SSAT Middle Level Reading : Determining Authorial Purpose in Poetry Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SSAT Middle Level Reading

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store

Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Poetry Passages

Adapted from "No Harm Meant" in Chatterbox Periodical edited by J. Erskine Clark (1906)

Two puppies with good-natured hearts, but clumsy little toes,
Were feeling rather sleepy, so they settled for a doze;
But underneath the very ledge on which they chanced to be,
A large and stately pussy cat was basking dreamily.

A short half-hour had hardly passed, when one pup made a stir,
And stretching out a lazy paw, just touched the tabby's fur;
'Twas nothing but an accident, yet, oh! the angry wail!
The flashing in the tabby's eye, the lashing of her tail!

"Who's that that dares to serve me so?" she cried with arching back.
"I'll teach you puppies how to make an unprovoked attack!"
One puppy started to his feet with terror in his eyes,
The other said, as soon as pluck had overcome surprise:

"I'm really very sorry, ma'am, but honestly declare
I hadn't any notion that a pussy cat was there."
But just like those who look for wrong in every one they see,
She left the spot, nor deigned to take the pup's apology.

“The flashing in the tabby’s eye” demonstrates __________.

Possible Answers:

the cat’s relaxed belief that it was probably an accident

the cat’s good-humor during the uncomfortable situation

the dogs' fear at the anger of the cat

the author’s belief in the aggressive nature of cats

the cat’s anger at having suffered an affront 

Correct answer:

the cat’s anger at having suffered an affront 


In context, “the flashing in the tabby’s eye” occurs shortly after she is “attacked." This part of the poem is surrounded by other descriptions of her anger, so it makes sense that it is meant to be an example of the “cat’s anger at having been attacked.” A “flashing in the eye” is an English idiom that means a look of anger or real meaning that can be seen in someone’s eyes. To provide further help, “suffered an affront” means been attacked or been insulted.

Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors