SSAT Middle Level Reading : Literary Fiction Passages

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

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Example Questions

Example Question #2 : Main Idea, Details, Opinions, And Arguments In Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from "The Three Musketeers" in Volume Sixteen of The Romances of Alexandre Dumas (1844; 1893 ed.)

As they rode along, the duke endeavored to draw from d'Artagnan not all that had happened, but what d'Artagnan himself knew. By adding all that he heard from the mouth of the young man to his own remembrances, he was enabled to form a pretty exact idea of a position of the seriousness of which, for the rest, the queen's letter, short but explicit, gave him the clue. But that which astonished him most was that the cardinal, so deeply interested in preventing this young man from setting his foot in England, had not succeeded in arresting him on the road. It was then, upon the manifestation of this astonishment, that d'Artagnan related to him the precaution taken, and how, thanks to the devotion of his three friends, whom he had left scattered and bleeding on the road, he had succeeded in coming off with a single sword thrust, which had pierced the queen's letter and for which he had repaid Monsieur de Wardes with such terrible coin. While he was listening to this recital, delivered with the greatest simplicity, the duke looked from time to time at the young man with astonishment, as if he could not comprehend how so much prudence, courage, and devotedness could be allied with a countenance which indicated not more than twenty years.

The horses went like the wind, and in a few minutes they were at the gates of London. D'Artagnan imagined that on arriving in town the duke would slacken his pace, but it was not so. He kept on his way at the same rate, heedless about upsetting those whom he met on the road. In fact, in crossing the city two or three accidents of this kind happened; but Buckingham did not even turn his head to see what became of those he had knocked down. D'Artagnan followed him amid cries which strongly resembled curses.

On entering the court of his hotel, Buckingham sprang from his horse, and without thinking what became of the animal, threw the bridle on his neck, and sprang toward the vestibule. D'Artagnan did the same, with a little more concern, however, for the noble creatures, whose merits he fully appreciated; but he had the satisfaction of seeing three or four grooms run from the kitchens and the stables, and busy themselves with the steeds.

Which of the following best summarizes the passage?

Possible Answers:

D'Artagnan manages to travel to London despite the cardinal attempting to stop him.

The duke speaks with d'Artagnan about previous events and his experiences on the road, and then the two of them rush to the duke's hotel in London.

D'Artagnan and his friends get into a fight on the road.

By speaking with d'Artagnan, the duke learns more details about the situation described in the queen's letter.

The duke meets d'Artagnan. 

Correct answer:

The duke speaks with d'Artagnan about previous events and his experiences on the road, and then the two of them rush to the duke's hotel in London.

Explanation:

Picking out the best summary of a passage requires you to have a sense for which ideas in the passage are most important and which are simply details, as well as an appropriate level of specificity in the summary. "The duke meets d'Artagnan" is far too general and only describes actions that take place in the first paragraph, so it cannot be the correct answer. "D'Artagnan and his friends get into a fight on the road" describes not events that occur in the passage, but events which are discussed in the passage, and it also only describes part of the passage's first paragraph; it can't be the correct answer either. "By speaking with d'Artagnan, the duke learns more details about the situation described in the queen's letter" is a good description of the first paragraph, but other significant events happen later in the passage which aren't mentioned in the summary sentence, so it can't be the correct answer. Two answer choices remain: "D'Artagnan manages to travel to London despite the cardinal attempting to stop him" and "The duke speaks with d'Artagnan about previous events and his experiences on the road, and then the two of them rush to the duke's hotel in London." The latter of these two is the better answer because Buckingham, the Duke, plays a major role in the passage, and the former answer choice doesn't mention Buckingham at all, while the latter does. So, the correct answer is "The duke speaks with d'Artagnan about previous events and his experiences on the road, and then the two of them rush to the duke's hotel in London." This answer choice describes events that take place in each of the passage's paragraphs at an appropriate level of detail.

Example Question #3 : Main Idea, Details, Opinions, And Arguments In Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (1876)

Within two minutes, or even less, he had forgotten all his troubles. Not because his troubles were one whit less heavy and bitter to him than a man's are to a man, but because a new and powerful interest bore them down and drove them out of his mind for the time—just as men's misfortunes are forgotten in the excitement of new enterprises. This new interest was a valued novelty in whistling, which he had just acquired, and he was suffering to practice it undisturbed. It consisted in a peculiar bird-like turn, a sort of liquid warble, produced by touching the tongue to the roof of the mouth at short intervals in the midst of the music—the reader probably remembers how to do it, if he has ever been a boy. Diligence and attention soon gave him the knack of it, and he strode down the street with his mouth full of harmony and his soul full of gratitude. He felt much as an astronomer feels who has discovered a new planet—no doubt, as far as strong, deep, unalloyed pleasure is concerned, the advantage was with the boy, not the astronomer.

The summer evenings were long. It was not dark, yet. Presently Tom checked his whistle. A stranger was before him—a boy a shade larger than himself. A newcomer of any age or either sex was an impressive curiosity in the poor little shabby village of St. Petersburg. This boy was well-dressed, too—well-dressed on a weekday. This was simply astounding. His cap was a dainty thing, his close-buttoned blue cloth roundabout was new and natty, and so were his pantaloons. He had shoes on—and it was only Friday. He even wore a necktie, a bright bit of ribbon. He had a citified air about him that ate into Tom's vitals. The more Tom stared at the splendid marvel, the higher he turned up his nose at his finery and the shabbier and shabbier his own outfit seemed to him to grow. Neither boy spoke. If one moved, the other moved—but only sidewise, in a circle; they kept face to face and eye to eye all the time.

What is going on in the final sentences of this passage?

Possible Answers:

Tom and the other boy are making fun of each other.

Tom is realizing that the other boy is his cousin.

The other boy is getting ready to run away from Tom.

Tom and the other boy are sizing each other up.

Tom is attempting to walk around the other boy and ignore him.

Correct answer:

Tom and the other boy are sizing each other up.

Explanation:

In the passage's second paragraph, we are told, "The more Tom stared at the splendid marvel, the higher he turned up his nose at his finery and the shabbier and shabbier his own outfit seemed to him to grow. Neither boy spoke. If one moved, the other moved—but only sidewise, in a circle; they kept face to face and eye to eye all the time." Based on this description, we can tell that Tom and the other boy are sizing each other up—that is, making judgments about each other based on first impressions and appearances.

Example Question #2 : Ideas In Literature Passages

Adapted from Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll (1871)

One thing was certain, that the white kitten had had nothing to do with it—it was the black kitten's fault entirely. For the white kitten had been having its face washed by the old cat for the last quarter of an hour (and bearing it pretty well, considering); so you see that it COULDN'T have had any hand in the mischief.

The way Dinah washed her children's faces was this: first she held the poor thing down by its ear with one paw, and then with the other paw she rubbed its face all over, the wrong way, beginning at the nose: and just now, as I said, she was hard at work on the white kitten, which was lying quite still and trying to purr—no doubt feeling that it was all meant for its good.

But the black kitten had been finished with earlier in the afternoon, and so, while Alice was sitting curled up in a corner of the great arm-chair, half talking to herself and half asleep, the kitten had been having a grand game of romps with the ball of worsted Alice had been trying to wind up, and had been rolling it up and down till it had all come undone again; and there it was, spread over the hearth-rug, all knots and tangles, with the kitten running after its own tail in the middle.

'Oh, you wicked little thing!' cried Alice, catching up the kitten, and giving it a little kiss to make it understand that it was in disgrace. 'Really, Dinah ought to have taught you better manners! You OUGHT, Dinah, you know you ought!' she added, looking reproachfully at the old cat, and speaking in as cross a voice as she could manage—and then she scrambled back into the arm-chair, taking the kitten and the worsted with her, and began winding up the ball again. But she didn't get on very fast, as she was talking all the time, sometimes to the kitten, and sometimes to herself. Kitty sat very demurely on her knee, pretending to watch the progress of the winding, and now and then putting out one paw and gently touching the ball, as if it would be glad to help, if it might.

Which of the following best describes what happens in this passage?

Possible Answers:

Dinah washes her white kitten.

Alice spends time with her cats.

Alice talks to her cat and kittens while rewinding a ball one kitten unwound.

The black kitten unwinds the ball of worsted.

Alice waits for her family to arrive.

Correct answer:

Alice talks to her cat and kittens while rewinding a ball one kitten unwound.

Explanation:

When answering a main idea question, it is important to select an answer choice that is not too general and not too specific. For example, “Dinah washes her white kitten” and “The black kitten unwinds the ball of worsted” are each too specific to be the main idea of this passage. Neither mention Alice! (Also, the black kitten unwound the ball of worsted in the past of the passage, but even if the timing was correct, the answer choice dealing with it would still be too specific.) “Alice waits for her family to arrive” cannot be the correct answer because we’re not told anything about Alice waiting for her family in the passage. This leaves us with “Alice spends time with her cats” and “Alice talks to her cat and kittens while rewinding a ball one kitten unwound.” This latter answer is a more specific description of the entire passage, so it is the better answer choice.

Example Question #2 : Textual Relationships In Literature Passages

Adapted from Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll (1871)

One thing was certain, that the white kitten had had nothing to do with it—it was the black kitten's fault entirely. For the white kitten had been having its face washed by the old cat for the last quarter of an hour (and bearing it pretty well, considering); so you see that it COULDN'T have had any hand in the mischief.

The way Dinah washed her children's faces was this: first she held the poor thing down by its ear with one paw, and then with the other paw she rubbed its face all over, the wrong way, beginning at the nose: and just now, as I said, she was hard at work on the white kitten, which was lying quite still and trying to purr—no doubt feeling that it was all meant for its good.

But the black kitten had been finished with earlier in the afternoon, and so, while Alice was sitting curled up in a corner of the great arm-chair, half talking to herself and half asleep, the kitten had been having a grand game of romps with the ball of worsted Alice had been trying to wind up, and had been rolling it up and down till it had all come undone again; and there it was, spread over the hearth-rug, all knots and tangles, with the kitten running after its own tail in the middle.

'Oh, you wicked little thing!' cried Alice, catching up the kitten, and giving it a little kiss to make it understand that it was in disgrace. 'Really, Dinah ought to have taught you better manners! You OUGHT, Dinah, you know you ought!' she added, looking reproachfully at the old cat, and speaking in as cross a voice as she could manage—and then she scrambled back into the arm-chair, taking the kitten and the worsted with her, and began winding up the ball again. But she didn't get on very fast, as she was talking all the time, sometimes to the kitten, and sometimes to herself. Kitty sat very demurely on her knee, pretending to watch the progress of the winding, and now and then putting out one paw and gently touching the ball, as if it would be glad to help, if it might.

One kitten could be described as __________, the other as __________.

Possible Answers:

unfriendly . . . feral

pitiful . . . angry

a troublemaker . . . playful

cooperative . . . mischievous

frustrated . . . glum

Correct answer:

cooperative . . . mischievous

Explanation:

This question is tricky because the kittens are not specified; either adjective could refer to either kitten, so you must attribute one adjective in each answer to each kitten and see if the answer makes sense. Let’s consider each answer choice individually:

“unfriendly . . . feral”: Neither kitten can be said to be “unfriendly” or “feral” (semi-wild), so this answer choice cannot be correct.

“pitiful . . . angry”: The white kitten might seem somewhat “pitiful,” but neither kitten can be described as “angry,” so this answer choice cannot be correct. 

“frustrated . . . glum”: The white kitten might be described as somewhat “frustrated,” but the black kitten never seems “glum” in the passage, so this answer cannot be correct.

“a troublemaker . . . playful”: The black kitten could be described as “a troublemaker” and “playful,” but neither of these adjectives accurately describes the white kitten, so this answer choice cannot be correct.

“cooperative . . . mischievous”: The white kitten can be described as “cooperative” since while it is being cleaned, it is “lying quite still and trying to purr—no doubt feeling that it was all meant for its good.” The black kitten can be described as mischievous because it plays in the ball of worsted, unwinds it, and gets in trouble with Alice. This is thus the correct answer.

Example Question #1 : Analyzing Cause And Effect In Literature Passages

Adapted from Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll (1871)

One thing was certain, that the white kitten had had nothing to do with it—it was the black kitten's fault entirely. For the white kitten had been having its face washed by the old cat for the last quarter of an hour (and bearing it pretty well, considering); so you see that it COULDN'T have had any hand in the mischief.

The way Dinah washed her children's faces was this: first she held the poor thing down by its ear with one paw, and then with the other paw she rubbed its face all over, the wrong way, beginning at the nose: and just now, as I said, she was hard at work on the white kitten, which was lying quite still and trying to purr—no doubt feeling that it was all meant for its good.

But the black kitten had been finished with earlier in the afternoon, and so, while Alice was sitting curled up in a corner of the great arm-chair, half talking to herself and half asleep, the kitten had been having a grand game of romps with the ball of worsted Alice had been trying to wind up, and had been rolling it up and down till it had all come undone again; and there it was, spread over the hearth-rug, all knots and tangles, with the kitten running after its own tail in the middle.

'Oh, you wicked little thing!' cried Alice, catching up the kitten, and giving it a little kiss to make it understand that it was in disgrace. 'Really, Dinah ought to have taught you better manners! You OUGHT, Dinah, you know you ought!' she added, looking reproachfully at the old cat, and speaking in as cross a voice as she could manage—and then she scrambled back into the arm-chair, taking the kitten and the worsted with her, and began winding up the ball again. But she didn't get on very fast, as she was talking all the time, sometimes to the kitten, and sometimes to herself. Kitty sat very demurely on her knee, pretending to watch the progress of the winding, and now and then putting out one paw and gently touching the ball, as if it would be glad to help, if it might.

Alice didn’t stop the black kitten from unwinding the ball because __________.

Possible Answers:

she wasn’t in the room when it happened

she is trying to avoid having to do something, and having to rewind the ball allows her to procrastinate

she was talking to someone else and was distracted

the ball it was unwinding wasn’t hers

she was half-asleep

Correct answer:

she was half-asleep

Explanation:

Let’s look at the specific part of the passage where it talks about the black kitten unwinding the ball of worsted:

“But the black kitten had been finished with earlier in the afternoon, and so, while Alice was sitting curled up in a corner of the great arm-chair, half talking to herself and half asleep, the kitten had been having a grand game of romps with the ball of worsted Alice had been trying to wind up, and had been rolling it up and down till it had all come undone again.”

What was Alice doing when this was happening? The passage tells us: “Alice was sitting curled up in a corner of the great arm-chair, half talking to herself and half asleep.” So, we can pick out “she was half-asleep” as the correct answer. “She was talking to someone else and was distracted” might look like a good answer, but since she was talking to herself, it can’t be correct.

Example Question #2 : Main Idea, Details, Opinions, And Arguments In Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss (1879 Kingston ed.)

Thus talking, we pushed on until we came to a pleasant grove which stretched down to the water's edge. Here, we halted to rest, seating ourselves under a large tree, by a rivulet that murmured and splashed along its pebbly bed into the great ocean before us. A thousand gaily-plumaged birds flew twittering above us, and Fritz and I gazed up at them. 

My son suddenly started up.

"A monkey," he exclaimed. “I am nearly sure I saw a monkey." 

As he spoke, he sprang round to the other side of the tree, and in doing so, stumbled over a small round object. He handed it to me, remarking as he did so that it was a round bird's nest, of which he had often heard. "You may have done so," said I, laughing, "but this is a coconut."

We split open the nut, but, to our disgust, found the kernel dry and uneatable. 

"Hullo," cried Fritz, "I always thought a coconut was full of delicious sweet liquid, like almond milk."

"So it is," I replied, "when young and fresh, but as it ripens the milk becomes congealed, and in course of time is solidified into a kernel. This kernel then dries as you see here, but when the nut falls on favorable soil, the germ within the kernel swells until it bursts through the shell, and, taking root, springs up a new tree."

"I do not understand," said Fritz, "how the little germ manages to get through this great thick shell, which is not like an almond or hazelnut shell, which is divided down the middle already."

"Nature provides for all things," I answered, taking up the pieces. " Look here, do you see these three round holes near the stalk? It is through them that the germ obtains egress. Now let us find a good nut if we can." 

As coconuts must be overripe before they fall naturally from the tree, it was not without difficulty that we obtained one in which the kernel was not dried up. When we succeeded, however, we were so refreshed by the fruit that we could defer eating until later in the day, and so spare our stock of provisions.

Which of the following best describes what happens in this passage?

Possible Answers:

The narrator and Fritz discuss coconuts.

The narrator and Fritz wander away from the rest of their group and find a coconut tree; the narrator explains coconuts to Fritz, and they find and eat a ripe coconut.

The narrator and Fritz explore.

The narrator and Fritz find a coconut tree.

The narrator and Fritz encounter a coconut tree; the narrator explains coconuts to Fritz, and they find and eat a ripe coconut.

Correct answer:

The narrator and Fritz encounter a coconut tree; the narrator explains coconuts to Fritz, and they find and eat a ripe coconut.

Explanation:

When picking out the correct answer to a question that asks about a passage’s main idea, it is important to pick out one that describes what happens in each paragraph, but isn’t broad enough to include ideas that aren’t discussed. In this case, the answer choice “The narrator and Fritz discuss coconuts” is too narrow, because more happens in the passage than just this conversation. “The narrator and Fritz explore” is also much too general, as this doesn't mention coconuts at all. Similarly, “The narrator and Fritz find a coconut tree” is also too general when compared to the other available answer choices. 

The two remaining answer choices are “The narrator and Fritz encounter a coconut tree; the narrator explains coconuts to Fritz, and they find and eat a ripe coconut,” and “The narrator and Fritz wander away from the rest of their group and find a coconut tree; the narrator explains coconuts to Fritz, and they find and eat a ripe coconut.” These answers differ in one point: the latter includes “The narrator and Fritz wander away from the rest of their group,” whereas the first one doesn’t. Since nothing is mentioned about their wandering away from a group in the passage, the latter of these two answers cannot be correct. This means that the correct answer is “The narrator and Fritz encounter a coconut tree; the narrator explains coconuts to Fritz, and they find and eat a ripe coconut.”

Example Question #21 : Content Of Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (1908)

The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters, then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of whitewash, 'till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms. Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing. It was small wonder, then, that he suddenly flung down his brush on the floor, said "Bother!" and "O blow!" and also "Hang spring cleaning!" and bolted out of the house without even waiting to put on his coat. Something up above was calling him imperiously, and he made for the steep little tunnel which answered in his case to the gaveled carriage-drive owned by animals whose residences are nearer to the sun and air. So he scraped and scratched and scrabbled and scrooged and then he scrooged again and scrabbled and scratched and scraped, working busily with his little paws and muttering to himself, "Up we go! Up we go!" 'till at last, pop! His snout came out into the sunlight, and he found himself rolling in the warm grass of a great meadow.

"This is fine!" he said to himself. "This is better than whitewashing!" The sunshine struck hot on his fur, soft breezes caressed his heated brow, and after the seclusion of the cellarage he had lived in so long, the carol of happy birds fell on his dulled hearing almost like a shout. Jumping off all his four legs at once, in the joy of living and the delight of spring without its cleaning, he pursued his way across the meadow 'till he reached the hedge on the further side.

"Hold up!" said an elderly rabbit at the gap. "Sixpence for the privilege of passing by the private road!" He was bowled over in an instant by the impatient and contemptuous Mole, who trotted along the side of the hedge chaffing the other rabbits as they peeped hurriedly from their holes to see what the row was about. "Onion-sauce! Onion-sauce!" he remarked jeeringly, and was gone before they could think of a thoroughly satisfactory reply. Then they all started grumbling at each other. "How STUPID you are! Why didn't you tell him—" "Well, why didn't YOU say—" "You might have reminded him—" and so on, in the usual way; but, of course, it was then much too late, as is always the case.

What is the mole excited to do in this passage?

Possible Answers:

See his friends, the rabbits

Be outside

Prepare for a party

Sleep

Spring clean his home

Correct answer:

Be outside

Explanation:

In the first paragraph, we are told that the mole spring cleans his house, but he is not excited about this; on the contrary, he gets sick of it and goes outside. The mole is clearly happy and excited to be outside, however, as we can tell from the following lines, found at the end of the passage's second paragraph: "The sunshine struck hot on his fur, soft breezes caressed his heated brow, and after the seclusion of the cellarage he had lived in so long, the carol of happy birds fell on his dulled hearing almost like a shout. Jumping off all his four legs at once, in the joy of living and the delight of spring without its cleaning, he pursued his way across the meadow 'till he reached the hedge on the further side."

Example Question #181 : Literary Fiction

Adapted from Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (1883)

He was a very silent man by custom. All day he hung round the cove or upon the cliffs with a brass telescope; all evening he sat in a corner of the parlor next the fire and drank rum and water very strong. Mostly he would not speak when spoken to, only look up sudden and fierce and blow through his nose like a fog-horn; and we and the people who came about our house soon learned to let him be. Every day when he came back from his stroll he would ask if any seafaring men had gone by along the road. At first we thought it was the want of company of his own kind that made him ask this question, but at last we began to see he was desirous to avoid them. When a seaman did put up at the Admiral Benbow (as now and then some did, making by the coast road for Bristol) he would look in at him through the curtained door before he entered the parlor; and he was always sure to be as silent as a mouse when any such was present. For me, at least, there was no secret about the matter, for I was, in a way, a sharer in his alarms. He had taken me aside one day and promised me a silver fourpenny on the first of every month if I would only keep my "weather-eye open for a seafaring man with one leg" and let him know the moment he appeared. Often enough when the first of the month came round and I applied to him for my wage, he would only blow through his nose at me and stare me down, but before the week was out he was sure to think better of it, bring me my four-penny piece, and repeat his orders to look out for "the seafaring man with one leg.”

How that personage haunted my dreams, I need scarcely tell you. I would see him in a thousand forms, and with a thousand diabolical expressions. Now the leg would be cut off at the knee, now at the hip; now he was a monstrous kind of a creature who had never had but the one leg, and that in the middle of his body. To see him leap and run and pursue me over hedge and ditch was the worst of nightmares. And altogether I paid pretty dear for my monthly fourpenny piece, in the shape of these abominable fancies.

Which of the following words describes the man described at the beginning of the passage's first paragraph LEAST well?

Possible Answers:

Gruff

Distant

Charming

Paranoid

Intimidating

Correct answer:

Charming

Explanation:

Based on the way in which the man is described in the passage, “charming” describes him least well. We can call him “gruff,” “intimidating,” or “distant” because of the way in which he is described in the quotations “He was a very silent man by custom” and “Mostly he would not speak when spoken to, only look up sudden and fierce and blow through his nose like a fog-horn; and we and the people who came about our house soon learned to let him be.” We can call him paranoid because of his overt concern about other seafaring men and in particular, the man with one leg. He exhibits paranoid behavior in looking through the window curtains to identify any seafaring men that happen to be staying at the inn before entering the parlor himself. So, “charming” is the best answer.

Example Question #11 : Recognizing The Main Idea In Literary Fiction Passages

Passage adapted from Peter and Wendy (1911) by J.M. Barrie

Mrs. Darling first heard of Peter when she was tidying up her children's minds. It is the nightly custom of every good mother after her children are asleep to rummage in their minds and put things straight for the next morning, repacking into their proper places the many articles that have wandered during the day. If you could keep awake (but of course you can’t) you would see your own mother doing this, and you would find it very interesting to watch her. It is quite like tidying up drawers. You would see her on her knees, I expect, lingering humorously over some of your contents, wondering where on earth you had picked this thing up, making discoveries sweet and not so sweet, pressing this to her cheek as if it were as nice as a kitten, and hurriedly stowing that out of sight. When you wake up in the morning, the naughtiness and evil passions with which you went to bed have been folded up small and placed at the bottom of your mind; and on the top, beautifully aired, are spread out your prettier thoughts, ready for you to put on.

Which of these best describes the main idea of the passage?

Possible Answers:

Children's minds are messy. 

Children should keep their rooms clean.

Mother's often invade their children's privacy.

Children keep many secrets. 

Correct answer:

Children's minds are messy. 

Explanation:

The passage primarily describes how mothers tidy up their "children's minds." This is an extended metaphor, comparing a child's mind to a child's room by describing how both can become messy. While the passage invokes the image of a child's room, it does so only to describe the messiness of a child's mind, and so we can eliminate the answer choice "Children should keep their rooms clean." And though the mother in this passage regularly "rummage[s]" through her children's thoughts, she is described as doing so in a way similar to that of mother tidying up her children's rooms; this is more of a loving act than an invasive one, so we can eliminate the answer choice "Mother's often invade their children's privacy." And though the children have many thoughts --- some of which surprise their mother -- they are not described as private or concealed from their mother, so we can probably eliminate the answer choice "Children keep many secrets."

"Children's minds are messy," most directly describes the subject of the extended metaphor -- and therefore the main idea of the passage -- and so this is our best choice. 

Example Question #1 : Locating Details In Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from "The Three Musketeers" in Volume Sixteen of The Romances of Alexandre Dumas (1844; 1893 ed.)

As they rode along, the duke endeavored to draw from d'Artagnan not all that had happened, but what d'Artagnan himself knew. By adding all that he heard from the mouth of the young man to his own remembrances, he was enabled to form a pretty exact idea of a position of the seriousness of which, for the rest, the queen's letter, short but explicit, gave him the clue. But that which astonished him most was that the cardinal, so deeply interested in preventing this young man from setting his foot in England, had not succeeded in arresting him on the road. It was then, upon the manifestation of this astonishment, that d'Artagnan related to him the precaution taken, and how, thanks to the devotion of his three friends, whom he had left scattered and bleeding on the road, he had succeeded in coming off with a single sword thrust, which had pierced the queen's letter and for which he had repaid Monsieur de Wardes with such terrible coin. While he was listening to this recital, delivered with the greatest simplicity, the duke looked from time to time at the young man with astonishment, as if he could not comprehend how so much prudence, courage, and devotedness could be allied with a countenance which indicated not more than twenty years.

The horses went like the wind, and in a few minutes they were at the gates of London. D'Artagnan imagined that on arriving in town the duke would slacken his pace, but it was not so. He kept on his way at the same rate, heedless about upsetting those whom he met on the road. In fact, in crossing the city two or three accidents of this kind happened; but Buckingham did not even turn his head to see what became of those he had knocked down. D'Artagnan followed him amid cries which strongly resembled curses.

On entering the court of his hotel, Buckingham sprang from his horse, and without thinking what became of the animal, threw the bridle on his neck, and sprang toward the vestibule. D'Artagnan did the same, with a little more concern, however, for the noble creatures, whose merits he fully appreciated; but he had the satisfaction of seeing three or four grooms run from the kitchens and the stables, and busy themselves with the steeds.

Which other name is used to refer to the duke in the passage?

Possible Answers:

Monsieur de Wardes

Buckingham

The duke is only referred to as "the duke" in the passage.

D'Artagnan

the bishop

Correct answer:

Buckingham

Explanation:

The duke is first named as "Buckingham" in the second paragraph. After reading "D'Artagnan imagined that on arriving in town the duke would slacken his pace, but it was not so," later in the passage we learn that "Buckingham did not even turn his head to see what became of those he had knocked down." We can tell from the context of the paragraph that "Buckingham" is referring to the duke, so "Buckingham" is the correct answer.

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