SSAT Upper Level Reading : Recognizing the Main Idea in Literary Fiction Passages

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

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Example Questions

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

Adapted from Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life by George Eliot (1874)

Dorothea trembled while she read this letter; then she fell on her knees, buried her face, and sobbed. She could not pray; under the rush of solemn emotion in which thoughts became vague and images floated uncertainly, she could but cast herself, with a childlike sense of reclining, in the lap of a divine consciousness which sustained her own. She remained in that attitude till it was time to dress for dinner.

How could it occur to her to examine the letter, to look at it critically as a profession of love? Her whole soul was possessed by the fact that a fuller life was opening before her: she was a neophyte about to enter on a higher grade of initiation. She was going to have room for the energies which stirred uneasily under the dimness and pressure of her own ignorance and the petty peremptoriness of the world’s habits.

Now she would be able to devote herself to large yet definite duties; now she would be allowed to live continually in the light of a mind that she could reverence. This hope was not unmixed with the glow of proud delight—the joyous maiden surprise that she was chosen by the man whom her admiration had chosen. All Dorothea’s passion was transfused through a mind struggling towards an ideal life; the radiance of her transfigured girlhood fell on the first object that came within its level. The impetus with which inclination became resolution was heightened by those little events of the day which had roused her discontent with the actual conditions of her life.

Over the course of the selection, Dorothea’s feelings transform from __________ to __________.

Possible Answers:

wondering excitement . . . worshipful devotion

wondering sadness . . . reluctant acceptance

ardent desire . . . loving affection

melancholy paralysis . . . ambivalence

overwhelming awe . . . quiet resolution

Correct answer:

overwhelming awe . . . quiet resolution

Explanation:

Dorothea’s overwhelming awe is evident from the first lines, when her “solemn emotions” overtake her. Furthermore, the word “resolution” is itself referenced in line 18, where Dorothea resolves to accept the proposal. Thus, the answer must be "overwhelming awe to quiet resolution."

Example Question #1 : Identifying And Analyzing Main Idea And Theme In Literature 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 sizing each other up.

Tom is realizing that the other boy is his cousin.

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

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

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

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 : Identifying And Analyzing Main Idea And Theme In Literature 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.

Why does Tom feel especially happy at the end of the first paragraph?

Possible Answers:

He made a new friend.

It has finally stopped raining.

He has learned to whistle.

He saw his parents.

He rescued a bird.

Correct answer:

He has learned to whistle.

Explanation:

 In the middle of the first paragraph, we are told, "This new interest was a valued novelty in whistling, which he had just acquired, and he was suffering to practice it undisturbed." So, we know that Tom is practicing how to whistle. Near the end of the paragraph, we are told, "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." So, Tom feels especially happy at the end of the passage's first paragraph because he has learned to whistle.

Example Question #1 : Recognizing The Main Idea In 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

Prepare for a party

Be outside

Spring clean his home

Sleep

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 #21 : Analyzing Main Idea, Theme, And Purpose In Literary Fiction Passages

Adapted from Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (1811)

For a moment or two she could say no more; but when this emotion had passed away, she added, in a firmer tone, "Elinor, I have been cruelly used; but not by Willoughby."

"Dearest Marianne, who but himself? By whom can he have been instigated?"

"By all the world, rather than by his own heart. I could rather believe every creature of my acquaintance leagued together to ruin me in his opinion, than believe his nature capable of such cruelty. This woman of whom he writes—whoever she be—or any one, in short, but your own dear self, mama, and Edward, may have been so barbarous to bely me. Beyond you three, is there a creature in the world whom I would not rather suspect of evil than Willoughby, whose heart I know so well?"

Elinor would not contend, and only replied, "Whoever may have been so detestably your enemy, let them be cheated of their malignant triumph, my dear sister, by seeing how nobly the consciousness of your own innocence and good intentions supports your spirits. It is a reasonable and laudable pride which resists such malevolence."

"No, no," cried Marianne, "misery such as mine has no pride. I care not who knows that I am wretched. The triumph of seeing me so may be open to all the world. Elinor, Elinor, they who suffer little may be proud and independent as they like—may resist insult, or return mortification—but I cannot. I must feel—I must be wretched—and they are welcome to enjoy the consciousness of it that can."

"But for my mother's sake and mine—"

"I would do more than for my own. But to appear happy when I am so miserable—Oh! who can require it?"

Again they were both silent. 

Which of the following emotions best describes Marianne's current feelings toward Willoughby?

Possible Answers:

Joy

Pride

Disbelief

Hatred

Embarrassment

Correct answer:

Disbelief

Explanation:

Despite the pain she feels, Marianne refuses to believe that Willoughby is capable of behaving cruelly toward her. We can see this most clearly when Marianne claims, "I could rather believe every creature of my acquaintance leagued together to ruin me in his opinion, than believe [Willoughby's] nature capable of such cruelty."

Example Question #1 : Literature 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:

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.

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

The duke meets d'Artagnan. 

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

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 : Literature Passages

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.

Miss Taylor was Emma’s __________.

Possible Answers:

governess

older sister

mother

maid

sister-in-law

Correct answer:

governess

Explanation:

This may be a tricky question considering how the paragraph describes Miss Taylor in terms of the other roles she unofficially filled. Miss Taylor is compared to Emma’s mother in the second paragraph when it states, “[Emma’s] 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.” However, Miss Taylor is not Emma’s mother. Similarly, she is compared to a sister at the beginning of paragraph three, which says, “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”; this is just another comparison, however, and Miss Taylor is not Emma’s sister. Nothing in the passage suggests that Miss Taylor is Emma’s sister-in-law; talk of her marriage may make you suspect that answer, but for it to be correct, Emma would have to be related to the groom, Mr. Weston, and nothing in the passage suggests this is true. While Miss Taylor works in the Woodhouse household, she does so as governess, not maid. In this way, you could narrow down the answer choices to find the correct one, “governess.”

Example Question #1231 : Sat Critical Reading

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.

Which of the following best summarizes this passage?

Possible Answers:

Emma Woodhouse helps arrange for Miss Taylor to marry Mr. Weston.

Mr. Weston marries Miss Taylor, but wishes he could marry Emma Woodhouse instead.

Emma leads a hard life until she is adopted by Mr. Woodhouse and begins working with Miss Taylor, a governess.

Emma Woodhouse leads a carefree life until her governess, Miss Taylor, gets married.

Emma Woodhouse experiences her first sorrow when her sister gets married, leaving her wanting for friends.

Correct answer:

Emma Woodhouse leads a carefree life until her governess, Miss Taylor, gets married.

Explanation:

When answering questions that ask you to summarize a passage, it’s important to select one that is narrow enough not to admit ideas that aren’t stated in the passage, but broad enough to relate to each paragraph. Some of the answer choices listed for this question aren’t true, so we can ignore those: “Emma leads a hard life until she is adopted by Mr. Woodhouse and begins working with Miss Taylor, a governess” is not true as nothing suggests that Emma is adopted; “Emma experiences her first sorrow when her sister gets married, leaving her wanting for friends” is not true because Miss Taylor is Emma’s governess, not her sister; and “Mr. Weston marries Miss Taylor, but wishes he could marry Emma instead” is not correct because nothing in the passage suggests that this is the case. This leaves us with “Emma helps arrange for Miss Taylor to marry Mr. Weston” and “Emma Woodhouse leads a carefree life until her governess, Miss Taylor, gets married” It is true that Emma helps arrange for Miss Taylor to marry Mr. Weston; we are told so in the sixth paragraph when it says, “there was some satisfaction in considering with what self-denying, generous friendship she had always wished and promoted the match.” However, this only relates to the sixth paragraph, whereas the other answer choice summarizes the events that take place in each paragraph. This means that the best answer choice is “Emma Woodhouse leads a carefree life until her governess, Miss Taylor, gets married.”

Example Question #1 : Analyzing Cause And Effect In Literary Fiction Passages

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.

At the end of the passage, Miss Taylor no longer resides in the Woodhouse household because __________.

Possible Answers:

she got married

she could not get Emma to behave and was fired

Emma terribly offended her

she accepted a better-paying position

she died

Correct answer:

she got married

Explanation:

Miss Taylor marries Mr. Weston in paragraph five, and this is the reason why she does not reside in the Woodhouse household. All of the other answer choices are unsupported by the passage, and while the fifth paragraph does say “It was Miss Taylor's loss which first brought grief,” which might suggest her death, this sentence is preceded by the clarifying statement “Miss Taylor married.”

Example Question #61 : Literary Fiction Passages

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

Paranoid

Intimidating

Charming

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.

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