This is an explanation for passage 4 of LSAT preptest 62 the December 2010 LSAT. This passage is about Sarah Orne Jewett’s novels. It argues that the belief that Jewett wrote domestic novels is false. Despite the similarities, the author believes that Jewett’s works should be considered pure fiction.
This section has paragraph summaries and an analysis of the passage, links to the explanations for the questions are below.
- Sarah Orne Jewett’s novels are superficially similar to domestic novels. But her work is secular and doesn’t focus on children.
- Domestic novels were also religious works and instructions on how to run a home. Sarah Orne Jewett wrote books that were only novels.
- By Jewett’s time, fiction had become pure art. So Jewett’s work should be seen differently than domestic novels even though they are superficially similar.
This passage is a bit dull, but I don’t think it’s difficult to understand. The passage is an argument. It’s responding to a theory: some say Sarah Orne Jewett’s wrote domestic novels.
The author disagrees. They show that despite superficial similarities, Jewett wrote for art’s sake. I actually don’t know what to say about this passage beyond what I wrote in the paragraph summaries: I don’t think there’s much more to it.
Incidentally, I have a theory for why the LSAT has reading comprehension passages about obscure literary topics: no one knows about them. Very, very few people have pre-existing knowledge about Sarah Orne Jewett or domestic novelists.
And yet, there is a large existing body of scholarship about this and most other literary topics. So it’s easy for the LSAC to find a scholarly article or book to summarize. If you look at the end of preptest 62, you’ll see that this passage was adapted from:
Richard H. Brodhead, Cultures of Letters: Scenes of Reading and Writing in Nineteenth-Century America. © 2003 by the University of Chicago.
In other words, an entire book was written on this topic. And likely there are many other books and articles discussing Sarah Orne Jewett. So it’s easy to adapt material into rigorous, technical arguments.
This passage takes place against the backdrop of a changing society. The passage implies that in the 1850s, women’s place was in the home. Domestic novels served several purposes (lines 28-34):
- Entertainment (they were novels, after all)
- Piety (this means being religious)
- Domestic instruction (how to be a good wife and mother)
The books were set in the home, and their main subject matter was children and how to raise them. (lines 10-13).
Jewett’s work was pure art. By the late 19th century the novel had emerged as a genre unto itself. (line 44-51). Jewett’s novels were meant to be read for their own sake. They had no goals beyond that. In particular, Jewett’s novels weren’t religious and they didn’t tell you how to raise kids (lines 13-19).
The author’s argument is: despite superficial similarities in setting, Jewett’s work is not like the domestic novels.
Need help with RC? → Try the RC Mastery Seminar
Solve hard passages quickly