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ACT Question for June 26th

QUESTION

          PROSE FICTION: This passage is adapted from a
          novel set in the early 1980s in Georgia, where
          the narrator and her mother have moved from
          Iran after the deposing of the Shah.

               Shortly after we came to Georgia, I realized
          that nearly every aspect of American life, even
          the basic task of grocery shopping, was difficult
          for my mother, awkward in its unfamiliarity.
(5)      Whereas it had been my mother’s habit to walk
          to the local markets, we had to drive several
          miles to the closest supermarket, the Piggly
          Wiggly. My mother had wanted to walk this
          distance, but there were no footpaths for most
(10)   of the way, and the traffic roaring by seemed
          dangerous. The store itself was quite unusual, a
          large building with tall glass windows, a smiling
          cartoon pig presiding over it all. My mother
          could not believe this was a place that sold food.
(15)   But, inside, the store certainly had plenty of it.
          Rows and rows of brightly colored packages,
          pyramids of perfectly red apples and brilliant
          oranges. What struck me most was the near
          silence; the only sound was the occasional
(20)   squeaking of shopping cart wheels and the tinny,
          almost hypnotic music being broadcast from
          above.
               What struck my mother the most was the
          precise organization of the store, the overall
(25)   neatness. She was confused by the meat counter
          in particular, the already apportioned and
          plastic-wrapped cuts of meat. Where was the
          livestock? she wondered. There were no cattle
          hanging by their hooves behind the butchers, no
(30)   chickens running at their feet, no lambs bleating
          final prayers. In Iran, all the markets were in the
          open air, in the bustling plazas of the city’s
          center. There, the meat you could buy was still
          alive, and the smell of fresh blood permeated
(35)   the air as the butchers did their work on the
          spot. The noises were almost deafening, as
          buyer and sellers haggled endlessly over prices,
          punctuated by the chopping of the butchers’
          cleavers.
(40)        All the merchants and traders knew my
          mother and me well. My mother would lead me
          throughout the maze of booths, ostensibly
          teaching me her negotiating skills but mostly
          just showing off. She and the sellers seemed to
(45)   play a game, a back and forth matching of wills,
          and they seemed drawn to each other in an
          almost romantic, obsessive dance. The sellers,
          aware that my mother was a tough customer,
          enjoyed challenging her, though her ability to
(50)   whittle away at their exaggerated prices often left
          her the victor.
               Even being able to navigate through the
          various booths required the skill of a master.
          There was no set system, and every day at the
(55)   market was a new one. The vendor who sold
          chickens the day before would bring books and
          silk the next. My mother always managed to find
          her way though, as if a map of the chaos were
          imprinted in her mind.
(60)        At the Piggly Wiggly, however, my mother’s
          abilities to negotiate and navigate aided her
          little. Even if she could have read the signs that
          described what was down each aisle, she would
          not have wanted to, preferring the randomness
(65)   of the plazas and the disarray of the vendors’
          booths. The plazas were thriving and elemental,
          connecting her to the past, to the traditions of
          our people. Away from it, she felt useless.
               Suddenly, what had begun as just my
(70)   mother’s unfamiliarity with a new place, a new
          system, changed into a more sobering reality. I
          realized that our roles were being switched.
          Instead of her taking the lead, whisking me
          through the plazas, I would be the one in charge
(75)   and, furthermore, I would have to surrender
          certain conventions of my youth. I could no
          longer be the pouting crybaby, spoiled and
          tempestuous. I would have to be responsible
          and vigilant. Thus, in my adolescence I became
(80)   an adult. I became my mother’s mother.
               Every child of an immigrant parent has lived
          this experience. We have all had to become
          caretakers of those who once took care of us.
          Naturally, every person experiences this shift at
(85)   some point in life, when the parent is reduced to
          a child, but for us the reversal of roles comes
          sooner, and it is often unexpected.
               At the meat counter, my mother pulls out
          some crisp bills from her purse as the man
(90)   hands us the lamb chops sealed in plastic. My
          mother, still unaccustomed to American
          currency, examines the bills closely. “Mother,” I
          say calmly, “we don’t pay the butcher. We can
          load our cart with as much food as we need, and
(95)   then we pay for everything at the front before we
          leave.” She grimaces and stuffs the bills back in,
          wondering perhaps how anyone could shop in
          such an odd way.
               As we roll down the next aisle, the artificial
(100) music humming pleasantries in our ears, I sense
          my mother beside me. She seems stiff, her
          footsteps uncertain, and I feel her lean, ever so
          slightly, into me.

It can be inferred from the passage as a whole that the narrator sees her mother's negotiating ability as one that was developed:

ANSWER SELECTION

This is correct. The mother was effective in the markets of Iran. She even appears to be admired by her "adversaries," the vendors who engage her in a contest of wills. On the other hand, the mother is ineffective in America, "useless."

The mother appears to have an expert ability in the markets of Iran, not a standard ability. The vendors regard her as "a tough customer," someone they enjoy challenging. Also, her skills aid her little in America's supermarkets.

Again, the mother's skills are greater than other shoppers in Iran, not lesser.

The first part of this choice is correct, but her skills do not aid her in America.

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Question ID: 1302