New SAT Reading Practice Test 39: My ántonia

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My ántonia

The following passage is adapted from Willa Cather's 1918 novel My ántonia. In this excerpt, the boy narrator, Jim Burden, has traveled from Virginia to his grandparents' Nebraska farm to spend the rest of his childhood there. On his first Nebraska morning, he goes outdoors to observe the landscape.

As I looked about me I felt that the grass was the
country, as the water is the sea. The red of the grass
made all the great prairie the colour of winestains,
or of certain seaweeds when they are first washed
05up. And there was so much motion in it; the whole
country seemed, somehow, to be running.
I had almost forgotten that I had a grandmother,
when she came out, her sunbonnet on her head, a
grain-sack in her hand, and asked me if I did not
10want to go to the garden with her to dig potatoes
for dinner.…
I can remember exactly how the country looked
to me as I walked beside my grandmother along the
faint wagon-tracks on that early September morning.
15Perhaps the glide of long railway travel was still
with me, for more than anything else I felt motion
in the landscape; in the fresh, easy-blowing morn-
ing wind, and in the earth itself, as if the shaggy
grass were a sort of loose hide, and underneath it
20herds of wild buffalo were galloping, galloping.…
Alone, I should never have found the garden—
except, perhaps, for the big yellow pumpkins that
lay about unprotected by their withering vines—
and I felt very little interest in it when I got there.
25I wanted to walk straight on through the red grass
and over the edge of the world, which could not be
very far away. The light air about me told me that
the world ended here: only the ground and sun and
sky were left, and if one went a little farther there
30would be only sun and sky, and one would float
off into them, like the tawny hawks which sailed
over our heads making slow shadows on the grass.
While grandmother took the pitchfork we found
standing in one of the rows and dug potatoes, while
35I picked them up out of the soft brown earth and
put them into the bag, I kept looking up at the
hawks that were doing what I might so easily do.
When grandmother was ready to go, I said I
would like to stay up there in the garden awhile.
40She peered down at me from under her
sunbonnet. "Aren't you afraid of snakes?"
"A little," I admitted, "but I'd like to stay, anyhow." …
Grandmother swung the bag of potatoes over
her shoulder and went down the path, leaning
45forward a little. The road followed the windings
of the draw; when she came to the first bend, she
waved at me and disappeared. I was left alone with
this new feeling of lightness and content.
I sat down in the middle of the garden, where
50snakes could scarcely approach unseen, and leaned
my back against a warm yellow pumpkin. There
were some ground-cherry bushes growing along
the furrows, full of fruit. I turned back the papery
triangular sheaths that protected the berries and
55ate a few. All about me giant grasshoppers, twice
as big as any I had ever seen, were doing acrobatic
feats among the dried vines. The gophers scur-
ried up and down the ploughed ground. There in
the sheltered draw-bottom the wind did not blow
60very hard, but I could hear it singing its humming
tune up on the level, and I could see the tall grasses
wave. The earth was warm under me, and warm
as I crumbled it through my fingers. Queer little
red bugs came out and moved in slow squadrons
65around me. Their backs were polished vermilion,
with black spots. I kept as still as I could. Nothing
happened. I did not expect anything to happen.
I was something that lay under the sun and felt
it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be
70anything more. I was entirely happy. Perhaps we
feel like that when we die and become a part of
something entire, whether it is sun and air, or
goodness and knowledge. At any rate, that is happi-
ness; to be dissolved into something complete and
75great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally
as sleep.

1. According to the passage, why is Jim's grandmother initially concerned about leaving him in the garden?

  • A. Jim doesn't know the way back home.
  • B. She is worried he will encounter snakes.
  • C. A bad storm is brewing on the horizon.
  • D. She hoped Jim would help her cook dinner.

2. As used in line 50, "scarcely" most nearly means

  • A. not easily.
  • B. rapidly.
  • C. with fear.
  • D. narrowly.

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

  • A. It reminds Jim of the landscape back in his native Virginia.
  • B. The snakes and coyotes make the prairie a dangerous place.
  • C. Growing crops on the prairie is extremely difficult for farmers.
  • D. It is very easy to get lost because there are few landmarks.

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

  • A. Lines 1-2 ("As I looked … sea")
  • B. Lines 21-24 ("Alone … there")
  • C. Lines 45-47 ("The road … disappeared")
  • D. Lines 49-51 ("I sat … pumpkin")

5. What theme does the author communicate through the thoughts and experiences of Jim?

  • A. Confronting fears allows a person to move forward in life.
  • B. Nature, though beautiful, can present many hidden dangers.
  • C. Family relationships can help a person adjust to new places.
  • D. A natural setting can have a transforming effect on a person.

6. Jim's thoughts during his first morning in Nebraska suggest that his personality could best be described as

  • A. aggressive.
  • B. introspective.
  • C. regretful.
  • D. ambivalent.

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

  • A. Lines 7-11 ("I had … for dinner")
  • B. Lines 12-15 ("I can … morning")
  • C. Lines 38-51 ("When grandmother … pumpkin")
  • D. Lines 70-73 ("Perhaps we … knowledge")

8. As used in line 74, "dissolved" most nearly means

  • A. assimilated.
  • B. destroyed.
  • C. disintegrated.
  • D. terminated.

9. The author's repetition of "galloping" in line 20 is to

  • A. convey how fast the wind moved against the grass.
  • B. make the Nebraska landscape seem like a dream.
  • C. emphasize the recurrent motion of the landscape.
  • D. compare wild buffalo to wild horses on the prairie.

10. Through the perspective of a first-person narrator, the author is able to

  • A. focus attention on the main character rather than on his grandmother.
  • B. limit what we learn about the main character.
  • C. describe in detail the thoughts and experiences of the main character.
  • D. distance herself from her main character.