Reading Philosophy and Literature Practice
The next passages are based on philosophy and literature. You don't have to be an expert in either subject to answer the questions correctly. All the information that you need is in the passage. Look for the main idea, words in context, and the topic sentence to help you understand the basic information. Then use your ability to make inferences based on the facts in the passage. Using all the available information in the passage will help you identify ideas not explicitly stated in the text.
The fictional world of Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison's novel Sula—the African-American section of Medallion, Ohio, a community called the Bottom—is a place where people and natural things are apt to go awry, to break from their prescribed boundaries, a place where bizarre and unnatural happenings and strange reversals of the ordinary are commonplace. The very naming of the setting of Sula is a turning upside-down of the expected; the Bottom is located high in the hills. The novel is filled with images of mutilation, both psychological and physical. A great part of the lives of the characters, therefore, is taken up with making sense of the world, setting boundaries, and devising methods to control what is essentially uncontrollable. One of the major devices used by the people of the Bottom is the seemingly universal one of creating a _____________; in this case, the title character Sula—upon which to project both the evil they perceive outside themselves and the evil in their own hearts.
- Which of the following words would best fit into the blank in the final sentence of the passage?
- Based on the description of the setting of the novel Sula, which of the following adjectives would most likely describe the behavior of many of its residents?
- Which sentence, if inserted in the blank space on the previous page, would make the best sense in the context of the passage?
- The director, Peter Hall, had to beg the theater management not to close the play immediately but to wait for the Sunday reviews.
- Despite the audience reaction, the cast and director believed in the play.
- It looked as if Waiting for Godot was beginning a long run as the most controversial play of London's 1955 season.
- Waiting for Godot was in danger of closing the first week of its run and of becoming nothing more than a footnote in the annals of the English stage.
- Judging from the information provided in the paragraph, which of the following statements is accurate?
- The 1955 production of Waiting for Godot was the play's first performance.
- Waiting for Godot was written by Peter Hall.
- The sets and characters in Waiting for Godot were typical of London stage productions in the 1950s.
- Waiting for Godot was not first performed in English.
- Which of the following provides the best definition of the term avant-garde as the author intends it in the passage?
- Which of the following best describes the attitude of the author of the passage toward the play Waiting for Godot?
- It was a curiosity in theater history.
- It is the most important play of the twentieth century.
- It is too repetitious.
- It represents a turning point in stage history.
- The word that would most accurately fit the blank at the end of the second paragraph is
- The underlined word convey, as used in this passage, most accurately means
- give birth to.
- What is the main idea of Plato's cave analogy?
- This world is not all there is.
- Mankind cannot hope to see the truth.
- Humans are stupid.
- Real things cast shadows.
- The author's purpose in this passage is to
- refute Plato's philosophy.
- explain Plato's philosophy.
- convince the reader that life is like a cave.
- entertain the reader.
- Which of the following would be the best title for this passage?
- Life in a Cave.
- Making Shadow Puppets.
- Plato's Cave Analogy.
- Is There Life After Death?
- The underlined word temporal, as used in the passage, most nearly means
- Based on the tone of the passage, which of the following words best describes the author's attitude toward the Pony Express rider?
- The sighting of the pony-rider is told from which viewpoint?
- a person sitting on a porch
- a passenger inside a stagecoach
- a passenger in a hot air balloon
- a person picnicking
- The reader can infer that the stagecoach in the passage did not
- carry mail.
- have windows.
- travel by night.
- travel a different route from that of the Pony Express.
- Which of the following is not supported by the passage?
- The mail was strapped in a pouch under the rider's thighs.
- The rider rode great distances to deliver the mail.
- People did not care about the Pony Express rider.
- Usually eighty pony riders were in the saddle at any given time.
Don't forget to look for the author's attitude in the material you read. Is it positive, negative, or neutral? Ask yourself, how might the author have spoken if he or she had felt differently?
The English language premiere of Samuel Beckett's play Waiting for Godot took place in London in August 1955. Godot is an avant-garde play with only five characters (not including Mr. Godot, who never arrives) and a minimal setting: one rock and one bare tree. The play has two acts; the second act repeats what little action occurs in the first with few changes: The tree, for instance, acquires one leaf. In a statement that was to become famous, the critic, Vivian Mercer, has described Godot as "a play in which nothing happens twice." Opening night, critics and playgoers greeted the play with bafflement and derision. The line, "Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes. It's awful," was met by a loud rejoinder of "Hear! Hear!" from an audience member. _____________________________________. However, Harold Hobson's review in The Sunday Times managed to recognize the play for what history has proven it to be, a revolutionary moment in theater.
Plato, the famous Greek philosopher, taught that the things of the world around us are merely copies or "shadows" of greater, eternal realities. He used a metaphor of people living inside a cave to convey his ideas. The people inside the cave could not see the world outside the cave, they could only see shadows of people and animals as they passed by.
Plato was suggesting that the shadows would seem very real and alive to the people inside the cave, because that was all they had ever seen of the outside world. But these shadows were not the real, living creatures of the outside world, they were merely reflections of them. Plato's point was that this temporal world is a _______________ of some greater, eternal reality.
This is an excerpt from Mark Twain's Roughing It. Twain gives an eyewitness account of the operation of the Pony Express, the West's first mail system.
The little flat mail-pockets strapped under the rider's thighs would each hold about the bulk of a child's primer. They held many an important business chapter and newspaper letter, but these were written on paper as airy and thin as gold-leaf, nearly, and thus bulk and weight were economized. The stagecoach traveled about a hundred to a hundred and twenty-five miles a day (twenty-four hours), the pony-rider about two hundred and fifty. There were about eighty pony-riders in the saddle all the time, night and day, stretching in a long, scattering procession from Missouri to California, 40 flying eastward, and 40 toward the west, and among them making 400 gallant horses earn a stirring livelihood and see a deal of scenery every single day in the year.
We had a consuming desire, from the beginning, to see a pony-rider, but somehow or other all that passed us and all that met us managed to streak by in the night, and so we heard only a whiz and a hail, and the swift phantom of the desert was gone before we could get our heads out of the windows. But now we were expecting one along every moment, and would see him in broad daylight. Presently the driver exclaims:
"HERE HE COMES!"
Every neck is stretched further, and every eye strained wider. Away across the endless dead level of the prairie a black speck appears against the sky, and it is plain that it moves. Well, I should think so! In a second or two it becomes a horse and rider, rising and falling, rising and falling, rising and falling—sweeping toward us nearer and nearer—growing more and more distinct, more and more sharply defined—nearer and still nearer, and the flutter of the hoofs comes faintly to the ear—another instant a whoop and a hurrah from our upper deck, a wave of the rider's hand, but no reply, and a man and a horse burst past our excited faces, and go swinging away like a belated fragment of a storm!
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