ACT Reading

SAT Question of the Day

The SAT question of the day is a Sentence Completion Question that has already been addressed on this blog: click here to see an explanation.

ACT Question of the Day

ACT prose fiction: 

This passage is adapted from Elizabeth Bishop’s short story "The Housekeeper" (©1984 by Alice Methfessel).

Note: on the ACT test, this passage is about 100 lines long.  Can you answer this question using only the lines that are cited in the question?  Yes!

this over and over to me, loudly, and her turbans and
kerchiefs grew more and more distrait.

One evening, Mary came to call on me and we sat
on an old table in the back yard to watch the sunset.

"Papa came today," she said, "and we've got to go
back day after tomorrow."

"Is Mrs. Sennett going to stay here?"

"She said at supper she was. She said this time she
really was, because she'd said that last year and came
back, but now she means it."
I said, "Oh dear," scarcely knowing which side I
was on.

"It was awful at supper. I cried and cried."

"Did Theresa cry?"

"Oh, we all cried. Papa cried, too. We always do."
"But don't you think Mrs. Sennett needs a rest?"

"Yes, but I think she'll come, though. Papa told
her he'd cry every single night at supper if she didn't,
and then we all did."

The next day I heard that Mrs. Sennett was going
back with them just to "help settle." She came over the
following morning to say goodbye, supported by all
five children. She was wearing her traveling hat of
black satin and black straw, with sequins. High and
somber, above her ravaged face, it had quite a Spanish-
grandee air.

"This isn't really goodbye," she said. "I'll be back
as soon as I get these bad, noisy children off my

But the children hung on to her skirt and tugged at
her sleeves, shaking their heads frantically, silently
saying, "No! No! No!" to her with their puckered-up

What is the main insight suggested by the conversation in lines 69–83?

For this question, you must determine the main insight.  That is something that you can predict.  If you read the lines, you know that Mrs. Sennett seems to need a rest, but she cannot leave because an entire family starts to cry.  The family seems to use tears to control Mrs. Sennett’s actions.  Look down at your answer choices.

(F) The Curley family cries to manipulate Mrs. Sennett into doing what they want.
(G) The narrator regrets that she is not going to Boston and is a little jealous of Mrs. Sennett.
(H) Mrs. Sennett is happy to leave the Curley family because they are always whining and crying.
(J) Mrs. Sennett intends to return to the Cape soon because she has discovered that they have been manipulating and taking advantage of her.

(F) This matches your prediction exactly.  (G)  Does anyone even mention Boston in these lines?  No.  There is also no mention of jealousy.  (H)  Someone who is happy to leave would not have a problem saying no to the children.  Mrs. Sennett keeps coming back, so even if she says the children are bad (outside the lines that you are to evaluate), she really cares about them.  (J)  Whether or not Mrs. Sennett is aware of the family’s manipulation of her, the main point of this passage is that the manipulation is occurring.

The correct answer is (F).

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