Reading Comprehension Challenge 23.12.2019

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    23 December at 09:00 AM

Read the passage carefully and answer the questions given below. 

The year was 1933 and Christmas was just a week away. Deep in the trough of the Great Depression, the people of Canton, Ohio, were down on their luck and hungry, Nearly half the town was out of work. Along the railroad tracks, children in patched coats scavenged for coal spilled from passing trains. The prison and orphanage swelled with the casualties of hard times. It was then that a mysterious “B. Virdot” took out a tiny ad in the canton repository, offering to help the needy before Christmas. All he asked was that they write to him and tell him of their hardships. B Virdot, he said, was not his real name, and no one would ever know his true identity. He pledged that those who wrote to him would also remain anonymous. Letters poured into the post office by the hundreds. From every corner of the beleaguered town, they came-from the baker, the bellhop, the steeplejack, the mill worker, the blacksmith, the janitor, the pipefitter, the salesman, the fallen executive. All of them told their stories in the hope of receiving a hand. And in the days thereafter, $5 checks went out to 150 families across the town. Today, $5 doesn’t sound like much, but back then it was more like $100. For many, it was more money than they had seen in months. So stunning was the offer that it was featured in a front-page story in the newspaper, And word of it spread a hundred miles. For many of those who received a check signed by B. Virdot, the Christmas of 1933 would be among their most memorable, And despite endless speculation about his identity, B. Virdot remained unknown, as did the names of those he helped.

Q.1. With reference to the passage, consider the following statements:

(i) Virdot sent out cheques worth $100 to $150 families in Canton.

(ii) Children scavenged for coal so that they could sell the coal and make some money.

Which of the statements given above is/are true?

(a) Only (i)

(b) Only (ii)

(c) Both (i) & (ii)

(d) Neither (i) nor (ii)


Q.2. What does the writer mean when he says 'deep in the trough of the Great Depression’?

(a) The great depression was at its worst during the Christmas season.

(b) The depression was the longest, the most widespread and the deepest in pre-war history.

(c) The effects of the depression were so severe that the economy was not likely to recover anytime soon.

(d) The depression was in its waning stage during the Christmas of 1933.


Q.3. The writer is mainly concerned with

(a) the increase in the crime rate during an economic crisis.

(b) the philanthropy of one person and how it made a memorable Christmas for many.

(c) the utter neglect and poverty of the people of the canton in the year 1933.

(d) the failure of governmental machinery in tackling the crisis of 1933.


Answers & Explanations:

1. (b); Statement (i) is wrong as cheques of $5 were sent for 150 people, not cheques worth $150. Statement (ii) is correct. The children could only be scavenging for coal to earn money from the coal sold.

2. (a); Choice (d) is contradictory to what the passage states. Choice (c) is out of scope of the passage. Choice (b) is apt. A ‘trough’ is a minimum point or lowest point in something. The ‘lowest point’ in the context of the passage is the Christmas season ‘in’ Canton. This validates choice (a) to be right. There is no reference to the war and neither is the depression ‘widespread’ as we are only told of its impact on Canton.

3. (b); Choice (a) is only mentioned in passing as one of the offshoots of the depression and (d) is out of the scope of the passage. Choice (c), (the hardships faced by people) is only the backdrop to drive home the central message that if you have the heart to help, you can help anybody. The central focus of the passage is stated in (b).


Important Vocabulary:

(i) Scavenge (verb) - Search for and collect (anything usable) from discarded waste

Synonyms: Lurk, Roam, Skulk, Slink

Antonyms: Ignore, Neglect, Rush, Confront

Sentence Examples:

  • People sell junk scavenged from the garbage.
  • Solid lead deposits of combustion would be scavenged from the engine.


(ii) Pledge (noun) - A solemn promise or undertaking

Synonyms: Contract, Engage, Hock, Covenant

Antonyms: Break, Disavow, Reject, Falsify

Sentence Examples:

  • Our pledge to these principles is constant because we believe in their rightness.
  • The conference ended with a joint pledge to limit pollution


 (iii) Beleaguer (verb) - Lay siege to 

Synonyms: Annoy, Beset, Gnaw, Vex

Antonyms: Aid, Assist, Soothe, Help

Sentence Examples:

  • He led a relief force to the aid of the beleaguered city.
  • They, however, continued to beleaguer the place, occasionally showing in great masses.