New SAT Reading Practice Test 34: "Village Opera"

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"Village Opera"

The following passage is adapted from the short story "Village Opera," by early 20th-century Chinese writer Lu Hsun. The narrator recalls a childhood memory of being a guest, along with his mother, in his grandmother's home in Pingchao Village.

It was the custom in Luchen where we lived
for married women who were not yet in charge of
the household to go back to their parents' home
for the summer. Although my father's mother was
05then still quite strong, my mother had quite a few
household duties. She could not spend many days
at her own home during the summer. She could
take a few days only after visiting the ancestral
graves. At such times I always went with her to
10stay in her parents' house. It was in a place called
Pingchao Village, not far from the sea, a very
out-of-the-way little village on a river, with less
than thirty households, peasants, and fishermen,
and just one tiny grocery.…
15We spent most of our days digging up worms,
putting them on little hooks made of copper wire,
and lying on the river bank to catch shrimps.
Shrimps are the silliest water creatures: they willingly
use their own pincers to push the point of the hook
20into their mouths; so in a few hours we could catch
a big bowlful. It became the custom to give these
shrimps to me. Another thing we did was to take
the buffaloes out together, but, maybe because they
are animals of a higher species, oxen and buffaloes
25are hostile to strangers, and they treated me with
contempt so that I never dared get too close to them.
I could only follow at a distance and stand there.…
What I looked forward to most was going to
Chaochuang to see the opera. Chaochuang was
30a slightly larger village about two miles away.
Since Pingchiao was too small to afford to put on
operas, every year it contributed some money for a
performance at Chaochuang. At the time, I wasn't
curious why they should have operas every year.
35Thinking about it now, I dare say it may have been
for the late spring festival or for the village sacrifice.
That year when I was eleven or twelve, the
long-awaited day arrived. But as ill luck would
have it, there was no boat for hire that morning.
40Pingchiao Village had only one sailing boat,
which left in the morning and came back in the
evening. This was a large boat which it was out of
the question to hire; and all the other boats were
unsuitable because they were too small. Someone
45was sent round to the neighbouring villages to ask
if they had boats, but no—they had all been hired
already. My grandmother was very upset, blamed
my cousins for not hiring one earlier, and began to
complain. Mother tried to comfort her by saying
50the operas at Luchen were much better than in
these little villages, and there were several every
year, so there was no need to go today. But I was
nearly in tears from disappointment, and mother
did her best to impress on me that no matter what,
55I must not make a scene, because it would upset my
grandmother; and I mustn't go with other people
either, for then grandmother would be worried.
In a word, it had fallen through. After lunch,
when all my friends had left and the opera had
60started, I imagined I could hear the sound of gongs
and drums, and saw them, with my mind's eye, in
front of the stage buying soya-bean milk.
I didn't catch shrimps that day, and didn't eat
much either. Mother was very upset, but there was
65nothing she could do. By supper time grandmother
realized how I felt, and said I was quite right to
be angry, they had been too negligent, and never
before had guests been treated so badly. After the
meal, youngsters who had come back from the
70opera gathered round and gaily described it all for
us. I was the only one silent; they all sighed and
said how sorry they were for me. Suddenly one of
the brightest, called Shuang-hsi, had an inspiration,
and said: "A big boat—hasn't Eighth Grand-uncle's
75boat come back?" A dozen other boys picked up
the idea in a flash, and at once started agitating to
take the boat and go with me. I cheered up. But
grandmother was nervous, thinking we were all
children and undependable. And mother said that
80since the grown-ups all had to work the next day, it
wouldn't be fair to ask them to go with us and stay
up all night. While our fate hung in the balance,
Shuang-hsi went to the root of the question and
declared loudly: "I give my word it'll be all right! It's
85a big boat, Brother Hsun never jumps around, and
we can all swim!"
It was true. There wasn't one boy in the dozen
who wasn't a fish in water, and two or three of them
were first-rate swimmers.
90Grandmother and mother were convinced
and did not raise any more objections. They both
smiled, and we immediately rushed out.

1. According to the passage, why does the narrator spend time in his mother's parents' home?

  • A. He always goes with his mother when she visits there.
  • B. His grandmother insists that he come with his mother.
  • C. He lives with his grandmother most of the year.
  • D. His grandmother needs extra help.

2. As used in line 54, "impress" most nearly means

  • A. amaze.
  • B. emphasize.
  • C. mark.
  • D. affect.

3. The passage most strongly suggests that which of the following is true?

  • A. The narrator's grandmother lets the narrator do whatever he wants.
  • B. The narrator's mother does not enjoy visiting her mother's home.
  • C. The narrator's mother is not head of her household.
  • D. The narrator's grandmother thinks his mother is too strict with him.

4. Which choice provides the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?

  • A. Lines 1-4 ("It was the … summer")
  • B. Lines 9-10 ("At such times … parents' house")
  • C. Lines 15-17 ("We spent … to catch shrimps")
  • D. Lines 35-36 ("Thinking about it … the village sacrifice")

5. What theme does the passage communicate through the experiences of the narrator?

  • A. Traditions are meant to be changed.
  • B. Hope is hard to maintain.
  • C. Disappointments are a part of life.
  • D. Problems can sometimes be solved.

6. Based on the passage, why do the narrator's mother and grandmother change their minds about letting him go to the opera?

  • A. They decide they could trust the person who owns the boat.
  • B. They want to please the narrator since he was so sad.
  • C. They decide there is no reason to stop the boys from going.
  • D. They realize that the boat is not that small.

7. Which choice provides the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?

  • A. Lines 42-44 ("This was … too small")
  • B. Lines 58-62 ("After lunch … soya-bean milk")
  • C. Lines 79-82 ("And mother … all night")
  • D. Lines 87-89 ("It was … swimmers")

8. As used in line 76, "agitating" most nearly means

  • A. campaigning.
  • B. shaking.
  • C. disturbing.
  • D. stirring.

9. The author's use of the phrase "with my mind's eye" (line 61) implies that the narrator

  • A. sees visions.
  • B. has poor eyesight.
  • C. wants to go to sleep.
  • D. has a good imagination.

10. Based on the tone of this passage, what emotion does the author wish the reader to feel toward the narrator?

  • A. Sympathy
  • B. Criticism
  • C. Indifference
  • D. Hostility