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GED Sample Questions : Interpreting Literature and the Arts

Refer to the following Passage:

WHAT WAS THE AMERICAN SMALL TOWN LIKE?

I'm glad I was born soon enough to have seen the American small town, if not at its height, at least in the early days of decline into its present forlorn status as a conduit for cars and people, all headed for some Big City over the horizon.The small town was not always a stultifying trap for bright young people to escape from; in the years before wartime travel ("How're you gonna keep 'em down on the farm/After they've seen Paree?") and the scorn of the Menckens and Sinclair Lewises made the cities a magnet for farm boys and girls, the town of five to twenty thousand was a self-sufficient little city-state of its own.

The main street of those Midwestern towns I remember from the thirties varied little from one place to another: there were always a number of brick Victorian buildings, labeled "Richard's Block" or "Denman Block," which housed, downstairs, the chief emporia of the town--the stores which made it a shire town for the surrounding farmlands.Each of these stores was run according to a very exact idea of the rules of its particular game.A hardware store, for instance, had to be densely hung inside with edged tools--scythes, sickles, saws--of all descriptions.It had to smell of oil, like metal, and often like the sacks of fertilizer stacked in the back room.It had to have unstained wood floors, sometimes sprinkled with sawdust, and high cabinets of small drawers containing bolts, screws, nails, and small plumbing accessories.It had to be owned and run by a middle-aged man in a blue apron, assisted by one up-and-coming young man and one part-time boy in his middle teens.It had to sell for cash on the barrelhead, and it did.

The drugstore was a horse of a different color (and order), but it was circumscribed by equally strict rules.Here you would ask the white-coated (and often rimless-spectacled) druggist for aspirin or Four-Way Cold Tablets or Bromo-Seltzer, or perhaps for paramedical advice, which he was glad to give.

These towns are by and large gone in 1974, their old stores shut up with dusty windows, or combined, two or three at a time, to make a superette, a W.T.Grant store, or a sub-and-pizza parlor.The business has moved to the big shopping center on the Interstate or on to the city over the horizon, and the depopulated old towns drift along toward oblivion, centers of nothing in the middle of nowhere.

From '"Int'l Jet Set Hits Watkins Glen" by L.E.Sissman in Selections From 119 Years of the Atlantic.Copyright 1974.Used by permission.

Following are some GED Interpreting Literature and the Arts sample questions:

  1. According to the essay, what is the major reason for the decline of the American small town?

    1. Cars made people more mobile.
    2. Lack of variation from one town to another drove people away.
    3. Big cities drew people away from the towns.
    4. Their main streets were all the same.
    5. Writers criticized small town life.

    Answer: C

  2. How does the author feel about the American small town?

    1. angry
    2. nostalgic
    3. spiteful
    4. embarrassed
    5. relieved

    Answer: B

  3. Given the descriptions of the small town stores, the author would most likely view modern shopping malls as places

    1. catering to small town people
    2. taking over the role of small farm stores
    3. lacking the friendliness of small town stores
    4. providing variety and sophistication to small town clients
    5. carrying on the tradition of small town stores

    Answer: C

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