Source: Revised GRE PDF 2nd Ed. Section 4; #12 (p. 67)

25

It can be inferred from the passage

The work of English writer Aphra Behn (16401689) changed markedly during the 1680s, as she turned from writing plays to writing prose narratives. According to literary critic Rachel Carnell, most scholars view this change as primarily motivated by financial considerations: earning a living by writing for the theatre became more difficult in the 1680s, so Behn tried various other types of prose genres in the hope of finding another lucrative medium. In fact, a long epistolary scandal novel that she wrote in the mid-1680s sold quite well. Yet, as Carnell notes, Behn did not repeat this approach in her other prose works; instead, she turned to writing shorter, more serious novels, even though only about half of these were published during her lifetime. Carnell argues that Behn, whose stage productions are primarily comedies, may have turned to an emerging literary form, the novel, in a conscious attempt to criticize, and subvert for her own ends, the conventions and ideology of a well-established form of her day, the dramatic tragedy. Carnell acknowledges that Behn admired the skill of such contemporary writers of dramatic tragedy as John Dryden, and that Behns own comic stage productions displayed the same partisanship for the reigning Stuart monarchy that characterized most of the politically oriented dramatic tragedies of her day. However, Carnell argues that Behn took issue with the way in which these writers and plays defined the nature of tragedy. As prescribed by Dryden, tragedy was supposed to concern a heroic man who is a public figure and who undergoes a fall that evokes pity from the audience. Carnell points out that Behns tragic novels focus instead on the plight of little-known women and the private world of the household; even in her few novels featuring male protagonists, Behn insists on the importance of the crimes these otherwise heroic figures commit in the domestic sphere. Moreover, according to Carnell, Behn questioned the view promulgated by monarchist dramatic tragedies such as Drydens: that the envisioned public political idealpassive obedience to the nations kingought to be mirrored in the private sphere, with family members wholly obedient to a male head of household. Carnell sees Behns novels not only as rejecting the model of patriarchal and hierarchical family order, but also as warning that insisting on such a parallel can result in real tragedy befalling the members of the domestic sphere. According to Carnell, Behns choice of literary form underscores the differences between her own approach to crafting a tragic story and that taken in the dramatic tragedies, with their artificial distinction between the public and private spheres. Behns novels engage in the political dialogue of her era by demonstrating that the good of the nation ultimately encompasses more than the good of the public figures who rule it. It can be inferred from the passage that the artificial distinction (line 53-54) refers to the (A)practice utilized in dramatic tragedies of providing different structural models for the public and the private spheres; (B) ideology of many dramatic tragedies that advocate passive obedience only in the private sphere and not in the public sphere; (C) convention that drama ought to concern events in the public sphere and that novels ought to concern events in the private sphere; (D) assumption made by the authors of conventional dramatic tragedies that legitimate tragic action occurs only in the public sphere; (E) approach taken by the dramatic tragedies in depicting male and female characters differently, depending on whether their roles were public or private

5 Explanations

2

Anna Roberts

So I picked answer choice B because
I thought dramatic conventional tragedies showed tradegy in public sphere when there was passive obedience to the king, it showed how that was a tradegy and was bad.
But they expected this passive obedience to be maintained in private sphere, they expected passive obedience to male head.
So I thought they advocated obedience only in private sphere and not public.
Im confused to see how they actually thought both private and public to mirror? Isnt it a tradegy showing that the male protagonist undergoes fall and evokes pity. Doesnt that mean that they dont advocate obedience in public, and only in private.

Dec 29, 2017 • Comment

David Recine, Magoosh Tutor

Hi again, Anna. You already asked something very similar under a different question from this same passage (https://gre.magoosh.com/forum/116-the-passage-suggests-that-carnell-believes-behn). But you raise a lot of good points about the passage as a whole, and not just the individual questions. So for the benefit of students who may not have checked out our discussion on the other Magoosh GRE Forums page, I'm reproducing my original response to you below. :)

In conventional dramatic tragedy, the protagonist's downfall is meant to evoke pity. And if the protagonist's downfall is a punishment they receive because of disobedience in the public sphere, it's possible that the tragedy is portraying public hierarchy as wrong and unfair.

However, there are some things in the passage that cast doubt on your interpretation. For one thing, the passage doesn't say *why* the protagonists of these conventional tragedies siffer a downfall. Maybe it's because they disobeyed the monarchy and were unjustly punished. But maybe it's because they did something truly bad and were punished fairly, but the audience still sympathizes with the protagonist as a person who made a real mistake, but it still good. It's also possible that the protagonist has a downfall that doesn't involve disobeying the monarchy or being punished. Maybe the protagonist works too hard and becomes ill, or is treated unfairly by their family. The protagonist could even be a royal person who is unfairly disobeyed and deposed by their subjects.

So the exact nature of the protagonist's downfall isn't so important here. It's more important to look at two key lines from the passage:

"Behns own comic stage productions displayed the same partisanship for the
reigning Stuart monarchy that characterized most of the politically oriented dramatic tragedies of her day."

This line indicates that Behn supported the monarchy ("partisanship"), and that this support of the monarchy was common-- normal-- in conventional dramatic tragedies of Behn's era ("characterized most... tragedies..."). So that would strongly indicate the Behn did believe in hierarchy and obedience int he publicly ruled monarchy.

After you look at that line, you should then pay attention to this one:

"Behn questioned the view... that the ...public political idealpassive obedience to the nations kingought to be mirrored in the private sphere"

With this line and the previous one you can see that Behn believed two things:

1) That it was important, in public life, to obey the person who was the head of the state.

and

2) That private life was different, and that in the home, absolute obedience to the "head" of the household (the man, given the era) was not important, and that such hierarchy, while good and fair under the monarchy, was not good and fair in private/domestic homes.

Jan 15, 2018 • Reply

2

Riva Mitra

what about E?

Aug 29, 2017 • Comment

Adam

Answer choice E is incorrect because if we look back at the passage, the artificial distinction is *between the public and private spheres!* Answer choice E states that the distinction refers to the "*approach* taken by the dramatic tragedies in depicting male and female characters differently, depending on whether their roles were public or private." However, these authors paid *no attention* to private roles. If they did, they simply wished for a hierarchical structure and did not consider the role of female characters. They *did,* however, focus only on tragedies pertaining to the public sphere, which is what makes answer choice D correct.

Sep 1, 2017 • Reply

6

Keren Zhou

I like this explanation!

Initially, I have made a mistake that:

According to Carnell, Behn’s choice of literary form underscores the differences between her own approach to crafting a tragic story and (her own approach) that taken in the dramatic tragedies, with their ARTIFICIAL DISTINCTION between the public and private spheres.

So I was perplexed about what is the ARTIFICIAL DISTINCTION in Behn's literary...

After reading your explanation, now I know that it is Dryden's approach that includes ARTIFICIAL DISTINCTION.

Aug 15, 2014 • Comment

10

Gravatar Lucas Fink, Magoosh Tutor

If you're still stuck on answer choice A, here's a bit more explanation :-)

Let's look again at the referenced part of the passage:

According to Carnell, Behn’s choice of literary form underscores the differences between her own approach to crafting a tragic story and that taken in the dramatic tragedies, with their ARTIFICIAL DISTINCTION between the public and private spheres.

The first thing that's important to see is who is making this "artificial distinction." We should be looking for the artificial distinction made by "dramatic tragedies"--the conventional stories which Behn was trying to subvert.

So how do those dramatic tragedies view the public and private spheres? Earlier in the passage (lines 39-45), we see this:

Moreover, according to Carnell, Behn questioned the view promulgated by monarchist dramatic tragedies such as Dryden’s: that the envisioned “public” political ideal—passive obedience to the nation’s king—ought to be mirrored in the private sphere, with family members wholly obedient to a male head of household.

This tells us the opposite of answer choice (A), which says the those tragedies provided "different structural models for the public and the private spheres." The distinction that these tragedies made was not one of structure. Instead, it was about the story:

As prescribed by Dryden, tragedy was supposed to concern a heroic man who is a public figure and who undergoes a fall that evokes pity from the audience. Carnell points out that Behn’s tragic novels focus instead on the plight of little-known women and the private world of the household; even in her few novels featuring male protagonists, Behn insists on the importance of the crimes these otherwise heroic figures commit in the domestic sphere.

The conventional form (in Dryden's style) had tragedy only occurring in the public sphere--it didn't consider the private lives of characters. Behn tried to break down that barrier and consider the private life separately. This points to (D).

Jun 20, 2013 • Comment

5

Gravatar Chris Lele, Magoosh Tutor

Sep 22, 2012 • Comment

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