AP English Language & composition exam
The Princeton Review AP English Language and Composition Practice Tests and Explanations
Practice Test 1: Answers
EXPLANATIONS TO THE MULTIPLE-CHOICE SECTION
1. B As is often the case on the real exam, this first passage, taken from Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” is a relatively easy one. This question sets up many of the others that follow it so make sure you get this one correct. If you take the author’s proposal seriously, then four of the answers [(A), (C), (D), and (E)] are plausible; of course, the key is to understand that the author is not making a serious proposal, but, rather, he is satirizing other so-called scientific studies that, under the guise of humanitarianism, tend to offer cruel (if not sadistic) “solutions” to poverty. Therefore, (B) is the only acceptable answer.
2. D Even if you are not familiar with the term “arguments from authority,” you can easily guess the meaning. The authorities cited are “a principal gentleman in the county of Cavan” (paragraph 1), “our merchants” (paragraph 2), and “a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London” (paragraph 4). These are, of course, dubious authorities, indeed, which is one of the sources of humor in the passage.
The easiest and fastest way to use POE in this case is to examine the shortest of the paragraphs, the fourth. Clearly, there are no similes (A) or extended metaphors (C) in the fourth paragraph, so there is no need to check the first or second paragraphs for these rhetorical devices. The other two answers are more esoteric, but logic leads you to eliminate them, even if you do not fully understand them as rhetorical terms. There is nothing approximating an appeal in paragraph four, so you can eliminate that answer easily; there is also no attempt to argue a point (B).
3. A Answers (B) and (C) are shallowly associated with the word “probationers,” which appears in the question (and text), and are easily dismissed. Answer (E) tempts you to make a hasty association between the last word in the paragraph (“art”) and a practitioner of art. This narrows the choices to (A) and (D); however, it is clear that the children’s “livelihood” is not a formal trade, but mere thievery—the only “trade” left open to indigent children during the incipient stages of the Industrial Revolution. So “probationers” refers to “children learning how to steal,” or choice A.
4. E The humor comes from the clever juxtaposition of the phrase “nutriment and rags.” The first term is even more formal than what we may expect (food), and this creates an expectation for the second term: clothing. Instead, the author hits the reader with an unexpected substitute for clothes: rags. The other answers appear to be more or less plausible, but none has anything to do with humor. Hyperbole (B) was thrown in gratuitously; often, students will be tricked into selecting an answer simply because it contains a rhetorical term and appears to be the most sophisticated choice.
5. C Even though you are probably not familiar with this word, as long as you read it in context, the answer to this question should be obvious—the entire paragraph is about food, and certainly you understand the other terms (stewed, roasted, baked, boiled ). Reading the term in context should have at least allowed you to eliminate the other choices; “animal,” “child,” “place,” and “master.”
6. A The best approach to this question is to use POE. You can eliminate answers (B) and (C) right away. If you remember that “deductive reasoning” means starting with a generality and working logically to a specific conclusion, you can see that answer (D) is way off base too. Answer (E) may be tempting because of the existence of the phrase “which is more than we allow to sheep, black cattle, or swine” in the paragraph, but this paragraph is not dominated by analogy. Although this comparison is extended, it is not really a pattern. “Process analysis” (A) is the best answer; in this paragraph, the author analyzes a problem and proposes a process that will bring about a solution. The proposal describes the process for breeding, fattening, and preparing this very unusual source of protein.
7. D This question is related to the previous one. The proposal is to fatten the children for slaughter, just as if they were livestock (sheep, cattle, or pigs).
8. A By using POE, you should be able to narrow your choices down to (A) and (C) very quickly. The author is saying that the new meat will be expensive, and only the rich landlords will be able to afford it.
9. A By this point, you must have digested (forgive the pun) the satire, so you understand that the landlords have “devoured” the parents by charging unreasonably high rents and that, according to the author, they may as well literally devour (eat) their poor tenants’ children. It is understandable that answer (E) may tempt you, but the diction in this sentence is hardly a revelation. We have understood the point of view all along; behind the comical satire is the rage of a man disgusted by the exploitation of the poor by the rich.
10. D This farcical proposal does make good economic sense, but it does not help the poor; clearly, this eliminates answers (A), (B), and (E). The “only” in answer (C) allows us to discard that choice too. The proposal benefits the rich by providing a plentiful source of a food that, among other things, will be both chic and appropriate for a wide variety of dishes. Also, by slaughtering the children when they are infants, society will not have to worry about providing for older children, who are too young to work but old enough to need clothing and food. Ostensibly, this responsibility falls on those who have money, the rich; if this cost is eliminated, then again the rich benefit.
11. B To answer this question, you need to think in terms of main idea. This is a fairly straight-forward question that asks you to consider the type of material you are reading and what the author is saying within that context. In this piece of literary criticism, the author is making a connection between what Gulliver experienced and what an eighteenth-century Londoner might have seen exhibited in fairs and inns.
12. C Footnote questions were added to the test in response to concerns raised by colleges and universities. In these days of easy access to information via the internet, colleges are becoming increasingly concerned that students do not take seriously the intellectual property of authors and end up plagiarizing, wittingly or not. Footnotes give information about authorship and publication place and date and can also provide hints as to the purpose of a piece of writing or its context. This particular footnote simply indicates that the quote about Lilliput does, indeed, come from Gulliver’s Travels, part of a 14-volume set of works by Swift.
13. D This quote from Social Life in the Reign of Queen Anne helps to set an elaborate scene, and the footnote helps to lend credibility to Todd’s purpose in describing the imaginative miniature worlds of Swift’s day.
14. C By paying attention to the title, the author, the subject matter, and the footnotes you should be able to use POE to weed out (B) and (C), and while the subject matter of this essay might be of interest to an anthropologist (A), the content and format is consistent with literary criticism.
15. E In approaching this question, you’ll definitely want to use POE. You can infer several things from the first part of the passage.
1. The passage is about French Romanticism.
2. Typically, critics agree that French Romanticism begins in the late eighteenth century.
3. Typically, critics agree that Jean-Jacques Rousseau is the first great French Romantic.
4. This author emphasizes that French Romanticism is important much earlier in the eighteenth century.
5. This author believes that the novels of Abbé Prévost, who wrote Romantic works in the first half of the century, provide good examples of this earlier phenomenon.
Thus, answer (A) is clearly false; the reverse is true. The same can be said for (B)—few critics believe this; most critics believe that “the patron saint” is Rousseau. It is easy to eliminate (D). If the novel is not relevant, then why does the critic spend half of the passage discussing it? It is true that the author proposes drama as an even more relevant genre, but that doesn’t imply that the consideration of the novel was inappropriate.
The author discusses Nivelle de la Chaussée along with the group of playwrights; thus, it is reasonable to assume that plays, not novels, are that author’s claim to fame. Therefore, you’re left with (E); and from how the author has described the books and paintings “often depict emotional contemporary issues.”
16. A You should be able to eliminate choices (B) and (C) right away. Choice (C) is just ridiculous, and as for (B), the Gothic effects have to do with Gothic art (architecture) and the so-called Gothic Revival. Choice (D) doesn’t seem to have much to do with the passage, so get rid of it.
You may get caught up with answer (E); the problem with this answer is the word “vividly.” However, between (A) and (E), you should be able to determine that (A) is the better choice, upon reviewing the passage. If you are unfamiliar with Gothic romances, the phrase “such as crêpe-hung mortuary chambers” is the key to arriving at the correct answer.
17. A Hopefully, POE can help you narrow your choices to (A) and (C). If you are unsure, plug each proposed answer into the sentence and see if the resulting sentence makes sense in the context of what you have read. “Morphology” refers to the form or structure of something. How does (A) sound? “… the revolution in theatrical behavior which is of singular importance for the structure (or form) of Romanticism.” That isn’t bad; it’s the best of the answer choices!
18. C The only overt attempts to trick you are in (D) and (E). When you go to a restaurant, the “gratuity” is the tip; “gratuitous” and “gratifying” contain the same initial letters. Even if you do not know the correct answer, you should never fall for this kind of trick; seldom or never will the question and the correct answer have a relationship such as this one.
Words like intensity and gesticulating should lead you to the correct answer. In this case, the author is saying that the actors “go out of their way to give gratuitous demonstrations of the intensity with which they feel,” which implies that their demonstrations are not directly tied to the plot; this shows that (C) is correct. Note that (B) is the exact opposite of the correct answer.
19. A This question is related to the previous ones in many respects. Furthermore, answers (C), (D), and (E) are not substantiated in any way by the text, and (B) is the opposite of what is true. A large clue in the passage that should have guided you toward the correct answer is the phrase “the gesticulating characters, often morbid, always extravagant.” This implies that the characters were, as (A) states, emotionally overwrought.
20. A The word “Revolutionary” is capitalized because it refers to a specific revolution: the French Revolution (of 1789). By the way, there were several other important revolutions in France, most notably in 1830 and 1848; however, the French Revolution is the one that’s cited here.
21. A Remember that a period (or periodic sentence) is a long, complex, grammatically correct sentence. This is definitely a long sentence, but it flows well and is grammatically correct.
22. C Using POE, you can eliminate all the incorrect answers with ease. Clearly, the passage goes beyond a discussion of theater (A), has nothing to do with political history (E), and is far too scholarly to interest tourists (D). Although, conceivably, it could come from a history text (B), the entire passage only deals with Romanticism, and seems to get into a little too much depth, and controversially, to be appropriate for a history text.
23. B Again, POE is the best way to approach this question. Answers (A), (C), (D), and (E) are at least half wrong (therefore completely wrong). Take a look at (B). The author is being ironic when she says in the first line, “My own sex, I hope, will excuse me, if I treat them like rational creatures.…” The second part of choice (B), “exposition,” is defined as “a setting forth of meaning or intent,” and that is exactly what the author is doing in this first paragraph. Answer choice (B) is correct. For the record, note that, in this context, the author’s “apology” has nothing to do with being sorry; it most nearly means “defense of an idea.”
24. A The author addresses women directly and pretends to excuse herself for addressing them as strong, confident people, instead of the weak, overly sentimental creatures that society wants (and expects) them to be.
25. E Your choice should boil down to (D) and (E). When the author says, “I wish to persuade women to endeavour to acquire strength, both of mind and body,” she means intellectual and physical strength. Had she wanted to stress emotional strength, she would have replaced mind with heart.
26. E Softer and weak are important adjectives of both paragraphs; the author uses them in the second paragraph to tie this paragraph in with the first one.
27. A No doubt you can narrow your choices to (A) and (B). The best way to approach this type of question is to substitute in the answer choices for the original word and see which one makes the most sense. Try (A): “… supposed to be the sexual characteristics of the weaker sex.…”. This seems great, but try (B) too, just in case: “… supposed to be the sexual characteristics of the weaker woman …” Not as good. Naturally, in this case, the weaker sex is woman, but you are asked to find the meaning for “vessel” only. Choice (A) is the best answer.
28. C Again, there are only two reasonable answers: (A) and (C). The author states that “the first object of laudable ambition is to obtain a character as a human being, regardless of the distinction of sex.” Thus, one must eliminate answer (A) because she is not suggesting that a comparison be made between a man and woman.
29. A The author wishes to convince the reader by the force of her cogent arguments and the sincerity of her emotions, so the answer is (A). If you don’t have “cogent” on your vocabulary list, put it on now. It means “appealing to the intellect or powers of reasoning; convincing.” You can eliminate the other choices: The author states unequivocally that she does not wish to polish her style, to employ the bombast and periodic sentences of a rhetorical style, to write elegantly, or to use flowery diction.
30. C The author points out—and rightfully so—that the flowery diction expected of women relegated them to a world outside of that of men. The difference in the social level of men and women was reflected in the way they used language; only men could use the crude words that attempt to express the crude realities of life. Women were not supposed to know those same crude realities, and, therefore, could not use the crude words that fit with those realities.
31. E The sugary diction becomes associated with the taste of a cloyingly sweet delicacy; this is an extended metaphor so POE allows you to eliminate (A), (B), and (D). This is not a caricature of women, nor is it a critique of bombast (remember, pompous speech or writing). If you do not know the meaning of “panegyric,” then add it to your list of vocabulary. Panegyric means “statement of high praise.” It should be clear that the author does not sing the praises of sugary writing.
32. E Since, in this passage, the author suggests that women have the capacity to be independent equals of men, she is most likely to agree that if women are educated in the same manner as men, then they would be more likely to be equals with men in the eyes of the world.
33. A Use POE, especially if you don’t know what answer choice (A) means. (Sardonic means “harsh, bitter, or caustic.”) Although sarcasm is stronger than irony, both answer choices (C) and (D) involve saying one thing and meaning the opposite, so both are incorrect: The author means what she says. It is difficult to imagine a feminist author addressing other women in a condescending or haughty fashion. Only answer (A) remains.
34. C What is the entire passage about? It is about learning, and most importantly, the reason for learning. This is simply a big-picture question in disguise. In this passage, the writer claims that teaching methodologies are overrated because there are many ways to teach and learn; what is important is a reason for learning.
35. A The phrase “So it is with learning,” which follows the example of the ways to learn tribal lays, is a big clue that should tell you that an analogy is being used here. Besides, none of the other answers is plausible; POE can lead you with certainty to the correct answer.
36. C Don’t be thrown off by the use of the term “infinitives” in this question. Infinitives are simply verb forms that function as substantives, while retaining some verb characteristics. Some examples of infinitives are “We want him to win the lottery,” or “To go willingly will prove that you are innocent.” So this question specifically refers to the line “There is no one who can say that this or that is the best way to know things, to feel things, to see things, to remember things, to apply things, to connect things and that no other will do as well.” From the context—and from your own experience, one hopes—learning is a positive experience, so any answer choice that uses a negative adjective should be eliminated. Learning is (not supposed to be) “tedious” (A), “impersonal” (B), “trivial” (D), or even “mechanical” (E); using POE leaves us with only (C). In fact, learning is an active and a varied process.
37. D If you understand the passage, you should be able to quickly narrow your choices to (C) and (D); motivation, in the author’s words, is fleeting (or momentary). Although the author does not say outright that a motivation is concrete, he does set up a clear rhetorical contrast between motivation and reason. Given that he describes reason as abstract, it figures that motivation should be roughly the opposite—or at least not the same. The only textual clue that tells us motivation is concrete is the word event.
38. E We have already drawn attention to the string of infinitives in the first paragraph; in the third paragraph, you may have already noticed the parallel series of prepositional phrases (in which the preposition “to” is repeated). Choice (E), or “notable parallelism,” is correct.
Let’s go through the other choices. An “aphorism” is a pithy saying or proverb. “Syllogistic reasoning” proceeds along the lines of a syllogism: a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion. Here is an example of syllogistic reasoning: All Princeton Review books are useful; this is a Princeton Review book; therefore, this book is useful. Ad hominem arguments consist of attacks against a person’s character. If you were to say, “This book must be awful because you wrote it,” you would be adducing an ad hominem argument to prove your point.
39. C Answers (A) and (B) are snares for the careless reader who fails to consider the context in which the word is used; “god” in this case has nothing to do with religion. The entire second half of the text is about the reason for education. One big clue that the author isn’t using the word “god” literally, is the phrase “… must have a god to serve, or, even better, several gods.” If this were a literal use of “god,” then the term would not have been pluralized later.
40. C In this case, the authority is Nietzsche, and the author gives us a clear rhetorical statement of his use of analogy in the sentence that follows the quote: “This applies as much to learning as to living.”
41. A Perhaps this is a good time to review two terms that are closely related: oxymoron and paradox. An oxymoron is an apparent contradiction of terms; a paradox is an apparent contradiction of ideas. The important word here is apparent.
In this case, the last sentence is built on an apparent contradiction of terms: Schooling will be brought to an end if it has no end. Nonsense? No. We are supposed to understand that, in context, the second “end” is synonymous with reason (or goal or objective).
42. B This is a warm-up question and serves little more than to check that you have a reasonable grasp on the content of the passage.
If you missed the implications of the final statement, then you could eliminate (C) and (E) and guess. Choices (A) and (D) are similar in meaning, and both imply that the speaker is a politician—of which we have no proof. Choice (B) is your best bet. Of course, if you noticed the allusions to law in the body of the text and the judgment of the final statement, then you may have realized that the passage is the dissenting opinion of a judge in a federal case—and you would have been correct to assume that this was a case that went before the Supreme Court.
43. B Perhaps the biggest clue that tells us analogy is being employed is the phrase “upon like grounds.” Naturally, almost everyone would agree that it would be unthinkable, for example, to segregate passengers by religion (Catholic and Protestant). If we agree that this (and the other examples) are analogous to the case before the court (segregation of passengers by race), then we are forced to agree with this judge.
44. B Were you tempted to choose (C)? Did you choose (C)? If so, you fell into a trap. Today, it would be normal to expect this judge to propose both civil and racial equality, but the judge bases his arguments solely on the issue of civil rights. In fact, the judge says that the white race is the dominant one “in prestige, in achievements, in education, in wealth, and in power. So, I doubt not, it will continue to be for all time, if it remains true to its great heritage, and holds fast to the principles of constitutional liberty.” Based on the passage, the speaker appears not to believe that racial equality will ever be a reality, although civil equality exists.
45. E If you do not know the meaning of the word, begin with POE. Immediately, you will see that (A) and (C) can be eliminated; they mean things that are opposite to the speaker’s tone and meaning. If you know that “propitious” is roughly equivalent to (C), “useful,” you can eliminate that choice as well. As for choice (B), although “unjust,” like “harmful,” fits the context, the latter choice is the better synonym for the original term (“pernicious”). Of course, as long as you can narrow the choices down to two or three, you should take a guess even if you are not sure. The definition of pernicious is: “causing great harm.”
46. A In this passage, the phrases “may be stricken down by congressional action, or by the courts” and “duty to maintain the supreme law of the land” provide the answer; the Louisiana law is subject to censure by either the United States Congress or the United States Supreme Court.
47. D POE is the way to go on this one. Remember to look for one inappropriate word in each answer. Neither adjective in answer (A) is really appropriate, so you can eliminate (A). Try (B). Although one may argue that the style is “dry,” it is not “objective”—the speaker is arguing only one side of an issue; so (B) is out. How about (C)? Of course, the passage could be thought of as “legalistic,” but it is not at all “abstract”—so get rid of (C). As for (E), the passage is “probing,” but it is certainly not “subtle.” The speaker comes right out and says what he believes; calling this decision as pernicious as the Supreme Court’s judgment of the Dred Scott Case. (In the Dred Scott case, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that the state of Louisiana could fine the railroad company for letting African Americans ride in the same carriages as whites, a situation that was prohibited by Louisiana state law.)
48. C The simile in this first sentence compares the great and ancient parliamentary institutions with the august, but somewhat ancient bodies of the members of Parliament. The speaker is warming up his audience with a bit of humor before launching into what amounts to a very serious ultimatum: that the speaker will continue to serve as Prime Minister, but only if they concede to him much greater authority than before (1842).
49. B The speaker is addressing a group of his peers, who are the other members of Parliament. The tricky part here is, of course, the repetition of “Sir,” a political convention in Great Britain—it is as if the prime minister were addressing each member of Parliament as an individual. We know that he is the minister of England because of the final sentences; and these sentences also reveal definitively that he is speaking to peers: “Sir, I do not wish to be the Minister of England; but while I have the high honour of holding that Office, I am determined to hold it by no servile tenure. I will only hold that office upon the condition of being unshackled by any other obligations than those of consulting the public interests, and of providing for the public safety.”
50. D Everything before this line is an introduction to the minister’s real message; until this point, he has joked, given a general review of his former motivations and actions as the leader of the Conservative party, and explained his reasons for accepting to serve again as prime minister (“feeling of honour”) in spite of his failing health and aged mind (“a burden too great for my physical, and far beyond my intellectual structure”). The transition comes with “But, Sir, I will not take the step with mutilated power and shackled authority.” He will do the country and his peers a favor, but only if he is granted much more authority to rule.
51. E It should be easy for you to eliminate (A), (B), and (D), so you’re left with (C) and (E), which do not fit neatly into the nautical terminology. Answer (C) is the one to eliminate. All the other terms fit neatly into the nautical terminology. However, one could stretch a point and claim that “fairly” is related to fair weather; whereas “unshackled” is clearly unrelated to this metaphor.
52. E Naturally, the first step is to determine the “dominant point” of the final paragraph. Thankfully, the second paragraph is short—it is the rhetorical summation of his ultimatum. The key phrases are “servile tenure” and “unshackled by any other obligations.” Of course, “unfettered” and “unshackled” are synonyms, so the best answer is (E), “unfettered.”
53. C The minister states unequivocally that honor is his motivation, in the following passage in particular: “and to be relieved from it [the position] with perfect honour would be the greatest favour that could be conferred on me. But as a feeling of honour and strong sense of duty require me to undertake those responsible functions, I declare, Sir, that I am ready to incur these risks, to bear these burdens, and to front all these honourable dangers.” The word honor comes up numerous times in this excerpt.
54. C You should be able to narrow your options to (B) and (C). But be careful! Do you think that the speaker, the most powerful man in Great Britain, allowed his mood to shift or to affect his tone? The speech was carefully constructed, and the tone was coolly calculated when William Gladstone wrote it. The prime minister began with a light tone because he was looking to set up his audience, not because he started his speech in a good mood. In fact, his real mood never shifts: He manipulates tone for maximum effect.
ANSWERS TO THE FREE-RESPONSE SECTION
Although it is not perfect, this essay below merits an 8. Its use of language is skilled and it is reasonably well constructed. However, several of its assertions stray from the sources, particularly in the end of the second body paragraph and in the final paragraph. As often happens, this goes hand-in-hand with reliance on repetition rather than evidence to make a point; the author repeats several times that full citizenship requires voting rights, without leaning on anything more than the Anthony argument for support.
Embracing responsibility is an essential step on the path toward maturity. No group of people can become full, contributing members of their community if they are systematically denied the chance to be responsible for matters affecting that community. Equal responsibilities and equal citizenship do not necessarily imply identical roles. In theory, that responsibility need not include voting for everyone, and well-
intentioned arguments have been made in this direction. But in practice, no other responsibility is equal to or could substitute for this one; someone denied the responsibility of voting cannot be considered an equal citizen. Thus, women’s suffrage is a right that springs directly from equal citizenship; it is not a gift of the legislature.
Susan B. Anthony made precisely this argument in her 1872 defense against the charges of unlawful voting. She grounded her defense in the Constitution’s acknowledgment of “the natural right of every individual member” of the country “to a voice and a vote.” Per Anthony, the Constitution acknowledges rights; it does not claim “the power to create or to confer” them. This is ultimately the meaning of the Constitutional amendment granting women the right to vote, which says that “the right of citizens … to vote shall not be denied or abridged … on account of sex.” This amendment follows the form of the rest of the Bill of Rights: it does not lay out a right explicitly, but rather states that the right exists, and that neither Congress nor the states could restrict it.
As Susan B. Anthony and the 66th Congress both saw, it is essential that all people be given the right to vote so that they may be full, responsible citizens. This point had earlier been made in the cartoon printed as Source F, which illustrates the way a lack of civic participation confines women to trivial matters. People do not tend to engage thoughtfully in issues in which they are legally forbidden from having any influence. It is only by acknowledging women’s voting rights that the government acknowledges their complete citizenship, for without the responsibility of voting, women would not be involved in the political process, as required of all full citizens.
Arguments to the contrary, such as Source B (a cartoon showing men confined to gossip and child-rearing, and women in positions of authority and political power), miss the point. No one claims that all citizens are the same, or that granting the vote will turn women into men (or vice versa, probably more terrifying for the male population of the time). Roles within a society can be “separate but equal.” But in terms of being responsible citizens of a state or of this country, the right to vote is sacrosanct.
Rhetorical Analysis Essay
The sample essay that follows is a strong one; the writer could expect to receive a score of 8 with this work. One important thing to note about this essay is the structure. The writer avoids the common error made in comparison and contrast essays; she does NOT write first about one review in one paragraph and another in a second paragraph. That said, inside each paragraph, the discussion of the articles is clearly segregated; this could have been handled more deftly, but this organization gets the job done. The introduction is a bit on the long side, but it provides a clear outline of the material and engages the reader thoroughly.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is, in modern times, heralded as a classic, great work of art. However, when it was first published in 1818, few people regarded it as a worthy work of literary art. As seen in the two passages taken from the critics’ reviews of the novel, Frankenstein inspired extreme sentiments and reactions—readers either loved and enjoyed it or abhorred it and were disgusted by it. The two reviews presented convey the two contrasting emotions, as if in response to each other. The first, an anonymous piece from The Quarterly Review, criticizes Mary Shelley’s work, using vernacular and plain (yet grotesque) language and popular culture allusions and standards to illustrate the author’s condemnation of Frankenstein. Conversely, Sir Walter Scott’s review from Blackwood’sEdinburgh Magazine is itself written in a worthy literary manner, using heightened terms, literary terms, and quotations from other works to demonstrate his positive point of view. In the 1800s, there were many magazines available for the literate to purchase and indulge in, some were professional journals intended for those who worked in a particular industry (like science or literature), while others were broader publications for the general public. The difference between the two kinds was always (and still is) readily apparent in the type of language used by the authors of the magazine’s articles. It can be surmised that Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine was intended for those immersed in literature, or at least those who were highly educated. Scott’s writing is romantic, mentioning “daemons,” “the lovely and helpless” and “creature” and “persecutor.” All these words and phrases are characteristic of a gothic or a romantic novel, in which the reader is presented with a tortured hero who is persecuted in some form and is faced with something lovely (usually a female). Phrases such as “resentment toward the human race,” “expedients for exciting terror,” and “uncommon powers of poetic imagination” are meant for a reader with a heightened vocabulary; one capable of understanding Scott’s references and intentions. However, juxtaposed with Sir Walter Scott’s review, the anonymous review from The Quarterly Review (a seemingly plain publication) is straightforward and simple. Instead of embellishing or elaborating, the author uses language like “strong and striking language,” “tissue of horrible and disgusting absurdity,” and “fatigues the feelings” to criticize the novel. Overall, the article has a condescending tone; in summarizing the conclusion of the novel, the author adds in his own commentary, sarcastically remarking on the implausibility of the entire situation. All his opinions are presented in a clear, plain manner, which serves to make very clear his utter loathing of Mary Shelley’s work.
Both Scott and the anonymous author make use of popular conventions, standards, and allusions of their time period. However, their references again establish a distinct difference between the two articles. Scott, in his piece, quotes Macbeth, by William Shakespeare, to illustrate his point that Frankenstein, while shocking, cannot shock an already jaded audience. Furthermore, he speaks of terror being “employed by the romantic writers of the age” mentioning literary conventions. Another convention is brought up when he states that Shelley does not utilize “hyperbolic Germanisms” with which tales of wonder are usually told. The anonymous author, on the other hand, never quotes another literary work to support his ideas. He alludes to Bedlam, “Mad Bess,” and “Mad Tom” as popular cultural figures. Continuing with his appeal to the masses, the anonymous author points out that Frankenstein “inculcates no lessons of conduct, manners or morality.” Unlikely popular literature of the time, Shelley’s novel disregards the conventions of morals and lessons learned.
Though the two reviews were written in highly different forms of language, both convey their point of view clearly. Scott’s review was a positive one, meant for an elite readership. The anonymous author, however, wrote a disgusted condemnation for the pious masses.
The following sample essay is very strong. The one noticeable flaw is the discussion of Switzerland; this detour pertains to neutrality, but it is not clear how it relates to racism. It is difficult to gauge just how deleterious the flaw may be. Certainly, the essay would earn a score of at least 7 and may get an 8.
Often, it is believed that if one ignores an issue or a problem, it will merely disappear. Mothers tell their children to ignore bullies, and even the Bible instructs us to turn the other cheek. However, when certain issues are not dealt with, they can fester until they become something far more serious than they were originally; racism is one such issue. As the passage suggests, colorblindness and neutrality are not equalizers; they are merely blinders that allow people to continue as though nothing is out of balance. By adopting a “neutral stand” and by failing to recognize the innate differences between racial groups, one not only perpetuates racism, but also promotes the homogenization of cultures and races, in itself a form of racism.
Sooner or later, the issues one faces must be dealt with. Ignorance, in this case, is not bliss; the longer a problem is put aside, the harder it is to conquer when one finally decides to face it. In the United States, the quintessential example of such a problem is racism. The 1950s and 1960s were a demonstration of just what can happen when an entire nation pretends that nothing is wrong or unequal. Race riots all over the country were the culmination of a race’s mounting frustrations. The passage states that “identifying problems and actively promoting solutions are necessary to effect useful change.” In fact change, in the form of various civil rights legislatures, only took place when racism was recognized and dealt with by the federal government. Only strong action, like the integration of the Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, could ever hope to remedy the situation. By bringing the problem into the spotlight and making everyone consider it and its implications, the government steps toward change, progress, and equality.
The only successful neutral stance ever taken in history was by Switzerland, during all the wars that raged around the country’s borders. However, a neutral stance requires more effort to maintain than a stance that is evidently one-sided, because neutrality involves denying the “social and historical context for every situation…[and]…ignoring personal contexts.” When this occurs, it would seem that one is assenting that we are all the same equal people, yet that very assertion is flawed, since it eliminates the “differences that exist.” If one does not take a side or a stance, one is, in effect, resigning oneself to the current state of affairs, the status quo. As the author of the passage points out, ignoring inequalities and differences allows “the inequalities to continue to exist, given that [one] wouldn’t do anything to help change them.” Until the public began noticing and sympathizing with the victims of racism, it took no collective action to change the status quo. Finally recognizing the inequality which was the status quo, the public could no longer remain neutral—it split into those who wanted to maintain the status quo and those who wanted to change it and improve the situation.
In essence, neutrality is supposed to be an equalizer because it declares that there are no differences between human beings. However, that denial takes away that which makes us inherently human. Without our cultures and races, we would have nothing to separate one person from another. Thus neutrality states that it is better for a group of people to lack differences than to embrace those differences. Racism is looking down on and rejecting the differences between two people. In much the same way, neutrality turns a blind eye to differences, lending validity to ignorance. Without action and discussion, societies become stale. It is only with a firm stance that one can hope to incite progress and reform; there must be recognition and a definite lack of neutrality if racism is to be prevented. “Being neutral is consenting to the status quo,” a status quo which is unequal, unfair, and socially unbalanced.