The author of the passage mentions East End working-class

While the influence of British magazines in shaping public opinion predates the nineteenth century, it was during the 1800s that mass distribution became possible and an explosion in periodical readership occurred, vastly increasing magazines’ opinion-shaping powers. The role of magazines as arbiters of nineteenth-century taste is seen in their depictions of the London theater. The magazines accorded some legitimacy to East End working-class theaters that mirrored the format of the fashionable West End theaters serving middle- and upper-class audiences. However, the magazines also depicted music halls—which competed for patronage with all theaters—as places where crass entertainment corrupted spectators’ taste and morals. Finally, they suggested that popular demand for substandard fare created a market unfriendly to higher expressions of dramatic art.

The author of the passage mentions East End working-class theaters primarily in order to

  1. illustrate a point about the ability of magazines to sway public opinion
  2. contrast the kinds of entertainment presented in East End and West End theaters
  3. make a point about how spectators’ tastes influenced the offerings at different kinds of theaters
  4. explain how magazines chose which kinds of entertainment to cover
  5. identify factors that helped make certain theaters fashionable

An important thing to keep in mind about the Reading Comprehension section of the GRE as we use PowerPrep online to study is that it is just that—reading comprehension. In other words, as difficult as it may seem, and it can be pretty tricky, the test makers will always give us all the information we need in the passage to answer the question. Even questions that ask about the author’s intention, such as question 20 of the second Verbal section on practice test 1, do not really require us to come up with interpretations.

Alright, this question asks us why the author mentions a specific idea in the passage. We should go ahead and reread the area around our highlighted keywords in order to determine why the author mentioned this idea before looking at the answer choices.

“The role of magazines as arbiters of nineteenth-century taste is seen in their depictions of the London theater. The magazines accorded some legitimacy to East End working-class theaters that mirrored the format of the fashionable West End theaters serving middle- and upper-class audiences. However, the magazines also depicted music halls—which competed for patronage with all theaters—as places where crass entertainment corrupted spectators’ taste and morals.”

The sentence just before the one with our highlighted keywords told us that London theater is one area in which we can observe the role of magazines as taste makers. The sentence containing our keywords specifically talks about London theater, so it seems quite possible that this sentence is a more specific idea that elaborates on the previous statement, but let’s take a look. This sentence tells us that magazines “accorded some legitimacy to” the theaters we’re asked about; in other words, these working-class theaters perhaps were looked down upon before, but magazines recognized them as significant places where art could be seen.

In case we had trouble understanding that sentence though, we should take a hint from the next sentence, which begins with “however,” signaling a contrast. Apparently the magazines did NOT look kindly on music halls, which were a similar venue. The implication is, therefore, that we were correct in interpreting the previous sentence to mean that magazines made “East End” theaters seem more favorable. Both of these sentences do, indeed, provide specific examples as to how magazines were tastemakers in the world of London theater. By extension, it seems the author’s purpose in bringing up these East End theaters was to show how magazines elevated them and had an influence over the London theater scene, so let’s look for an answer that reflects this.

  • illustrate a point about the ability of magazines to sway public opinion

This answer is not specific to the fact that it illustrates the point about swaying public opinion in the area of London theater, but it’s also not wrong and is similar to our prediction. Let’s keep A

  • contrast the kinds of entertainment presented in East End and West End theaters

Not only does this answer not match our prediction, but it contradicts the passage, which says that these two types of theater “mirrored” one another, implying they were similar. We can eliminate B.

  • make a point about how spectators’ tastes influenced the offerings at different kinds of theaters

This answer does not match our prediction. It may seem logical if we think about how the next sentence describes music halls as a place of “crass entertainment for corrupt spectators,” but we should avoid using information specific to music halls to answer a question about East End theaters. Also, we’re told that these “working-class” theaters had entertainment similar to that of “middle- and upper-class” theaters, so this answer is definitely not supported by the passage. Eliminate C.

  • explain how magazines chose which kinds of entertainment to cover

We are told how magazines chose what to cover, and, in fact, it almost seems as if they chose to cover all forms of entertainment. We can eliminate D.

  • identify factors that helped make certain theaters fashionable

This answer may seem to work if we read the sentence too quickly, but actually the sentence only describes the West End theaters as “fashionable,” and we aren’t told why. We can eliminate E.

A is the only answer that reflects that the East End theaters are provided as an example of the broader idea in the passage that magazines had the power to sway public opinion. A is the correct answer.

 

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