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 hearth. The 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.
Select an Answer
The description in the first paragraph indicates that what Ethan values most about Mattie is her
fitness for farm labor.
freedom from worry.
Choice C is the best answer. Lines 3–7 mention many of Mattie’s traits: she is friendly (“smiled and waved”), eager (“jumped down with her bundles”), easygoing (“she ain’t a fretter”), and energetic (“like the lighting of a fire on a cold hearth”). However, the trait that appeals most to Ethan, as suggested by it being mentioned last in the paragraph, is her openness to the world around 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” (lines 8–10).
Choice A is not the best answer because the passage suggests that Ethan does not actually view Mattie as particularly well suited to farm labor. When first seeing Mattie, Ethan thinks to himself, after “looking over her slight person,” that “she don’t look much on housework” (lines 5–6).
Choice B is not the best answer because the passage suggests that Mattie’s youth is not what Ethan values most about Mattie. Although the passage does note that “the coming to his house of a bit of hopeful young life was like the lighting of a fire on a cold hearth” (lines 5–7), the narrator goes on to note that “the girl was more than the bright serviceable creature [Ethan] had thought her” (lines 7–8), indicating that Ethan values something more in Mattie than simply her vivacity.
Choice D is not the best answer because although Ethan acknowledges that Mattie “ain’t a fretter” (line 6), there is no evidence that Mattie’s freedom from worry is what Ethan values most about Mattie. The first paragraph lists several positive traits that Mattie has, with the most emphasis being placed on her openness to the world around her (see explanation for choice C).
Students must characterize the relationship between two individuals described in the passage.