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).
Which of the following statements about laughter is best supported by the passage?
(A) Some one who is ugly can not at the same time be laughable
(B) Someone who pities a person can not at the same time laugh at that person
(C) Laughter begets more laughter, since more than one intelligence is needed for comedy
(D) Because of the absence of feeling which laughter requires, the object of a joke is indifferent to it
(E) Because comedy requires intelligence, it is difficult to be spontaneously funny.
The statements that laughter has no greater foe than emotion and that comic demands a momentary anesthesia of the heart imply that, if you pity a person (that means you are emotional towards that person), you can not at the same time laugh at him. So, (B) is the best statement supported by the passage.
(A) is incorrect since the author nowhere rules out our incapacity to laugh at an ugly person.
(C) appears to be plausible answer, but you should note that while the author is assertive in his opinions the laughter has no greater foe than emotion and comic demands a momentary anesthesia of the heart, he merely mentions that laughter appears to need an echo. Thus (C) is not as good an inference as (B) from the passage.
(D) is wrong since the object of a joke can certainly be angry at those laughing at him and will not be indifferent to them.
(E) Does not convey any sensible meaning.
GRE : Model Questions Index