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GRE Verbal Practice, Reading Comprehension

Questions 3 and 4 are based on the following passage: 2

Preeminent among the hundreds of thousands of images produced by U.S. government-commissioned photographers during the Great Depression is Dorothea Lange's “Migrant Mother” (1936), an impromptu portrait of an impoverished single mother and farm laborer, shown with her three young children. Lange's image perfectly captures at once a sense of individual worth and of undeserved impoverishment that so many working-class Americans were experiencing at the time. Less obvious than its role in promoting the government's New Deal employment policies was the photograph's class-victimage message. Lange covertly veiled her commentary on class in the image's articulation of gender and family relations and in its allusion to religious imagery: the photograph's compositional similarities to traditional paintings of the Madonna and Child are undeniable.

Lange, a prolific photojournalist, was no doubt concerned chiefly with documenting the plight of working-class people during the Depression. Yet the publication of the "Migrant Mother" and the immediate and extensive publicity surrounding it turned out to mark an important transitional moment in public art. Lange's image is seen as the first significant transcription of the iconic Madonna and Child from painting to photography, and from the Mother of Christ to an anonymous working-class woman. Both shifts demonstrate how traditional iconic images can be translated from religious to secular art and from fine-arts institutions to public media. Indeed, far more has been written about the iconic appeal of the "Migrant Mother" than about its social and political messages.

Question 3

Which of the following issues about Lange and her image of the "Migrant Mother" does the passage address?

Select all choices that apply.

Whether the photograph's similarity to an iconic religious image was intended by Lange
Whether it was appropriate for Lange to incorporate religious imagery into a government-commissioned work
Whether Lange's personal attitudes toward class difference played a part in her choice of the photograph's specific subject

Explanatory Answer

In stating that Lange "covertly veiled her commentary on class" in an allusion to the iconic image of the Madonna and Child, the passage clearly suggests that the allusion was intentional and that her attitudes toward class difference played a role in her choice of the specific subject of the photograph. However, the passage does not discuss whether Lange's use of religious imagery was proper. You would need to select both the first and third choices (and only these two choices) to gain credit for answering this question correctly.