this number shall be reared and provided for, which, as I have already said, under the present situation of affairs, is utterly impossible by all the methods hitherto proposed. For we can neither employ them in handicraft or agriculture; we neither build houses (I mean in the country) nor cultivate land: they can very seldom pick up a livelihood by stealing, till they arrive at six years old, except where they are of towardly parts, although I confess they learn the rudiments much earlier, during which time, they can however be properly looked upon only as probationers, as I have been informed by a principal gentleman in the county of Cavan, who protested to me that he never knew above one or two instances under the age of six, even in a part of the kingdom so renowned for the quickest proficiency in that art.

I am assured by our merchants, that a boy or a girl before twelve years old is no salable commodity; and even when they come to this age they will not yield above three pounds, or three pounds and half-a-crown at most on the exchange; which cannot turn to account either to the parents or kingdom, the charge of nutriment and rags having been at least four times that value.

I shall now therefore humbly propose my own thoughts, which I hope will not be liable to the least objection.

I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout.

I do therefore humbly offer it to public consideration that of the hundred and twenty thousand children already computed, twenty thousand may be reserved for breed, whereof only one-fourth part to be males; which is more than we allow to sheep, black cattle or swine; and my reason is, that these children are seldom the fruits of marriage, a circumstance not much regarded by our savages, therefore one male will be sufficient to serve four females. That the remaining hundred thousand may, at a year old, be offered in the sale to the persons of quality and fortune through the kingdom; always advising the mother to let them suck plentifully in the last month, so as to render them plump and fat for a good table. A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends; and when the family dines alone, the fore or hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter.

I have reckoned upon a medium that a child just born will weigh 12 pounds, and in a solar year, if tolerably nursed, increaseth to 28 pounds.

I grant this food will be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for landlords, who, as they have already devoured most of the parents, seem to have the best title to the children.

Which of the following best describes the function of the last sentence of the passage?

Possible Answers:

A contrasting viewpoint

A sincere underscoring of the author's plea for action.

A sudden shift in tone.

Sarcastically underscoring the article's overall satirical point, and more acutely directing the ire towards the author's satirical target.

An antithetical statement

Correct answer:

Sarcastically underscoring the article's overall satirical point, and more acutely directing the ire towards the author's satirical target.

Explanation:

The last sentence sarcastically underscores the passage's overall point, as well as making more clearly directing the essay's criticism towards landlords, specifically. The use of "devoured" effectively makes clear, even through the sarcasm of the rest of the passage, that the author's target is not babies, but the landlords that he feels have facilitated the deprivation and poverty in his country.

Example Question #1 : Effect Of Specified Text: Prose

The fundamental source of all your errors, sophisms, and false reasonings, is a total ignorance of the natural rights of mankind. Were you once to become acquainted with these, you could never entertain a thought, that all men are not, by nature, entitled to a parity of privileges. You would be convinced that natural liberty is a gift of the beneficent Creator to the whole human race, and that civil liberty is founded in that, and cannot be wrested from any people without the most manifest violation of justice. Civil liberty is only natural liberty, modified and secured by the sanctions of civil society. It is not a thing, in its own nature, precarious and dependent on human will and caprice, but it is conformable to the constitution of man, as well as necessary to the well-being of society.

....

Thus Sir, I have taken a pretty general survey of the American Charters; and proved to the satisfaction of every unbiassed person, that they are intirely, discordant with that sovereignty of parliament, for which you are an advocate. The disingenuity of your extracts (to give it no harsher name) merits the severest censure; and will no doubt serve to discredit all your former, as well as future labours, in your favourite cause of despotism.

It is true, that New-York has no Charter. But, if it could support it’s claim to liberty in no other way, it might, with justice, plead the common principles of colonization: for, it would be unreasonable, to seclude one colony, from the enjoyment of the most important privileges of the rest. There is no need, however, of this plea: The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for, among old parchments, or musty records. They are written, as with a sun beam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.

 

(1775)

In which of the following phrases from the passage is the tone sarcastic?

Possible Answers:

"as with a sun beam"

"errors, sophisms, and false reasonings"

"Were you once to become acquainted with these"

"have taken a pretty general survey"

"in your favourite cause of despotism"

Correct answer:

"in your favourite cause of despotism"

Explanation:

Sarcasm is a tone that consists of a disdainful or insulting attack on someone else. It is stronger than irony, and more harsh than mere humor. While the tone of this passage is critical throughout, the only one of the answers that is actually hostile enough to be called sarcasm is "in your favourite cause of despotism." No one would readily admit that despotism was a "favourite cause" of theirs, so this accusation, made casually and disdainfully, is a good example of sarcasm.

Passage adapted from Alexander Hamilton's The Farmer Refuted (1775).

Example Question #31 : Effect Of Specified Text

“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 emphasize their importance to the reader

To provide clarity for the reader

To show that the speaker worships them

To denote a specific kind of scientific fact

None of these

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 #32 : Effect Of Specified Text

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 make the reader empathize with the characters

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

To showcase the author’s use of imagery

To provide contradictory tones

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 #13 : Effect Of Specified Text: Prose

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:

climbing a high mountain

spacious periods of uninterrupted thought

a confused pathway through life

profound loneliness

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 #33 : Effect Of Specified Text

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 narrator's fear of open spaces 

That a storm is imminent 

The harsh sound of the birds' cries

The narrator's fear of birds 

The beauty of the birds' songs 

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)

Example Question #34 : Effect Of Specified Text

And when, after a long while, this storm had passed, the maid was seen; and she cried aloud with the sharp cry of a bird in its bitterness,-even as when, within the empty nest, it sees the bed stripped of its nestlings. So she also, when she saw the corpse bare, lifted up a voice of wailing, and called down curses on the doers of that deed.

(Fifth century BCE)

In the passage, the author uses a submerged simile to compare the maid to a suffering bird in order to __________.

Possible Answers:

help describe the girl's fear of death

help describe the girl's regret that all her work had amounted to nothing

help describe the girl's dismay at the destruction of nature

help describe the maid's anguish upon returning to find her work undone

help describe the girl's surprise at not being able to save the life of a loved one

Correct answer:

help describe the maid's anguish upon returning to find her work undone

Explanation:

The bird is "crying bitterly" at returning to its nest to find it stripped, just as the maid is upset at returning to find the bare corpse (her work undone).

(Adapted from the R. C. Jebb translation of Antigone by Sophocles 462-469, Fifth century BCE)

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