This is an explanation for passage 2 of LSAT preptest 63, the June 2011 LSAT. This passage is about an author, Kate Chopin. It discusses her career and stylistic influences, from the local colorists to the New Women.
This section has paragraph summaries and an analysis of the passage, links to the explanations for the questions are below.
- Chopin grew up with sentimental novelists. She instead took the local colorists as her model.
- The local colorists mythologized the dying world of “women’s culture”.
- Chopin used the conventions of local color to describe extreme psychological states without drama.
- Later, Chopin took a more impressionistic approach to writing.
This passage is not an argument. Instead, it’s a description of a specific author: Kate Chopin. The passage traces her career and stylistic influences.
On a passage like this, it’s important to keep track of every major group.
Women’s culture: The old domestic world of women, from a time when women’s major life goal was marrying well. The garden, the house, and domestic tools were the common features of women’s lives.
Local Color: By the 1870s, “women’s culture” was beginning to disappear as women sought lives outside the home. The local colorists were nostalgic about this dying world, and they invested elements of “women’s culture” with mythic significance.
Early Kate Chopin: This is in the third paragraph. Kate Chopin wasn’t a local colorist. But she used the styles of local color to tell dramatic stories without melodrama.
The passage isn’t very clear about this phase of Chopin’s career, or how local color lets you tell a story without drama. But what I wrote is all you need to know.
Late Kate Chopin/Impressionism/New Women: These novels were not straightforward narratives. Instead, the writers tried to explore female consciousness.
For example, a book might look at how a woman feels and thinks, rather than a story which brings her from event to event.
There’s no overall argument to understand in this passage. Instead, you should have an understanding of the elements I wrote about above, and where to find them. When a question asks about a specific detail, you should know where to find it in the passage.
The Awakening is the product of this later period in Chopin’s life. By this point she had moved past the local colorists and on to Impressionism.
Detail and precision are important on this passage
The questions are mostly about details. You don’t need to memorize all the details in a passage, but you should retain them. If a passage mentions a detail, you ought to be able to recall it or remember where it was talked about, then check the passage to confirm.
Several of the questions also test whether you understood what you read. For example, question 10 uses the word “strong” yet the passage uses the word “crisp” to describe plots. If you understood the passage, you’d recognize those refer to the same thing. Likewise, Chopin’s writing “avoided the excesses of sentimental novels” by telling “melodramatic tales in an uninflected manner”. The answers variously describe this as “dispassionate” or “detached”, which mean the same thing.
You may not know words like “uninflected”, but from context you should be able to figure them out. Don’t rush through the passage. The LSAT is merciless: If you don’t understand what you read, it will burn you.
Read a second or even a third time, until you understand. The second read is much faster. You’ll get more questions right, and more quickly, if you understand.
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