ACT reading practice test 31

DIRECTIONS: Each passage is followed by several questions. After reading a passage, choose the best answer to each question and fill in the corresponding oval on your answer document. You may refer to the passages as often as necessary.


Prose Fiction

This passage is adapted from the short story "A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings" by Gabriel Garcia Márquez (© 1971 by Gabriel Garcia Márquez).

The light was so weak at noon that when Pelayo
was coming back to the house, it was hard for him to see
what it was that was moving and groaning in the rear of
the courtyard. He had to go very close to see that it was
05an old man lying face down in the mud, who, in spite of
his tremendous efforts, couldn't get up, impeded by his
enormous wings.
Pelayo ran to get Elisenda, his wife, who was putting
compresses on the sick child, and he took her to
10the rear of the courtyard. They both looked at the
fallen body with a mute stupor. There were only a few
faded hairs left on his bald skull and very few teeth in
his mouth, and his pitiful condition took away any sense of
grandeur he might have had. And yet, they called in a
15neighbor woman who knew everything about life and
death to see him, and all she needed was one look.
He's an angel, she told them. "He must have been
coming for the child, but the poor fellow is so old that
the rain knocked him down."
20On the following day everyone knew that a flesh-and-
blood angel was held captive in Pelayo's house. With the first
light of dawn, they found the whole neighborhood in front
of the chicken coop having fun with the angel, tossing him
things to eat through the openings in the wire.
25The news of the captive angel spread with such
rapidity that after a few hours the courtyard had the
bustle of a marketplace and they had to call in troops
with fixed bayonets to disperse the mob that was about to
knock the house down. Elisenda, her spine all twisted
30from sweeping up so much marketplace trash, then got
the idea of fencing in the yard and charging five cents
admission to see the angel.
The curious came from far away. The most unfortunate
invalids on earth came in search of health: a poor
35woman who since childhood has been counting her
heartbeats and had run out of numbers; a Portuguese
man who couldn't sleep because the noise of the stars
disturbed him; a sleepwalker who got up at night to undo
the things he had done while awake; and many others with
40less serious ailments. Pelayo and Elisenda were happy
with fatigue, for in less than a week they had crammed
their rooms with money and the line of pilgrims waiting
their turn to enter still reached beyond the horizon.
The angel was the only one who took no part in his
45own act. He spent his time trying to get comfortable
in his borrowed nest, befuddled by the heat of the oil
lamps and sacramental candles that had been placed along the
wire. At first they tried to make him eat some mothballs,
which,according to the wisdom of the wise neighbor
50woman, were the food prescribed for angels. But he
turned them down. His only supernatural virtue seemed to
be patience. Especially during the first days, when the
hens pecked at him, searching for the stellar parasites
that proliferated in his wings, and even the most merciful
55threw stones at him, trying to get him to rise so
they could see him standing.
It so happened that during those days there arrived in
the town the traveling show of the woman who had been
changed into a spider for having disobeyed her parents.
60The admission to see her was not only less than
the admission to see the angel, but people were permitted
to ask her all manner of questions and to examine her up
and down. While still practically a child she had sneaked
out of her parents' house to go to a dance, and while she
65was coming back through the woods after having danced
all night without permission, a fearful thunderclap rent
the sky in two and through the crack came the lightning
bolt of brimstone that changed her into a spider. A
spectacle like that, with such a fearful lesson, was
70bound to defeat that of a haughty angel who scarcely
deigned to look at mortals. Pelayo's courtyard went back
to being as empty as during the time it had rained for
three days and crabs walked through the bedrooms.
With the money they saved they built a two-story
75mansion with iron bars on the windows so that angels
wouldn't get in. Pelayo also set up a rabbit warren close
to town and gave up his job as a bailiff for good, and
Elisenda bought some satin pumps with high heels and
many dresses of iridescent silk, the kind worn on
80Sunday by the most desirable women in those times.
One morning Elisenda was cutting some bunches of onions
for lunch when a wind that seemed to come from the high
seas blew into the kitchen. Then she went to the window
and caught the angel in his first attempts at flight.
85He was on the point of knocking the shed down with
the ungainly flapping that slipped on the light and couldn't
get a grip on the air. But he did manage to gain altitude.
Elisenda let out a sigh of relief, for herself and for him,
when she watched him pass over the last houses. She kept
90watching him even when she was through cutting the
onions, until it was no longer possible for her to see him,
because then he was no longer an annoyance in her life
but an imaginary dot on the horizon of the sea.

1. The inhabitants of the town in which the story takes place are depicted as:

A. proud and stubborn people who are always arguing about religion.
B. laid-back people who react to odd events with less surprise than one might expect.
C. wise people who are always constructing elaborate theories about the universe.
D. devious people who will do anything to make money.

2. The neighbor woman believes that the angel is a(an):

F. angel of death.
G. angel of good fortune.
H. warrior angel.
J. angel who can predict the future.

3. All of the following are described in detail EXCEPT:

A. the ailments of the invalids.
B. the girl who disobeyed her parents.
C. the clothes bought by Elisenda.
D. the crabs brought by the rainstorm.

4. The character of the angel can best be described as

F. wise and loving.
G. powerful but unforgiving.
H. baffling and mysterious.
J. pessimistic but determined.

5. Elisenda's idea to start charging people admission to see the angel is a(an):

A. disrespectful decision motivated by greed.
B. understandable decision motivated by necessity.
C. risky decision motivated by poor business sense.
D. weak decision motivated by her tendency to be influenced by others.

6. When they first encounter him, the townspeople treat the angel as if he is a(an):

F. animal.
G. impostor.
H. impartial judge.
J. bad omen.

7. All of the following are reasons why people became more interested in the spider girl than they had been in the angel EXCEPT:

A. it is more obvious what moral they are supposed to learn from her.
B. she is more willing to interact with her audience.
C. she has been officially approved by local religious authorities.
D. it is less expensive to see her.

8. Which of the following phrases indicates that the appearance of the angel is regarded as a somewhat normal occurrence?

F. They both looked at the fallen body with a mute stupor. (lines 10-11)
G. The most unfortunate invalids on earth came in search of health. (lines 33-34)
H. The angel was the only one who took no part in his own act. (lines 44-45)
J. they built a two-story mansion with iron bars on the windows so that angels wouldn't get in. (lines 74-76)

9. At the beginning of the story, Pelayo is employed as a(an):

A. farmer.
B. fisherman.
C. bailiff.
D. architect.

10. The main point of the last paragraph is that after the departure of the angel, Elisenda feels:

F. remorseful about how poorly the townspeople treated the angel.
G. frightened about what the angel might do if he ever comes back.
H. optimistic about the new lifestyle that was made possible for her by the angel.
J. unburdened now that she doesn't have to worry about the angel anymore.