ACT Reading

SAT Question of the Day

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

ACT Question of the Day

On the actual ACT exam, you would read the entire passage focusing on the topic, scope, purpose, topic sentences, and conclusion, if any.  Then you would prioritize the questions and answer them  in order of difficulty (answering all the Easy questions before all the Medium questions before all the Hard questions).  

This particular question (which comes after the passage but is repeated here for your convenience) is an inference question, which should be classified as Hard.  So, when you are prioritizing your questions, it would come in the third pass when you have had time to reflect on the whole passage.

Here, since we don't have any other questions, we'll just have to answer this one as it is given to us.

The details and events in the passage suggest that the friendship between the narrator and Mrs. Sennett would most accurately be described as:

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

Outside, the rain continued to run down the 
screened windows of Mrs. Sennett's little Cape Cod 
cottage. The long weeds and grass that composed the 
front yard dripped against the blurred background of


the bay, where the water was almost the color of the 
grass. Mrs. Sennett's five charges were vigorously 
playing house in the dining room. (In the wintertime, 
Mrs. Sennett was housekeeper for a Mr. Curley, in 
Boston, and during the summers the Curley children


boarded with her on the Cape.)

My expression must have changed. "Are those 
children making too much noise?" Mrs. Sennett 
demanded, a sort of wave going over her that might
mark the beginning of her getting up out of her chair. I


shook my head no, and gave her a little push on the 
shoulder to keep her seated. Mrs. Sennett was almost 
stone-deaf and had been for a long time, but she could 
read lips. You could talk to her without making any 
sound yourself, if you wanted to, and she more than


kept up her side of the conversation in a loud, rusty
voice that dropped weirdly every now and then into a 
whisper. She adored talking.

To look at Mrs. Sennett made me think of eigh-
teenth-century England and its literary figures. Her hair


must have been sadly thin, because she always wore,
indoors and out, either a hat or a sort of turban, and 
sometimes she wore both. The rims of her eyes were 
dark; she looked very ill.

Mrs. Sennett and I continued talking. She said she


really didn't think she'd stay with the children another
winter. Their father wanted her to, but it was too much 
for her. She wanted to stay right here in the cottage.

The afternoon was getting along, and I finally left 
because I knew that at four o'clock Mrs. Sennett's "sit


down" was over and she started to get supper. At six
o'clock, from my nearby cottage, I saw Theresa coming 
through the rain with a shawl over her head. She was 
bringing me a six-inch-square piece of spicecake, still 
hot from the oven and kept warm between two soup



A few days later I learned from the twins, who 
brought over gifts of firewood and blackberries, that 
their father was coming the next morning, bringing 
their aunt and her husband and their cousin. Mrs.


Sennett had promised to take them all on a picnic at the 
pond some pleasant day.

On the fourth day of their visit, Xavier arrived 
with a note. It was from Mrs. Sennett, written in blue 
ink, in a large, serene, ornamented hand, on linen-finish



. . . Tomorrow is the last day Mr. Curley has and 
the Children all wanted the Picnic so much. The Men
can walk to the Pond but it is too far for the Children. I
see your Friend has a car and I hate to ask this but


could you possibly drive us to the Pond tomorrow 
morning? . . .

Very sincerely yours, 

Carmen Sennett

After the picnic, Mrs. Sennett's presents to me


were numberless. It was almost time for the children to 
go back to school in South Boston. Mrs. Sennett 
insisted that she was not going; their father was coming 
down again to get them and she was just going to stay.
He would have to get another housekeeper. She said


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 

The details and events in the passage suggest that the friendship between the narrator and Mrs. Sennett would most accurately be described as:

Even if you only read half of this passage, say about 40 to 60 lines, you can accurately describe the relationship between these two women.  They have a warm friendship and are considerate of each other.  You can particularly see this in that Mrs. Sennett wants to make sure it isn't too loud for her guest (line 12), while her guest doesn't want her to have to get up and conforms her visit to Mrs. Sennett's schedule (line 15 and 34).  You can also see that they are generous and send each other presents (line 40 and 55 and 60).  Look down at your answer choices as soon as you are able to describe the relationship between these two.

F. stimulating, marked by a shared love of eccentric adventures.

G. indifferent, marked by occasional insensitivity to the needs of the other.

H. considerate, notable for the friends’ exchange of favors.

J. emotional, based on the friends’ long commitment to share their burdens with one another.

(F)  You know that these are not women who go on adventures because they merely sit together, and Mrs. Sennett is described as frail and unwell by line 28.  Eliminate this choice.  (G)  This is the opposite of your description of the relationship!  Eliminate this choice.  (H)  Even if you don't get to lines 54-60, in which a car ride is exchanged for many gifts, this description fits the relationship.  Keep it.  (J)  Although the friends do share their burdens, their relationship is calm and not emotional.  If you read to the end of the passage, you will see that it is Mrs. Sennett's charges, the children, who are emotional and cry when they do not get their way.  Eliminate this choice.

The correct answer is (H).

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