ACT reading practice test 39

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

Author/Editor: Isabel Allende, translated from the Spanish by Margaret Sayers Peden
ISBN: 9780689121029 / 9780684873596 / 9780743217187
Selection: pp. 9-12 of "Two Words"-as submitted.

She went by the name of Belisa Crepusculario,not
because she had been baptized with that name given
it by her mother, but because she herself had searched
until she found the poetry of "beauty" and "twilight" and
05cloaked herself in it. She made her living selling words.
She journeyed through the country from the high cold
mountains to the burning coasts, stopping at fairs and in
markets where she set up four poles covered by a canvas
awning under which she took refuge from the sun and
10rain to minister to her customers. She did not have to
peddle her merchandise because from having wandered
far and near, everyone knew who she was. Some people
waited for her from one year to the next, and when she
appeared in the village with her bundle beneath her arm,
15they would form a line in front of her stall. Her prices
were fair. For five centavos she delivered verses from
memory, for seven she improved the quality of dreams,
for nine she wrote love letters, for twelve she invented
insults for irreconcilable enemies. She also sold stories,
20not fantasies but long, true stories she recited at one
telling, never skipping a word.
This is how she carried news from one town to another.
People paid her to add a line or two: our son was born,
so-and-so died, our children got married, the crops
25burned in the field. Wherever she went a small crowd
gathered around to listen as she began to speak. They
learned about each others' doings, about distant relatives,
about what was going on in the civil war. To anyone who
paid her fifty centavos in trade, she gave the gift of a
30secret word to drive away melancholy. It was not the
same word for everyone, naturally, because that would
have been collective deceit. Each person received his
or her own word, with the assurance that no one else
would use it that way in this universe or Beyond.
35Belisa Crepusculario had been born into a family so
poor they did not even have names to give their children.
She came into the world and grew up in an inhospitable
land where some years the rains became avalanches of
water that bore everything away before them and others
40when not a drop fell from the sky and the sun swelled to
fill the horizon and the world became a desert. Until she
was twelve, Belisa had no occupation or virtue other than
having withstood hunger and the exhaustion of centuries.
During one interminable drought, it fell to her to bury
45four younger brothers and sisters; when she realized
that her turn was next, she decided to set out across the
plains in the direction of the sea, in hopes that she might
trick death along the way. The land was eroded, split
with deep cracks, strewn with rocks, fossils of trees
50and thorny bushes, and skeletons of animals bleached
by the sun.
From time to time she ran into families who, like
her, were heading south, following the mirage of water.
Some had begun their march carrying their belongings
55on their back or in small carts, but they could barely
move their own bones, and after a while they had to
abandon their possessions. They dragged themselves
along painfully, their skin turned to lizard hide and their
eyes burned by the reverberating glare. Belisa greeted
60them with a wave as she passed, but she did not stop,
because she had no strength to waste in acts of
compassion. Many people fell by the wayside, but she was
so stubborn that she survived to cross through that hell
and at long last reach the first trickles of water, fine,
65almost invisible threads that fed spindly vegetation and
farther down widened into small streams and marshes.
Belisa Crepusculario saved her life and in the process
accidentally discovered writing. In a village near the
coast, the wind blew a page of newspaper at her feet.
70She picked up the brittle yellow paper and stood a long
while looking at it, unable to determine its purpose, until
curiosity overcame her shyness. She walked over to a man
who was washing his horse in the muddy pool where she
had quenched her thirst.
75"What is this?" she asked.
"The sports page of the newspaper," the man replied,
concealing his surprise at her ignorance. The answer
astounded the girl, but she did not want to seem rude,
so she merely inquired about the significance of the
80fly tracks scattered across the page. "Those are words,
child. Here it says that Fulgencio Barba knocked out El
Negro Tizano in the third round."
That was the day Belisa Crepusculario found out
that words make their way in the world without a master,
85and that anyone with a little cleverness can appropriate
them and do business with them. From that moment on,
she worked at that profession, and was never tempted by
any other. At the beginning, she offered her merchandise
unaware that words can be written outside of newspapers.
90When she learned otherwise, she calculated the infinite
possibilities of her trade and with her savings paid a
priest twenty pesos to teach her to read and write; with
her three remaining coins she bought a dictionary. She
poured over it from A to Z and then threw it into the
95sea, because it was not her intention to defraud her
customers with packaged words.

1. The main character of the passage can best be described as a (an):

A. shrewd businesswoman who becomes wealthy through her skills.
B. strong youth who inadvertently discovers her destiny.
C. fearless explorer who sets off in search of new lands and experiences.
D. investigative journalist driven to right injustices.

2. The main purpose of the fourth paragraph (lines 52-66) is to:

F. establish that Belisa is primarily concerned about herself, rather than others.
G. demonstrate that Belisa is smarter than most of the other people from her hometown
H. acquaint the reader with the hardships Belisa has endured.
J. establish that the story takes place in the distant past, rather than the present day.

3. The main purpose of the last paragraph (lines 83-96) is to:

A. establish Belisa's originality in a fanciful manner.
B. contrast Belisa's approach to helping people with that of organized religion.
C. imply that early in her career Belisa was not very sensible about money.
D. demonstrate that Belisa has a very powerful memory.

4. In the passage, the exchange in lines 75-83 is most likely included to indicate that:

F. senseless violence is celebrated in Belisa's culture.
G. people are dismissive of Belisa because of her gender and age.
H. Belisa does not see in the same way that normal people do.
J. though imaginatively described, the world of this story is essentially real life.

5. Information in the passage indicates that Belisa's dream is to provide people with something:

A. useful and honest.
B. valuable but ephemeral.
C. secret and exciting.
D. false but comforting.

6. In the context of the passage, the statement in lines 1-5 most nearly means that:

F. the name Belisa goes by is not her real one.
G. Belisa never knew her real mother.
H. Belisa picked her own name based on words she liked.
J. Belisa's name has something to do with the fact that her family was not religious.

7. The passage mentions Belisa performing all of the following tasks EXCEPT:

A. carrying news.
B. exposing lies.
C. preventing sadness.
D. reciting poetry.

8. As it is used in line 44, the word interminable most nearly means:

F. deadly.
G. unexpected.
H. illusory.
J. very long.

9. The passage makes clear that Belisa began working with words in order to:

A. help her people.
B. earn an income.
C. discover her identity.
D. avenge her family.

10. As it is used in line 65, the word spindly most nearly means:

F. dead.
G. thorny.
H. frail.
J. poisonous.