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Arts and Humanities Critical Reading Practice Exercises Set 2

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Updated on Sep 27, 2011

Arts and Humanities Critical Reading

Questions 1-8 are based on the following passage.

In this passage, the author discusses the problem of maintaining privacy in our high-tech society.

A recent New York Times "House and Home" article featured the story of a man who lives in a glass house. Every wall in his home is transparent; he has no walls to hide behind, not even in the bathroom. Of course, he lives in an isolated area, so he doesn't exactly have neighbors peering in and watching his every move. But he has chosen to live without any physical privacy in a home that allows every action to be seen. He has created his own panopticon of sorts, a place in which everything is in full view of others.

The term panopticon was coined by Jeremy Bentham in the late eighteenth century when he was describing an idea for how prisons should be designed. The prisoner's cells would be placed in a circle with a guard tower in the middle. All walls facing the center of the circle would be glass. In that way, every prisoner's cell would be in full view of the guards. The prisoners could do nothing unobserved, but the prisoners would not be able to see the guard tower. They would know they were being watched—or rather, they would know that they could be being watched—but because they could not see the observer, they would never know when the guard was actually monitoring their actions.

It is common knowledge that people behave differently when they know they are being watched. We act differently when we know someone is looking; we act differently when we think someone else might be looking. In these situations, we are less likely to be ourselves; instead, we will act the way we think we should act when we are being observed by others.

In our wired society, many talk of the panopticon as a metaphor for the future. But in many ways, the panopticon is already here. Surveillance cameras are everywhere, and we often don't even know our actions are being recorded. In fact, the surveillance camera industry is enormous, and these cameras keep getting smaller and smaller to make surveillance easier and more ubiquitous. In addition, we leave a record of everything we do online; our cyber-whereabouts can be tracked and that information used for various purposes. Every time we use a credit card, make a major purchase, answer a survey, apply for a loan, or join a mailing list, our actions are observed and recorded. And most of us have no idea just how much information about us has been recorded and how much data is available to various sources. The scale of information gathering and the scale of exchange have both expanded so rapidly in the last decade that there are now millions of electronic profiles of individuals existing in cyberspace, profils that are bought and sold, traded, and often used for important decisions, such as whether or not to grant someone a loan. However, that information is essentially beyond our control. We can do little to stop the information gathering and exchange and can only hope to be able to control the damage if something goes wrong.

Something went wrong recently for me. Someone obtained my Social Security number, address, work number and address, and a few other vital pieces of data. That person then applied for a credit account in my name. The application was approved, and I soon received a bill for nearly $5,000 worth of computer-related purchases.

Fraud, of course, is a different issue, but this kind of fraud couldn't happen—or at least, couldn't happen with such ease and frequency—in a world of paper-based records. With so much information floating about in cyberspace, and so much technology that can record and observe, our privacy has been deeply compromised.

I find it truly amazing that someone would want to live in a transparent house at any time, but especially in an age when individual privacy is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain and defend (against those who argue that information must be gathered for the social good). Or perhaps this man's house is an attempt to call our attention to the fact that the panopticon is already here, and that we are all just as exposed as he is.

  1. According to the passage, a panopticon is
    1. a prison cell.
    2. a place in which everything can be seen by others.
    3. a tower that provides a panoramic view.
    4. a house that is transparent.
    5. a place in which surveillance cameras and other monitoring equipment are in use.
  2. The description of how the panopticon would work in a prison (lines 10–19) implies that the panopticon
    1. can be an effective tool for social control.
    2. should be used regularly in public places.
    3. is not applicable outside of the prison dynamic.
    4. is an effective tool for sharing information.
    5. will redefine privacy for the twenty-first century.
  3. In lines 26–36, the author suggests that the panopticon is a metaphor for our society because
    1. our privacy is transparent.
    2. we are all prisoners in our own homes.
    3. our actions are constantly observed and recorded.
    4. we are always afraid that someone might be watching us.
    5. there is rampant exchange of information in cyberspace.
  4. According to the passage, a key difference between the prison panopticon and the modern technological panopticon is that
    1. the prisoners can see their observers, but we can't.
    2. today's prisons are too crowded for the panopticon to work.
    3. prisoners are less informed about privacy issues than technology users.
    4. the prisoners are aware that they may be being watched, but we often don't even know we are being monitored.
    5. prisoners are more protected in their panopticon than we are in ours.
  5. The passage suggests that all of the following contribute to the erosion of privacy EXCEPT
    1. increased use of credit cards for purchases.
    2. buying and selling of electronic profiles.
    3. increasingly discreet surveillance equipment.
    4. lack of controls over information exchange.
    5. easy access to electronic information in cyberspace.
  6. The author describes a personal experience with identity theft in order to
    1. show how prevalent identity theft is.
    2. show how angry he is about having his privacy invaded.
    3. show an example of how private information can be taken and misused.
    4. demonstrate a flaw in the panopticon.
    5. demonstrate the vast scale of information exchange.
  7. The word compromised in line 55 means
    1. conceded.
    2. agreed.
    3. dishonored.
    4. negotiated.
    5. jeopardized.
  8. Based on the passage, it can be inferred that the author would support which of the following?
    1. widespread construction of glass houses
    2. stricter sentencing for perpetrators of fraud
    3. greater flexibility in loan approval criteria
    4. stricter regulations for information gathering and exchange
    5. modeling prisons after Bentham's panopticon

Questions 9–16 are based on the following passage.

The following passage tells of the mythological Greek god Prometheus.

Without a doubt, one of the most interesting mythological characters is the Greek god Prometheus. A complex character with an undying love for the human beings he created, Prometheus embodies a rich combination of often contradictory characteristics, including loyalty and defiance, trickery and trustworthiness. He shows resilience and resolve in his actions yet weakness in his fondness for humankind.

To reward Prometheus (whose name means "forethought") and his brother Epimetheus ("afterthought") for helping him defeat the Titans, Zeus, the great ruler of Olympian gods, gave the brothers the task of creating mortals to populate the land around Mount Olympus.

Prometheus asked Epimetheus to give the creatures their various characteristics, such as cunning, swiftness, and flight. By the time he got to man, however, there was nothing left to give. So Prometheus decided to make man in his image: he stood man upright like the gods and became the benefactor and protector of mankind.

Though Prometheus was particularly fond of his creation, Zeus didn't care for mankind and didn't want men to have the divine gift of knowledge. But Prometheus took pity on mortal men and gave them knowledge of the arts and sciences, including the healing arts and agriculture.

Always seeking the best for his creation, one day Prometheus conspired to trick Zeus to give the best meat of an ox to men instead of Zeus. He cut up the ox and hid the bones in layers of fat; then he hid the meat and innards inside the hide. When Prometheus presented the piles to Zeus, Zeus chose the pile that looked like fat and meat. He was enraged to find that it was nothing but bones.

To punish Prometheus for his deceit and his fondness for humans, Zeus forbade men fire—a symbol of creative power, life force, and divine knowledge. But Prometheus would not let his children be denied this greatest of gifts. He took a hollow reed, stole fire from Mount Olympus, and gave it to man. With this divine power, creativity, ingenuity, and culture flourished in the land of mortals.

Again Zeus punished man for Prometheus's transgression, this time by sending the first woman, Pandora, to Earth. Pandora brought with her a "gift" from Zeus: a jar filled with evils of every kind. Prometheus knew Zeus to be vengeful and warned Epimetheus not to accept any gifts from Zeus, but Epimetheus was too taken with Pandora's beauty and allowed her to stay. Eventually Pandora opened the jar she'd been forbidden to open, releasing all manner of evils, including Treachery, Sorrow, Villainy, Misfortune, and Plague. At the bottom of the jar was Hope, but Pandora closed the lid before Hope could escape.

Prometheus drew Zeus's greatest wrath when he refused to tell Zeus which of Zeus's sons would kill him and take over the throne. Believing he could torture Prometheus into revealing the secret, Zeus bound Prometheus to a rock where every day an eagle would come to tear at his flesh and eat his liver, which would regenerate each night. But Prometheus refused to reveal his knowledge of the future to Zeus and maintained his silence. Eventually, Prometheus was released by Heracles (also known as Hercules), the last mortal son of Zeus and the strongest of all mortals. Soon afterwards, Prometheus received immortality from a dying centaur, to take his place forever among the great gods of Olympus.

  1. The main idea of the first paragraph (lines 1–6) is that Prometheus
    1. is disrespectful of authority.
    2. is the mythological creator of humans.
    3. has many admirable characteristics.
    4. should not have been so fond of humans.
    5. is a fascinating character because of his complexity.
  2. The author's primary purpose in this passage is to
    1. demonstrate the vengeful nature of Zeus.
    2. show how much Prometheus cared for humans.
    3. create in readers an interest in mythology.
    4. relate the story of Prometheus.
    5. prove that Prometheus, not Zeus, was the creator of man.
  3. Based on this passage, it can be inferred that Zeus disliked humans because
    1. Prometheus spent too much time with them.
    2. Prometheus cared for humans more than he did for Zeus.
    3. humans could not be trusted.
    4. humans did not respect Zeus.
    5. he did not create them.
  4. Zeus becomes angry at Prometheus for all of the following EXCEPT
    1. creating man.
    2. giving man fire.
    3. being excessively fond of humans.
    4. refusing to reveal which of his sons would kill him.
    5. tricking him into taking the undesirable part of an ox.
  5. Based on the passage, the relationship between Prometheus and humans can best be described as that of
    1. parent and child.
    2. close friends.
    3. master and servant.
    4. bitter enemies.
    5. reluctant allies.
  6. The word transgression as used in line 33 means
    1. villainy.
    2. trespass.
    3. irregularity.
    4. error.
    5. disobedience.
  7. The fact that Zeus included Hope in Pandora's jar (lines 38–41) suggests that
    1. Zeus really did love humans as much as Prometheus did.
    2. while Zeus was a vengeful god, he did not wish humans to live in utter despair.
    3. Zeus was just playing a trick on humans.
    4. Zeus was trying to make amends with Prometheus.
    5. Zeus wanted to drive Prometheus away from humans.
  8. The content and style of this passage suggest that the intended audience
    1. are experts on Greek mythology.
    2. are religious officials.
    3. is a general lay audience.
    4. are family members and friends.
    5. is a scholarly review board.
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