In this lesson, our instructor Rebekah Hendershot, does a Multiple-Choice Walkthrough (Part 1). Youll learn how to find the point of a passage and how the author gets that point across. Two major passages from College Boards 1999 multiple choice section are discussed in detail starting with The Big Idea, then How Its Expressed, and then going into The Questions. Rebekah guides you through 25 questions and gives step-by-step instructions on how to get the right answer.
The questions begin on page 23 of the PDF (it says page 17 in the lower right corner, but it’s really page 23).
Reading the Passages
Remember, you are asking yourself two questions:
What’s the point of this passage?
How does the author get that point across?
The Big Idea: Vivian does not want to go outside and “enjoy” nature, and lists at great length all the reasons for this preference: nature is inferior to architecture, nature is uncomfortable, and nature is opposed to “mind” or the process of thought.
HowIt’s Expressed: Vivian uses a long list of examples and allusions (including two to painters, Corot and Constable, and one to a favorite poet of Cyril’s). His speech is rich in comparisons and contains a fair bit of personification.
The Questions: This passage covers questions 1-13.
Question 1: What does “nature” mean in the passage?
Obviously, with its references to dirt and insects and the like, “nature” in this case refers to the natural world—the non-constructed environment around Vivian.
Only B and D come close to this notion.
B is better, as it refers to the “physical landscape”.
Question 2: What is surprising about Vivian’s first words?
When was the last time you heard someone in great literature disparaging nature (at least, after someone else had praised it)?
Eliminate A and C; Vivian doesn’t interrupt Cyril, and there’s no evidence that “he” (she!) still possesses this capacity.
D and E are off-topic.
Question 3: Who is “Morris’ poorest workman”?
Apparently, this workman can make chairs.
Only C, “a furniture craftsman”, makes chairs.
Question 4: Why does Vivian describe the quote as “vilely phrased”?
He focuses on the phrasing even as he’s quoting it. Thus, he probably hates the way the thought is expressed more than the thought itself.
Only D deals with the actual phrasing of the quote.
Question 5: What is Vivian’s view of nature?
This is a main-idea question. Obviously, Vivian has a dim view of nature, one in direct contrast to Cyril’s romantic view.
Hey, look! B is “antiromantic”!
Question 6: What poetic devices are NOT used in 49-54?
For an EXCEPT/NOT/LEAST question, cross out the negative word (in this case, NOT) and then eliminate all choices that make sense with the remaining sentence.
That leaves only D, “pathos.” Nothing in this quote arouses sympathy!
Question 7: What is the function of lines 51-53?
The line appears to be mocking the English tendency to avoid serious thought by crediting that tendency with the robust health of the English people. It also supports the idea that thinking is bad for one’s health—the English supposedly never think, and thus are very healthy.
C covers this idea very well.
Question 8: What is “the great historic bulwark of our happiness”?
Grammatically, this would have to be stupidity.
Question 9: What argument in the first speech is repeated in the second?
Eliminate A through D; all of these arguments are either completely wrong (C) or are covered in only one speech.
Question 10: What does Vivian endorse?
The only item on the list that Vivian (not Cyril) mentions by name is egotism.
Question 11: What would art that Vivian might admire NOT contain?
Vivian endorses art for the quality of its design—he feels that art is improvement upon nature.
Thus, we can eliminate A through D, as they’re all ways in which mankind might improve upon nature.
E, however, mentions “moral purpose”, and Vivian never talks about morality.
Question 12: What idea about nature does Vivian NOT ridicule?
You know that Vivian’s view is “antiromantic”, so eliminate all the romantic ideas.
Vivian seems to take B (the indifference of nature to human life) seriously—it’s one of the reasons he dislikes nature.
Question 13: What makes this passage comical?
The humor of this passage comes from the biting way in which Vivian treats conventional ideas about nature.
Only C and D come close to this notion.
C is better, as Vivian isn’t being terribly sarcastic—he’s saying what he thinks, rather than its opposite.
The Big Idea: Emily Dickinson expresses fear at the arrival of various representatives of nature (birds, bees, flowers, etc.) because they make her feel insignificant.
How It’s Expressed: Dickinson uses lots and lots of examples, and a few allusions (“the Queen of Calvary”). There’s also all the usual stuff about Emily Dickinson and her weird capitalizations and syntax.
The Questions: This passage covers questions 14-25.
Question 14: What is the central opposition in the poem?
Dickinson fears the arrival of things like robins and flowers—signs of spring’s return.
D identifies the conflict as between “speaker and spring”.
Question 15: How does the speaker view the coming of the robin, the daffodils, and the bees?
Reread those stanzas; Dickinson appears to be terrified of these things.
C uses the phrase “painful experiences,” the only really negative response.
Question 16: What is the “First Shout”?
What sign of spring is a sudden noise? It might sound like “Pianos in the Woods,” so what noise in the woods sounds like a piano? Birdsong!
Only B refers to birdsong.
Question 17: What are the “Pianos”?
We’ve answered that in the previous question—birds.
Question 18: What do the robin and the daffodils have in common?
Dickinson fears them both, and seems to think both will hurt her.
C, “the power to wound”, is consistent with hurting.
Question 19: What is the effect of “they’re here, though”?
These things the poet feared have all arrived, and the poet is powerless before them.
Only E, “powerlessness,” deals with this idea.
Question 20: What is the meaning of “failed” in line 21?
Dickinson says that “not a creature failed” and “no Blossom stayed away”, which means all the things she’s been talking about are here. So what did they NOT do? They weren’t absent!
Question 21: What is the grammatical function of “Plumes”?
Re-read the line. The poet says that “I my childish Plumes/Lift”, which is a fancy way of saying, “I lift my childish Plumes”.
Thus, “Plumes” is the direct object of “Lift”.
Question 22: How does the speaker perceive the coming of spring?
Eliminate B; there’s no mention of odors or tastes
Eliminate C; there’s no mention of textures (and not much of shapes)
Eliminate D and E; this poem is full of concrete nouns, not abstract ones like “youth” and “poetry”.
Question 23: Which subject is treated in the poem?
This is secretly an elimination question—your job is to eliminate the subjects Dickinson does NOT treat.
Eliminate B through E; they’re all off-topic, more or less.
Question 24: What is the least idiosyncratic element of this poem?
Dickinson’s poems are famous for their idiosyncrasies, especially in her use of English mechanics (capitalization, punctuation, syntax).
Eliminate A and B; the tone and diction are highly unusual (who writes about spring this way?).
Eliminate C; there are some unusual rhymes.
Eliminate D; Dickinson’s capitalization is as bizarre as always.
E looks good; this poem has a strong, clear rhythm.
Question 25: Which quote best matches the main idea of the poem?
Unlike the typical poem about spring, this poem regards spring as a terrible onslaught. So look for a negative quote among the positive ones.
The T.S. Eliot quote (“April is the cruellest month”) aligns closely with this poem.
Multiple-Choice Walkthrough, Part 1
Lecture Slides are screen-captured images of important points in the lecture. Students can download and print out these lecture slide images to do practice problems as well as take notes while watching the lecture.
This book includes five full length practice exams with all questions answered and explained. It includes a review of test topics covering details test takers need to know, such as poetry,prose fiction, and drama. It also includes sample student essays with critiques of their strengths and weaknesses, as well as a detailed glossary defining 175 literary and rhetorical terms.
Publisher: Wordsworth Editions Ltd; New ed edition
This book is a reprint of the Shakespeare Head Press edition, and it presents all the plays in chronological order in which they were written in an easy to read format. It also includes Shakespeare's Sonnets, as well as his longer poems Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece.
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