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Source: Revised GRE PDF 2nd Ed. Section 4; #25 (p. 72)


Which of the following might provide an explanation

A portrait type that appeared with relentless frequency in eighteenth-century England is the familiar image of a gentleman poised with one hand inside his partially unbuttoned waistcoat. Standard interpretations of this portrait posture offer observations of correspondence—demonstrating either that it mirrors actual social behavior or that it borrows from classical statuary. Such explanations, however, illuminate neither the source of this curious convention nor the reason for its popularity. It is true that in real life the “hand-in” was a common stance for elite men. Still, there were other ways of comporting the body that did not become winning portrait formulas. And even if the “hand-in” portrait does resemble certain classical statues, what accounts for the adoption of this particular pose? Which of the following might provide an explanation for the popularity of hand-in portraits that would satisfy the author of the passage? An eighteenth-century English etiquette manual discussing the social implications of the “hand-in” stance, A comprehensive catalogue of eighteenth-century English portraits that showed what proportion of portraits depicted gentlemen in the “hand-in” stance, A passage from an eighteenth-century English novel in which a gentleman considers what stance to adopt when his portrait is painted

2 Explanations


Caio Velasco

Hello! I would like to know why letter A is right?
I understand that the manual may be explaning something about "hand-in", but still, just discussing the social implecations does not mean that they reached to a point in which people would have a "hand-in" stance. It could be either discussing positive or negatives facts about "hand-in". So, why can I be so sure that letter A is a right choice if it seems so debatable?

Oct 6, 2016 • Comment

Sam Kinsman

Hi Caio,

Keep in mind that the questions says: "which of the following might provide an explanation... that would satisfy the author of the passage?"

The key word here is "might." We don't need to look for something that would DEFINITELY provide an explanation that would satisfy the author. Instead, we need to think about what the author already knows, and ask ourselves whether each of the three sources can provide the author with new information. If a source cannot tell the author something that he / she does not know yet, then it cannot provide an explanation that would satisfy the author.

You're right that the 18th Century English etiquette manual (A) might actually have information that doesn't answer satisfy the author. However, it is definitely possible that the manual could have information that does satisfy the author. Therefore, we can say that A "might provide an explanation... that would satisfy the author." Therefore, A is correct :)

I hope that helps!

Oct 8, 2016 • Reply

Mariella Quispe C

From the paragraph: "...demonstrating either that it mirrors actual social behavior OR that it borrows from classical statuary>, thus, in option A a manual discussing the SOCIAL implications might provide an explanation. We are not concerned if it satisfies the author's, that is out of scope. It is not our mission to make further assumptions :)

Jul 6, 2017 • Reply


Chris Lele

Sep 22, 2012 • Comment

Ramlah Merchant

I don't understand why C is correct. A big assumption here is that the act of considering what stance to adopt involves thinking why to adopt it. How can you jump to this assumption?

Nov 6, 2017 • Reply


Hi Ramlah,

First, this is not a big assumption, if it involves any assumption at all. By definition, considering something is to "think carefully about something." So considering which stance to adopt would involve carefully thinking about which stance, which almost without a doubt would mean thinking about WHY a certain stance should be adopted.

That said, we don't really need to think this far to choose (C).

We are looking for something that *might* provide an explanation for the popularity of hand-in portraits that would satisfy the author.

The author is looking to to find the source of the the hand-in pose and why it was more popular than other poses. One gentleman's thinking *could* provide valuable insight to the author on this; it's definitely *relevant*, even if it we can't necessarily extrapolate it as the reason for the social trend.

Nov 15, 2017 • Reply

Orion Chang

Hi Adam,
I don't think C is convincing. The reason is that option C doesn't mention anything about hand-in at all. It could be interpreted as the passage talks about hand-out or any other posture.

Dec 11, 2018 • Reply


Hey Orion,
First of all, we can consider this a "could be true" question as opposed to a "must be true" question. We are only asked to select choices that "might" provide an explanation, not one that definitely does. So it's possible that the novel doesn't mention the hand-in, but it's also possible that it does. And if it does, it might satisfy the author. So that's why it works. We only need a possibility, not anything conclusive.

Dec 11, 2018 • Reply

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