New SAT Reading Practice Test 84: Uncle Tom's Cabin

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Below is the beginning of Harriet Beecher Stowe's 1852 novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin. Her own remark on the chapter is as follows: "in which the reader is introduced to a man of humanity."

Late in the afternoon of a chilly day in
February two gentlemen were sitting over
their wine, in a well-furnished parlour in the
town of P---- in Kentucky in the midst of an
05earnest conversation.
"That is the way I should arrange the matter,"
said Mr. Shelby, the owner of the place.
"The fact is, Tom is an uncommon fellow; he
is certainly worth that sum anywhere; steady,
10honest, capable, manages my farm like a
clock. You ought to let him cover the whole of
the debt; and you would, Haley, if you'd got
any conscience."
"Well, I've got just as much conscience
15as any man in business can afford to keep,"
said Haley, "and I'm willing to do anything to
'blige friends; but this yer, ye see, is too hard
on a feller, it really is. Haven't you a boy or gal
you could thrown in with Tom?"
20"Hum!—none that I could well spare; to
tell the truth, it's only hard necessity makes
me sell at all." Here the door opened, and
a small quadroon boy, remarkably beautiful
and engaging, entered with a comic air
25of assurance which showed he was used
to being petted and noticed by his master.
"Hulloa, Jim Crow," said Mr. Shelby, snapping
a bunch of raisins towards him, "pick that
up, now!" The child scampered, with all his
30little strength after the prize, while his master
laughed. "Tell you what," said Haley, "fling in
that chap, and I'll settle the business, I will."
At this moment a young woman, obviously
the child's mother, came in search of him,
35and Haley, as soon as she had carried him
away, turned to Mr. Shelby in admiration.
"By Jupiter!" said the trader, "there's an
article now! You might make your fortune on
that one gal in Orleans, any way. What shall I
40say for her? What'll you take?"
"Mr. Haley, she is not to be sold. I say no,
and I mean no," said Mr. Shelby, decidedly.
"Well, you'll let me have the boy, though."
"I would rather not sell him," said Mr.
45Shelby; "the fact is, I'm a humane man, and I
hate to take the boy from his mother, sir."
"Oh, you do? La, yes, I understand perfectly.
It is mighty unpleasant getting on
with women sometimes. I al'ays hates these
50yer screechin' times. As I manages business,
I generally avoids 'em, sir. Now, what
if you get the gal off for a day or so? then the
thing's done quietly. It's always best to do the
humane thing, sir; that's been my experience."
55"I'd like to have been able to kick the
fellow down the steps," said Mr. Shelby to
himself, when the trader had bowed himself
out. "And Eliza's child, too! I know I shall have
some fuss with the wife about that, and for
60that matter, about Tom, too! So much for
being in debt, heigho!"
The prayer-meeting at Uncle Tom's Cabin
had been protracted to a very late hour, and
Tom and his worthy helpmeet were not yet
65asleep, when between twelve and one there
was a light tap on the window pane.
"Good Lord! what's that?" said Aunt Chloe,
starting up. "My sakes alive, if it aint Lizzy!
Get on your clothes, old man, quick. I'm
70gwine to open the door." And suiting the
action to the word, the door flew open, and
the light of the candle which Tom had hastily
lighted, fell on the face of Eliza. "I'm running
away, Uncle Tom and Aunt Chloe—carrying
75off my child. Master sold him."
"Sold him?" echoed both, holding up their
hands in dismay.
"Yes, sold him!" said Eliza firmly. "I crept
into the closet by mistress's door to-night,
80and I heard master tell missus that he had
sold my Harry and you, Uncle Tom, both to a
trader, and that the man was to take possession
to-day."
Slowly, as the meaning of this speech
85came over Tom, he collapsed on his old chair,
and sunk his head on his knees.

1. Which choice provides the best summary of what happened in the passage?

  • A. A deal is reluctantly made and the reactions of those affected are given.
  • B. A slave successfully plots an escape from an oppressive society.
  • C. A man struggles to choose between what is humane and what is profitable.
  • D. A philosophical discussion is held between a slave-owner and a slave-trader.

2. Haley is best characterized as a/an

  • A. humane empathizer.
  • B. financial amateur.
  • C. aggressive negotiator.
  • D. passive mediator.

3. As used in line 31, the phrase "fling in" most closely means

  • A. include.
  • B. hurl.
  • C. relate.
  • D. involve.

4. Mr. Shelby's treatment of the child in lines 27-32 is best described as

  • A. purposely deceitful.
  • B. unintentionally inhumane.
  • C. openly belligerent.
  • D. tenderly impartial.

5. As used in line 38, the word "article" most closely means

  • A. agreement.
  • B. report.
  • C. word.
  • D. item.

6. The passage most strongly implies that Tom's reaction to hearing of Mr. Shelby's plans for him is one of

  • A. unanticipated peacefulness.
  • B. delighted relief.
  • C. surprised despondency.
  • D. playful mockery.

7. Which option gives the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?

  • A. Lines 58-61 ("I know . . . heigho")
  • B. Lines 62-66 ("The prayer . . . pane")
  • C. Lines 73-75 ("I'm . . . him")
  • D. Lines 84-86 ("Slowly . . . knees")

8. It can reasonably be inferred that Mr. Shelby places the highest value on which character?

  • A. Tom
  • B. Eliza
  • C. Eliza's son
  • D. Chloe

9. Which option gives the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?

  • A. Lines 8-13 ("The fact . . . conscience")
  • B. Lines 27-32 ("Hulloa . . . will")
  • C. Lines 37-42 ("By . . . decidedly")
  • D. Lines 67-70 ("Good . . . door")

10. The "light tap" made by Eliza in line 66 suggests that she

  • A. feared unwanted detection.
  • B. respected nightly rituals.
  • C. was hesitant to share bad news.
  • D. understood her misdeeds.