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GRE Prep | Sample Question

May 2, 2021

Here is a sample question from the GRE in Literature. Let's look at this question carefully and see how we can discover the right answer.

Good news. You will have read this author in Survey of American Literature at Southern Adventist University. Easy so far. But who is the author? That takes a bit of analysis. 

Quickly scan the possible answers. What are you being asked to do? Well, in this case, you are being asked the name of the author of the selection. Having read at least a selection by this author at Southern, you might recognize the author immediately. If so, choose it and move on!

However, you may not have read this exact selection in Survey of American Literature. But that doesn't matter! You can tease out the answer by analyzing the style of the passage.

One clear mark is that the passage is poetry, not prose. Each of the possible answers are poets. Hhhhmmm. Ok. But which of these poets is likely to have (1) celebrated himself? (2) loafed about lazily? 

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.
My tongue, every atom of my blood, form'd from this soil, this air,
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and
          their parents the same,
I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not till death.

Who wrote this poem?

1. Edgar Allan Poe

2. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

3. Walt Whitman

4. Emily Dickinson

5. Anne Bradstreet

Poe? Not scary enough.

Longfellow? Not a writer of free verse.

Whitman? A celebrator of self and a writer of free verse.

Dickinson? Not a writer of free verse.

Bradstreet? A Puritan woman who exhibited humility.

We have figured out that this passage was written by Walt Whitman.