SSAT Upper Level Reading : Determining Authorial Attitude in Literary Fiction Passages

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

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Point Of View

Adapted from "May Day" in Tales of the Jazz Age by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1922)

At nine o'clock on the morning of the first of May, 1919, a young man spoke to the room clerk at the Biltmore Hotel, asking if Mr. Philip Dean were registered there, and if so, could he be connected with Mr. Dean's rooms. The inquirer was dressed in a well-cut, shabby suit. He was small, slender, and darkly handsome; his eyes were framed above with unusually long eyelashes and below with the blue semicircle of ill health, this latter effect heightened by an unnatural glow which colored his face like a low, incessant fever.

Mr. Dean was staying there. The young man was directed to a telephone at the side.

After a second his connection was made; a sleepy voice hello'd from somewhere above.

"Mr. Dean?"—this very eagerly—"it's Gordon, Phil. It's Gordon Sterrett. I'm down-stairs. I heard you were in New York and I had a hunch you'd be here."

The sleepy voice became gradually enthusiastic. Well, how was Gordy, old boy! Well, he certainly was surprised and tickled! Would Gordy come right up, for Pete's sake!

A few minutes later Philip Dean, dressed in blue silk pajamas, opened his door and the two young men greeted each other with a half-embarrassed exuberance. They were both about twenty-four, Yale graduates of the year before the war; but there the resemblance stopped abruptly. Dean was blond, ruddy, and rugged under his thin pajamas. Everything about him radiated fitness and bodily comfort. He smiled frequently, showing large and prominent teeth.

"I was going to look you up," he cried enthusiastically. "I'm taking a couple of weeks off. If you'll sit down a sec I'll be right with you. Going to take a shower."

As he vanished into the bathroom his visitor's dark eyes roved nervously around the room, resting for a moment on a great English travelling bag in the corner and on a family of thick silk shirts littered on the chairs amid impressive neckties and soft woollen socks.

Gordon rose and, picking up one of the shirts, gave it a minute examination. It was of very heavy silk, yellow, with a pale blue stripe—and there were nearly a dozen of them. He stared involuntarily at his own shirt-cuffs—they were ragged and linty at the edges and soiled to a faint gray. Dropping the silk shirt, he held his coat-sleeves down and worked the frayed shirt-cuffs up till they were out of sight. Then he went to the mirror and looked at himself with listless, unhappy interest. His tie, of former glory, was faded and thumb-creased—it served no longer to hide the jagged buttonholes of his collar. He thought, quite without amusement, that only three years before he had received a scattering vote in the senior elections at college for being the best-dressed man in his class.

The point of view from which the passage is told can best be described as that of __________.

Possible Answers:

the clerk.

the third person

Mr. Gordon Sterrett

the second person

Mr. Philip Dean

Correct answer:

the third person


The narrative is in the third person and is a somewhat detached observer. We can tell it is not from the perspective of any of the characters as it does not use the first person pronoun “I.”

Example Question #1 : Determining Authorial Attitude In Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868)

"Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents," grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.

"It's so dreadful to be poor!" sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress.

"I don't think it's fair for some girls to have plenty of pretty things and other girls nothing at all," added little Amy, with an injured sniff.

"We've got Father and Mother and each other," said Beth contentedly from her corner.

The four young faces on which the firelight shone brightened at the cheerful words but darkened again as Jo said sadly, "We haven't got Father and shall not have him for a long time." She didn't say "perhaps never," but each silently added it, thinking of Father far away, where the fighting was.

Nobody spoke for a minute; then Meg said in an altered tone, "You know the reason Mother proposed not having any presents this Christmas was because it is going to be a hard winter for everyone; and she thinks we ought not to spend money for pleasure, when our men are suffering so in the army. We can't do much, but we can make our little sacrifices, and ought to do it gladly. But I am afraid I don't." And Meg shook her head as she thought regretfully of all the pretty things she wanted.

"But I don't think the little we should spend would do any good. We've each got a dollar, and the army wouldn't be much helped by our giving that. I agree not to expect anything from Mother or you, but I do want to buy Undine and Sintram for myself. I've wanted it so long," said Jo, who was a bookworm.

"I planned to spend mine in new music," said Beth, with a little sigh, which no one heard but the hearth brush and kettle holder.

"I shall get a nice box of Faber's drawing pencils. I really need them," said Amy decidedly.

Mother didn't say anything about our money and she won't wish us to give up everything. Let's each buy what we want, and have a little fun. I'm sure we work hard enough to earn it," cried Jo, examining the heels of her shoes in a gentlemanly manner.

"I know I do—teaching those tiresome children nearly all day, when I'm longing to enjoy myself at home," began Meg, in the complaining tone again.

"You don't have half such a hard time as I do," said Jo. "How would you like to be shut up for hours with a nervous, fussy old lady who keeps you trotting, is never satisfied, and worries you till you're ready to fly out of the window or cry?"

What literary device is used in the underlined excerpt?

Possible Answers:





Correct answer:



The phrase “fly out of the window” is an exaggeration or hyperbole, since humans cannot fly and most people would not choose to exit a building through a window.

Example Question #1 : Analyzing Tone, Style, And Figurative Language In Literature Passages

Adapted from Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy (1895)

He sounded the clacker till his arm ached, and at length his heart grew sympathetic with the birds' thwarted desires. They seemed, like himself, to be living in a world which did not want them. Why should he frighten them away? They took upon more and more the aspect of gentle friends and pensioners—the only friends he could claim as being in the least degree interested in him, for his aunt had often told him that she was not. He ceased his rattling, and they alighted anew.

"Poor little dears!" said Jude, aloud. "You shall have some dinner—you shall. There is enough for us all. Farmer Troutham can afford to let you have some. Eat, then my dear little birdies, and make a good meal!"

They stayed and ate, inky spots on the nut-brown soil, and Jude enjoyed their appetite. A magic thread of fellow-feeling united his own life with theirs. Puny and sorry as those lives were, they much resembled his own.

His clacker he had by this time thrown away from him, as being a mean and sordid instrument, offensive both to the birds and to himself as their friend. All at once he became conscious of a smart blow upon his buttocks, followed by a loud clack, which announced to his surprised senses that the clacker had been the instrument of offense used. The birds and Jude started up simultaneously, and the dazed eyes of the latter beheld the farmer in person, the great Troutham himself, his red face glaring down upon Jude's cowering frame, the clacker swinging in his hand.

"So it's 'Eat my dear birdies,' is it, young man? 'Eat, dear birdies,' indeed! I'll tickle your breeches, and see if you say, 'Eat, dear birdies' again in a hurry! And you've been idling at the schoolmaster's too, instead of coming here, ha'n't ye, hey? That's how you earn your sixpence a day for keeping the rooks off my corn!"

The point of view from which the passage is told can best be described as that of __________.

Possible Answers:

the third-person perspective

Jude as an old man

Jude at the time

a friend of Jude who witnessed the event

Farmer Troutham

Correct answer:

the third-person perspective


We cannot say from the passage that the narrator is a friend of Jude's, so the only safe answer is “the third-person perspective,” as the passage is written in the third person. The easiest way to ascertain this is that there is no use of the personal pronoun “I.”

Example Question #1 : Literary Fiction

Adapted from A Tramp Abroad by Mark Twain (1880)

One day it occurred to me that it had been many years since the world had been afforded the spectacle of a man adventurous enough to undertake a journey through Europe on foot. After much thought, I decided that I was a person fitted to furnish to mankind this spectacle. So I determined to do it. This was in March, 1878.

I looked about me for the right sort of person to accompany me in the capacity of agent, and finally hired a Mr. Harris for this service.

It was also my purpose to study art while in Europe. Mr. Harris was in sympathy with me in this. He was as much of an enthusiast in art as I was, and not less anxious to learn to paint. I desired to learn the German language; so did Harris.

Toward the middle of April we sailed in the Holsatia, Captain Brandt, and had a very pleasant trip, indeed.

After a brief rest at Hamburg, we made preparations for a long pedestrian trip southward in the soft spring weather, but at the last moment we changed the program, for private reasons, and took the express-train.

We made a short halt at Frankfort-on-the-Main, and found it an interesting city. I would have liked to visit the birthplace of Gutenburg, but it could not be done, as no memorandum of the site of the house has been kept. So we spent an hour in the Goethe mansion instead. The city permits this house to belong to private parties, instead of gracing and dignifying herself with the honor of possessing and protecting it.

Frankfort is one of the sixteen cities which have the distinction of being the place where the following incident occurred. Charlemagne, while chasing the Saxons (as he said), or being chased by them (as they said), arrived at the bank of the river at dawn, in a fog. The enemy were either before him or behind him; but in any case he wanted to get across, very badly. He would have given anything for a guide, but none was to be had. Presently he saw a deer, followed by her young, approach the water. He watched her, judging that she would seek a ford, and he was right. She waded over, and the army followed. So a great Frankish victory or defeat was gained or avoided; and in order to commemorate the episode, Charlemagne commanded a city to be built there, which he named Frankfort—the ford of the Franks. None of the other cities where this event happened were named for it. This is good evidence that Frankfort was the first place it occurred at.

The point of view from which the passage is told can best be described as that of __________.

Possible Answers:

a tourist

a conscientious objector

the third-person perspective

a harlequin

a serious explorer

Correct answer:

a tourist


The passage is obviously written from the first person perspective because it makes use of the word "I," and is either autobiographical or is masquerading as being autobiographical. As it is about traveling throughout Europe and the narrator talks about visiting certain attractions, we can assume that the narrator is acting as a tourist. This is regardless of the narrator's initial statement that he intends to act as an adventurer.

Example Question #1 : Literary Fiction

Adapted From "Tony Kytes, The Arch-Deceiver" in Life's Little Ironies: A Set of Tales, with some colloquial sketches, entitled, A Few Crusted Characters by Thomas Hardy (1905 ed.)

I shall never forget Tony’s face. It was a little, round, firm, tight face, with a seam here and there left by the small-pox, but not enough to hurt his looks in a woman's eye, though he'd had it baddish when he was a boy. So very serious looking and unsmiling 'a was, that young man, that it really seemed as if he couldn't laugh at all without great pain to his conscience. He looked very hard at a small speck in your eye when talking to 'ee. And there was no more sign of a whisker or beard on Tony Kytes's face than on the palm of my hand. He used to sing "The Tailor's Breeches," with all its scandelous lyrics, in a religious manner, as if it were a hymn. He was quite the women's favorite.

But in course of time Tony got fixed down to one in particular, Milly Richards – a nice, light, small, tender little thing; and it was soon said that they were engaged to be married. One Saturday he had been to market to do business for his father, and was driving home the wagon in the afternoon. When he reached the foot of the hill, who should he see waiting for him at the top but Unity Sallet, a handsome girl, one of the young women he'd been very tender towards before he'd got engaged to Milly.

As soon as Tony came up to her she said, "My dear Tony, will you give me a lift home?"

"That I will, darling," said Tony. "You don't suppose I could refuse 'ee?"

She smiled a smile, and up she hopped, and on drove Tony.

"Tony," she says, in a sort of tender chide, "Why did ye desert me for that other one? In what is she better than I? I should have made 'ee a finer wife, and a more loving one, too. 'Tisn't girls that are so easily won at first that are the best. Think how long we've known each other—ever since we were children almost—now haven't we, Tony?"

"Yes, that we have," says Tony, struck with the truth o't.

"And you've never seen anything in me to complain of, have ye, Tony? Now tell the truth to me."

"I never have, upon my life," says Tony.

"And—can you say I'm not pretty, Tony? Now look at me.

He let his eyes light upon her for a long while. "I really can't," says he. "In fact, I never knowed you was so pretty before!"

The point of view from which this passage is told could best be described as that of __________.

Possible Answers:

Unity Sallet

Tony Kytes

Milly Richards

None of these answers

Tony's father

Correct answer:

None of these answers


Of the answers, the closest guess from the passage would be Tony's father. But we cannot safely say that any of these people are the narrator. We know the narration is in the third person and that the person knew Tony in some way, but we cannot say who is speaking as they do not identify themself in the passage.

Example Question #1 : Analyzing Authorial Tone And Method In Prose Fiction Passages

Adapted from Tom Brown's Schooldays (1857) by Thomas Hughes

The small boys rushed in again. Closing, they saw, was their best chance, and Flashman was wilder and more flurried than ever. He caught East by the throat and tried to force him back on the iron-bound table. Tom grasped his waist and, remembering the old throw he had learned in the Vale from Harry Winburn, crooked his leg inside Flashman's and threw his whole weight forward. The three tottered for a moment and then over they went on to the floor, Flashman striking his head against a form in the hall.

The two youngsters sprang to their legs, but he lay there still. They began to be frightened. Tom stooped down and then cried out, scared out of his wits, "He's bleeding awfully. Come here, East! Diggs, he's dying!"

"Not he," said Diggs, getting leisurely off the table. "It's all sham; he's only afraid to fight it out."

East was as frightened as Tom. Diggs lifted Flashman's head and he groaned.

"What's the matter?" shouted Diggs.

"My skull's fractured," sobbed Flashman.

"Oh, let me run for the housekeeper!" cried Tom. "What shall we do?"

"Fiddlesticks! It's nothing but the skin broken," said the relentless Diggs, feeling his head. "Cold water and a bit of rag's all he'll want."

"Let me go," said Flashman surlily, sitting up. "I don't want your help."

"We're really very sorry—" began East.

"Hang your sorrow!" answered Flashman, holding his handkerchief to the place. "You shall pay for this, I can tell you, both of you." And he walked out of the hall.

"He can't be very bad," said Tom, with a deep sigh, much relieved to see his enemy march so well.

"Not he," said Diggs, "and you'll see you won't be troubled with him anymore, but, I say, your head's broken too; your collar is covered with blood."

"Is it though?" said Tom, putting up his hand. "I didn't know it."

"Well, mop it up or you'll have your jacket spoilt. And you have got a nasty eye, scud. You'd better go and bathe it well in cold water."

"Cheap enough too, if we're done with our old friend Flashey," said East, as they made off upstairs to bathe their wounds.

They had done with Flashman in one sense, for he never laid finger on either of them again, but whatever harm a spiteful heart and venomous tongue could do them, he took care should be done. Only throw dirt enough and some of it is sure to stick, and so it was with the fifth form and the bigger boys in general, with whom he associated more or less, and they not at all. Flashman managed to get Tom and East into disfavor, which did not wear off for some time after the author of it had disappeared from the school world. This event, much prayed for by the small fry in general, took place a few months after the above encounter. One fine summer evening, Flashman had been regaling himself on gin punch at Brownsover and, having exceeded his usual limits, started home uproarious. He fell in with a friend or two coming back from bathing, proposed a glass of beer, to which they assented, the weather being hot and they thirsty souls, unaware of the quantity of drink which Flashman had already on board. The short result was that Flashey became beastly drunk. They tried to get him along, but couldn't, so they chartered a hurdle and two men to carry him. One of the masters came upon them and they fled, naturally enough. The flight of the rest raised the master's suspicions and the good angel of the attendants incited him to examine the freight and, after examination, to convoy the hurdle himself up to the schoolhouse. The doctor, who had long had his eye on Flashman, arranged for his withdrawal the next morning.

The point of view from which the passage is told can best be described as that of __________.

Possible Answers:

None of the other answers



the doctor


Correct answer:

None of the other answers


The passage is written in third-person and from the information given, it is not clear if it is a recollection of any specific person's memories. The constant use of “he” and “his” as well as the knowledge of every event in detail tells us that this is written in the third-person perspective.

Example Question #31 : Comprehension

Adapted from Once on a Time by A. A. Milne (1922)

The Princess was still puzzled. "But I'm grown up," she said. "I don't want a mother so much now."

The King turned his flagon round and studied the other side of it.

"A mother's—er—tender hand," he said, "is—er—never——" and then the outrageous thing happened.

It was all because of a birthday present to the King of Barodia, and the present was nothing less than a pair of seven-league boots. The King being a busy man, it was a week or more before he had an opportunity of trying those boots. Meanwhile he used to talk about them at meals, and he would polish them up every night before he went to bed. When the great day came for the first trial of them to be made, he took a patronizing farewell of his wife and family, ignored the many eager noses pressed against the upper windows of the Palace, and sailed off. The motion, as perhaps you know, is a little disquieting at first, but one soon gets used to it. After that it is fascinating. He had gone some two thousand miles before he realized that there might be a difficulty about finding his way back. The difficulty proved at least as great as he had anticipated. For the rest of that day he toured backwards and forwards across the country; and it was by the merest accident that a very angry King shot in through an open pantry window in the early hours of the morning. He removed his boots and went softly to bed.

It was, of course, a lesson to him. He decided that in the future he must proceed by a recognized route, sailing lightly from landmark to landmark. Such a route his Geographers prepared for him—an early morning constitutional, of three hundred miles or so, to be taken ten times before breakfast. He gave himself a week in which to recover his nerve and then started out on the first of them.

The point of view from which the passage is told can best be described as that of __________.

Possible Answers:

The Queen

The King of Barodia

The Princess

None of these characters 

The Princess's father

Correct answer:

None of these characters 


The passage is told by a narrator in the third person. Granted, this could be one of the characters looking back at the event, but the lack of the use of “I” or “we” suggests it can be none of the directly or indirectly involved characters mentioned in the passage. The passage also has elements of fantasy stories or fairytales to it; in fairytales, the narrative is usually written from a distanced third-person perspective. We can therefore say the correct answer is "None of these characters."

Example Question #1 : Literary Fiction

Adapted from Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens (1839)

There was a great bustle in Bishopsgate Street Within, as they drew up, and (it being a windy day) half-a-dozen men were tacking across the road under a press of paper, bearing gigantic announcements that a Public Meeting would be held at one o'clock precisely, to take into consideration the propriety of petitioning Parliament in favour of the United Metropolitan Improved Hot Muffin and Crumpet Baking and Punctual Delivery Company, capital five millions, in five hundred thousand shares of ten pounds each; which sums were duly set forth in fat black figures of considerable size. Mr. Bonney elbowed his way briskly upstairs, receiving in his progress many low bows from the waiters who stood on the landings to show the way; and, followed by Mr. Nickleby, dived into a suite of apartments behind the great public room: in the second of which was a business-looking table, and several business-looking people.

"Hear!" cried a gentleman with a double chin, as Mr. Bonney presented himself. "Chair, gentlemen, chair!"

The new-comers were received with universal approbation, and Mr. Bonney bustled up to the top of the table, took off his hat, ran his fingers through his hair, and knocked a hackney-coachman's knock on the table with a little hammer: whereat several gentlemen cried "Hear!" and nodded slightly to each other, as much as to say what spirited conduct that was. Just at this moment, a waiter, feverish with agitation, tore into the room, and throwing the door open with a crash, shouted "Sir Matthew Pupker!"

The committee stood up and clapped their hands for joy, and while they were clapping them, in came Sir Matthew Pupker, attended by two live members of Parliament, one Irish and one Scotch, all smiling and bowing, and looking so pleasant that it seemed a perfect marvel how any man could have the heart to vote against them. Sir Matthew Pupker especially, who had a little round head with a flaxen wig on the top of it, fell into such a paroxysm of bows, that the wig threatened to be jerked off, every instant. When these symptoms had in some degree subsided, the gentlemen who were on speaking terms with Sir Matthew Pupker, or the two other members, crowded round them in three little groups, near one or other of which the gentlemen who were NOT on speaking terms with Sir Matthew Pupker or the two other members, stood lingering, and smiling, and rubbing their hands, in the desperate hope of something turning up which might bring them into notice. All this time, Sir Matthew Pupker and the two other members were relating to their separate circles what the intentions of government were, about taking up the bill; with a full account of what the government had said in a whisper the last time they dined with it, and how the government had been observed to wink when it said so; from which premises they were at no loss to draw the conclusion, that if the government had one object more at heart than another, that one object was the welfare and advantage of the United Metropolitan Improved Hot Muffin and Crumpet Baking and Punctual Delivery Company.

Meanwhile, and pending the arrangement of the proceedings, and a fair division of the speechifying, the public in the large room were eyeing, by turns, the empty platform, and the ladies in the Music Gallery. In these amusements the greater portion of them had been occupied for a couple of hours before, and as the most agreeable diversions pall upon the taste on a too protracted enjoyment of them, the sterner spirits now began to hammer the floor with their boot-heels, and to express their dissatisfaction by various hoots and cries. These vocal exertions, emanating from the people who had been there longest, naturally proceeded from those who were nearest to the platform and furthest from the policemen in attendance, who having no great mind to fight their way through the crowd, but entertaining nevertheless a praiseworthy desire to do something to quell the disturbance, immediately began to drag forth, by the coat tails and collars, all the quiet people near the door; at the same time dealing out various smart and tingling blows with their truncheons, after the manner of that ingenious actor, Mr. Punch: whose brilliant example, both in the fashion of his weapons and their use, this branch of the executive occasionally follows.

Several very exciting skirmishes were in progress, when a loud shout attracted the attention even of the belligerents, and then there poured on to the platform, from a door at the side, a long line of gentlemen with their hats off, all looking behind them, and uttering vociferous cheers; the cause whereof was sufficiently explained when Sir Matthew Pupker and the two other real members of Parliament came to the front, amidst deafening shouts, and testified to each other in dumb motions that they had never seen such a glorious sight as that, in the whole course of their public career.

The point of view from which the passage is told can best be described as that of __________.

Possible Answers:

a first person narrator in the crowd

Mr. Nickleby

one of the members of parliament

a third person narrator

Mr. Bonney

Correct answer:

a third person narrator


The narrator is speaking in the third person and seems to be omnipresent at the meeting, describing events occurring in different places. By employing such an omniscient third person narrator, the author is able to criticize and critique each character without having to deal with how a perspectival first person narrator feels about the characters being criticized.

Example Question #35 : Summarizing And Describing Literary Fiction Passage Content

Adapted from Emma by Jane Austen (1815)

Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.

She was the youngest of the two daughters of a most affectionate, indulgent father; and had, in consequence of her sister's marriage, been mistress of his house from a very early period. Her mother had died too long ago for her to have more than an indistinct remembrance of her caresses; and her place had been supplied by an excellent woman as governess, who had fallen little short of a mother in affection.

Sixteen years had Miss Taylor been in Mr. Woodhouse's family, less as a governess than a friend, very fond of both daughters, but particularly of Emma. Between them it was more the intimacy of sisters. Even before Miss Taylor had ceased to hold the nominal office of governess, the mildness of her temper had hardly allowed her to impose any restraint; and the shadow of authority being now long passed away, they had been living together as friend and friend very mutually attached, and Emma doing just what she liked; highly esteeming Miss Taylor's judgment, but directed chiefly by her own.

The real evils, indeed, of Emma's situation were the power of having rather too much her own way, and a disposition to think a little too well of herself; these were the disadvantages which threatened alloy to her many enjoyments. The danger, however, was at present so unperceived, that they did not by any means rank as misfortunes with her.

Sorrow came—a gentle sorrow—but not at all in the shape of any disagreeable consciousness. Miss Taylor married. It was Miss Taylor's loss which first brought grief. It was on the wedding-day of this beloved friend that Emma first sat in mournful thought of any continuance. The wedding over, and the bride-people gone, her father and herself were left to dine together, with no prospect of a third to cheer a long evening. Her father composed himself to sleep after dinner, as usual, and she had then only to sit and think of what she had lost.

The event had every promise of happiness for her friend. Mr. Weston was a man of unexceptionable character, easy fortune, suitable age, and pleasant manners; and there was some satisfaction in considering with what self-denying, generous friendship she had always wished and promoted the match; but it was a black morning's work for her. 

How was she to bear the change?—It was true that her friend was going only half a mile from them; but Emma was aware that great must be the difference between a Mrs. Weston, only half a mile from them, and a Miss Taylor in the house; and with all her advantages, natural and domestic, she was now in great danger of suffering from intellectual solitude. She dearly loved her father, but he was no companion for her. He could not meet her in conversation, rational or playful.

Emma is most accurately described as __________.

Possible Answers:

insubordinate and haughty

hard-working and vain

benevolent and secretive

quick-witted and willful

precocious and lazy

Correct answer:

quick-witted and willful


Emma is distinctly described by the passage in two places: in the first paragraph, her introduction, and in the fourth paragraph, where her personality flaws are discussed. The first paragraph calls Emma “handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition,” and notes that she “seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence” and had grown up “with very little to distress or vex her.” The fourth paragraph adds, “The real evils, indeed, of Emma's situation were the power of having rather too much her own way, and .”

Given these descriptions, we can begin to narrow our answer choices. While Emma might be called “vain” because we are told that she has “a disposition to think a little too well of herself,” nothing in the passage suggests that she is “hard-working,” so “hard-working and vain” cannot be the answer. “Precocious” she might be for always doing what she wants, but we nothing in the passage supports calling her “lazy,” so “precocious and lazy” isn’t correct either. While one might perhaps call her “benevolent,” there is little evidence directly supporting this analysis, and “secretive” does not accurately describes Emma according to the passage, so “benevolent . . . secretive” can’t be the correct answer either. This leaves us with “insubordinate and haughty” and “quick-witted and willful.” “Insubordinate” is too intense a term for Emma’s slight stubborn streak; we are never told that she specifically breaks rules, just that she does what she wants. This makes “willful” the better descriptor of the two. Similarly, while we are told that she is “quick-witted” in that the passage calls her “clever,” “haughty” is too intense a term to describe “a disposition to think a little too well of herself.” The best answer choice is “quick-witted and willful.”

Example Question #1 : Analyzing Argumentative Claims, Bias, And Support In Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from Moby-Dick; or, The Whale by Herman Melville (1851)

The fact is, that among his hunters at least, the whale would, by all hands, be considered a noble dish were there not so much of him; but when you come to sit down before a meat-pie nearly one hundred feet long, it takes away your appetite. Only the most unprejudiced of men, like Stubb, nowadays partake of cooked whales; but the Esquimaux are not so fastidious. We all know how they live upon whales and have rare old vintages of prime old train oil. Zogranda, one of their most famous doctors, recommends strips of blubber for infants as being exceedingly juicy and nourishing. And this reminds me that certain Englishmen, who long ago were accidentally left in Greenland by a whaling vessel—that these men actually lived for several months on the moldy scraps of whales which had been left ashore after trying out the blubber. Among the Dutch whalemen, these scraps are called “fritters,” which, indeed, they greatly resemble, being brown and crisp, and smelling something like old Amsterdam housewives’ dough-nuts or oly-cooks when fresh. They have such an eatable look that the most self-denying stranger can hardly keep his hands off.

But what further depreciates the whale as a civilized dish is his exceeding richness. He is the great prize ox of the sea, too fat to be delicately good. Look at his hump, which would be as fine eating as the buffalo’s (which is esteemed a rare dish), were it not such a solid pyramid of fat. But the spermaceti itself, how bland and creamy that is, like the transparent, half-jellied, white meat of a coconut in the third month of its growth, yet far too rich to supply a substitute for butter. Nevertheless, many whale men have a method of absorbing it into some other substance and then partaking of it. In the long try watches of the night, it is a common thing for the seamen to dip their ship-biscuit into the huge oil-pots and let them fry there awhile. Many a good supper have I thus made.

Based on the tone of the passage, how does the narrator personally feel about eating whale?

Possible Answers:

He is in support of eating whale.

He is sad about killing and eating whales.

He apathetic about eating whale.

He is surprised that so many people eat whale, as he cannot stomach it himself.

He is against eating whale.

Correct answer:

He is in support of eating whale.


The narrator opens the passage by suggesting that whale would be "considered a noble dish were there not so much of him," suggesting that whale would be preferred by many if the food did not originate from such a large animal. The narrator also speaks of the many "good suppers" he has had by frying his biscuits in whale oil, suggesting that he enjoys eating whale.

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