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GRE Verbal Practice, Text Completion

Question 4

The characters Jake from the author's first novel and Reichart from the author's final and posthumously published work reside in entirely different milieus. Yet, the two share common (1)____________. It is fascinating to observe the personal relationships each one forges. Both the former, a mere adolescent, and the latter, in his twilight years, care too much and hence are (2)____________. It seems the author came full circle, realizing near the end of her own life that compassion's shackles respect no age.

Blank (1) Blank (2)
life experiences incapable of action
cultural influences driven to self-destruction
psychic ground virtuous to a fault

Explanatory Answer

What follows blank (1) explains what the two characters have in common. We're told that both "care too much," meaning that they share in common a particular psychological, or psychic, trait. Moreover, we're told that they reside in entirely different milieus (surroundings that influence a person), which suggests that it is not life experiences or cultural influences that they share in common.

The key to filling in blank (2) is the passage's final sentence. The beginning phrase, It seems that, signals that the sentence's function is to elucidate or explain the preceding one. The metaphor compassion's shackles suggests that caring too much (having too much compassion) might prevent a person from acting on that compassion; in other words, it might make a person incapable of action.

The correct entries for the two blanks psychic ground (1) and incapable of action (2). You would need to select both of these two phrases to gain credit for a correct answer to the question.