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 examples could be best be substituted for the author’s example of the animal?(Sentence 4))

(A) A hat with a shape reflecting the human caprice that has molded it

(B) A wave that is about to knock over a woman standing on a beach

(C) A person spinning a ball with his feet, as a seal spins a ball on its nose

(D) A play on words by a comedian

(E) A painted smile on the face of a clown


In the first paragraph, the author asserts that we can laugh at something which is not strictly human only by detecting some human attitude or human expressions in it. Among the choices, it is only (A) which refers to a non-human object having the attributes of a human being.

(A) is the answer.

(B) refers to a wave which, by itself, does not have the attributes of a human being.

(C) All the other choices refer to human beings in different circumstances, but no one contain an analogy to an animal referred to in this passage.

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