SAT Subject US History Practice Question 723: Answer and Explanation

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Question: 723

74. "I stood alone on that wild prairie. Looking westward I saw my husband driving slowly over the plain[.] [T]urning my face once more to the east, my dear sister's footsteps were fast widening the distance between us. For the time I knew not which way to go, nor whom to follow. But in a few moments I rallied my forces … and soon overtook the slowly moving men who were bearing my husband and child over the prairie."

Which of the following statements is NOT true of the above excerpt from the diary of a woman beginning her journey to the West?

A. It reflects the pioneer spirit.
B. It describes a conflict between a husband and wife about going west.
C. It shows how irrationally indecisive some people were.
D. It describes the fear of going into the unknown.
E. It shows that the wife ultimately chose her husband and child over her sister.

Correct Answer: C


This diary entry doesn't provide the usual concept we think about in regard to the exciting Oregon Trail. ("Westward Ho!" is the slogan that usually springs to mind.) After the 1960s, historians began looking at the experiences of ordinary people by reading their diaries and letters and looking at church records. This passage shows the fear (D) that men and women experienced going west. The woman who is quoted was torn between her sister and all she knew in the East and her husband, who wanted to go west. She clearly hesitated about whether to follow, indicating that it might have been his ambition but not hers (B). This is a description of the pioneer spirit because she gathered her forces and joined her husband and child (A; E). Her indecision was not irrational; there was a real conflict for her (C).

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