Sample Humanities Passage: Reading Placement

When I'm in New York but feeling lonely for Wyoming I look for the Western movie ads in the subway. But the men I see in those posters with their stern, humorless looks remind me of no one I know in the West. In our earnestness to romanticize the cowboy we've ironically disesteemed his true character. If he's "strong and silent" it's because there's probably no one to talk to. If he "rides away into the sunset" it's because he's been on horseback since four in the morning moving cattle and he's trying, fifteen hours later, to get home to his family. If he's "a rugged individualist" he's also part of a team: ranch work is teamwork and even the glorified open-range cowboys of the 1880s rode up and down the Chisholm Trail in the company of twenty or thirty other riders. It's not toughness but "toughing it out" that counts. In other words, this macho, cultural artifact the cowboy has become is simply a man who possesses resilience, patience, and an instinct for survival. "Cowboys are just like a pile of rocks—everything happens to them. They get climbed on, kicked, rained and snowed on, scuffed up by the wind. Their job is 'just to take it,'" one old-timer told me.

Adapted from Gretel Ehrlich, The Solace of Open Spaces. ©1985 by Gretel Ehrlich.

1. According to the passage, cowboys are probably "strong and silent" because:
A. their work leaves them no time for conversation.
B. they have been cautioned not to complain.
C. they are stern and humorless.
D. there is no one nearby to listen to them.
E. their work makes them too tired to talk.

2. For which of the following statements does the passage give apparently contradictory evidence?
A. The cowboy's work takes endurance.
B. Cowboys work alone.
C. Cowboys are adequately paid.
D. The cowboy's image has become romanticized in American culture.
E. Cowboys think of themselves as humorless.


1. D
2. B

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