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Question 2 of 24

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SAT

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PSAT/NMSQT

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PSAT 10

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Words in Context

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Rhetoric

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US/World Literature

Passage Content

Questions 1-5 are based on the following passage.

This passage is adapted from Edith Wharton, Ethan Frome, originally published in 1911. Mattie Silver is Ethan’s household employee.

Mattie Silver had lived under Ethan’s roof for a year, and from early morning till they met at supper he had frequent chances of seeing her; but no moments in her company were comparable to those when, her arm in his, and her light step flying to keep time with his long stride, they walked back through the night to the farm. He had taken to the girl from the first day, when he had driven over to the Flats to meet her, and she had smiled and waved to him from the train, crying out, “You must be Ethan!” as she jumped down with her bundles, while he reflected, looking over her slight person: “She don’t look much on housework, but she ain’t a fretter, anyhow.” But it was not only that the coming to his house of a bit of hopeful young life was like the lighting of a fire on a cold hearthThe girl was more than the bright serviceable creature he had thought her. She had an eye to see and an ear to hear: he could show her things and tell her things, and taste the bliss of feeling that all he imparted left long reverberations and echoes he could wake at will.

It was during their night walks back to the farm that he felt most intensely the sweetness of this communion. He had always been more sensitive than the people about him to the appeal of natural beauty. His unfinished studies had given form to this sensibility and even in his unhappiest moments field and sky spoke to him with a deep and powerful persuasion. But hitherto the emotion had remained in him as a silent ache, veiling with sadness the beauty that evoked it. He did not even know whether any one else in the world felt as he did, or whether he was the sole victim of this mournful privilege. Then he learned that one other spirit had trembled with the same touch of wonder: that at his side, living under his roof and eating his bread, was a creature to whom he could say: “That’s Orion down yonder; the big fellow to the right is Aldebaran, and the bunch of little ones—like bees swarming—they’re the Pleiades...” or whom he could hold entranced before a ledge of granite thrusting up through the fern while he unrolled the huge panorama of the ice age, and the long dim stretches of succeeding time. The fact that admiration for his learning mingled with Mattie’s wonder at what he taught was not the least part of his pleasure. And there were other sensations, less definable but more exquisite, which drew them together with a shock of silent joy: the cold red of sunset behind winter hills, the flight of cloud-flocks over slopes of golden stubble, or the intensely blue shadows of hemlocks on sunlit snow. When she said to him once: “It looks just as if it was painted!” it seemed to Ethan that the art of definition could go no farther, and that words had at last been found to utter his secret soul....

As he stood in the darkness outside the church these memories came back with the poignancy of vanished things. Watching Mattie whirl down the floor from hand to hand he wondered how he could ever have thought that his dull talk interested her. To him, who was never gay but in her presence, her gaiety seemed plain proof of indifference. The face she lifted to her dancers was the same which, when she saw him, always looked like a window that has caught the sunset. He even noticed two or three gestures which, in his fatuity, he had thought she kept for him: a way of throwing her head back when she was amused, as if to taste her laugh before she let it out, and a trick of sinking her lids slowly when anything charmed or moved her.

Yes

Select an Answer

In the context of the passage, the author’s use of the phrase “her light step flying to keep time with his long stride” (line 3) is primarily meant to convey the idea that

Ethan and Mattie share a powerful enthusiasm.

Correct Answer: 
Yes

Mattie strives to match the speed at which Ethan works.

Correct Answer: 
No

Mattie and Ethan playfully compete with each other.

Correct Answer: 
No

Ethan walks at a pace that frustrates Mattie.

Correct Answer: 
No

View Correct Answer

Choice A is the best answer. The author uses the phrase mainly to introduce a topic discussed at length in the second paragraph (lines 1125)—namely, the growing connection Ethan sees himself forming with Mattie over the course of many evening walks during which they share similar feelings for the wonders of the natural world. In the context of the passage, the phrase evokes an image of two people walking eagerly and in harmony.

Choice B is not the best answer because while the phrase literally conveys Mattie’s attempts to keep up with Ethan’s pace, the phrase relates to times of leisure during which Ethan and Mattie walked arm-in-arm (see lines 13) rather than times of work. Moreover, the phrase is used primarily in a figurative way to suggest shared enthusiasm (see explanation for choice A).

Choice C is not the best answer because while the phrase literally describes Mattie’s attempts to keep up with Ethan’s pace, the context makes clear that Mattie and Ethan are not in competition with each other but rather enjoying times of leisure during which the two walk arm-in-arm (see lines 13). The phrase is instead used primarily in a figurative way to suggest shared enthusiasm (see explanation for choice A).

Choice D is not the best answer because while the phrase could in isolation be read as conveying some frustration on the part of Mattie, who had to expend extra effort to keep up with Ethan’s pace, the context makes clear that Mattie is not annoyed with Ethan but is instead enjoying times of leisure during which the two walk arm-in-arm (see lines 13). The phrase is instead used to suggest shared enthusiasm (see explanation for choice A).

Question Difficulty: 
easy
Passage Complexity: 
higher
Objective: 

Students must determine the main rhetorical effect of the author’s choice of words.