GRE : Reading Comprehension



What are the basic elements in the laughable? The first point to be made is that the comic does not exit beyond the pale what is strictly human. A landscape may be charming and sublime, or insignificant and ugly. It will never be laughable. One may laugh at an animal, but only because one has detected in it some human expression or attitude.

Another element to note is the absence of feeling which usually accompanies laughter. Indifference is its usual environment, for laughter has no greater foe than emotion. The comic demands a momentary anesthesia of the heart. Its appeal is to the intelligence, pure and simple. This intelligence, however, must always remain in touch with other intelligences. Laughter appears to need an echo. However spontaneous it seems, it always implies a kind of secret freemasonry, or even complicity, with other laughers, real or imaginary. To understand laughter, we must put it back in natural environment, which is society.

The difficult words in this passage are
beyond the pale of (outside the scope of), anesthesia (numbness) and freemasonry (commonalty).


The author is primarily concerned with

(A) criticizing those who laugh at certain people and situations

(B) discussing why laughter is an antisocial action

(C) identifying three different kinds of comedy

(D) pointing out some general characteristics of that which is comic

(E) distinguishing between emotional laughter and intelligent laughter


Having asked the question in the very first sentence, “What are the basic elements in the laughable?" the author proceeds to list them one by one in the subsequent parts of the passage. So, “pointing out some general characteristics of that which is comic" (D) is the best answer.

So, the answer is (D).

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