How to Determine the Author’s Point of View for the GED RLA

By Achim K. Krull, Murray Shukyn

The GED Reasoning Through Language Arts test will have some questions directed at the author’s point of view. Some writing is aimed at persuading the reader or presenting different points of view. Sometimes the points of view are very clear in opening statements; other times the point(s) of view are less obvious. Editorials and columns, both in print and in electronic media are certainly designed to promote a particular point of view.

When reading such material, ask yourself, “What is the author trying to accomplish?” or “What side of this issue is the author trying to convince me to agree with?” Here’s an example from a statement by President Harry S. Truman, August 6, 1945, after the dropping of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima.

Sixteen hours ago an American airplane dropped one bomb on [Hiroshima]and destroyed its usefulness to the enemy. That bomb had more power than 20,000 tons of TNT. It had more than 20,000 times the blast power of the British “Grand Slam,” which is the largest bomb ever yet used in the history of warfare.

The Japanese began the war from the air at Pearl Harbor. They have been repaid many fold. And the end is not yet. With this bomb we have now added a new and revolutionary increase in destruction to supplement the growing power of our armed forces. In their present form these bombs are now in production and even more powerful forms are in development.

It is an atomic bomb. It is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe. The force from which the sun draws its power has been loosed against those who brought war to the Far East.

Before 1939, it was the accepted belief of scientists that it was theoretically possible to release atomic energy. But no one knew any practical method of doing it. By 1942, however, we knew that the Germans were working feverishly to find a way to add atomic energy to the other engines of war with which they hoped to enslave the world. But they failed. We may be grateful to Providence that the Germans got the V-1s and the V-2s late and in limited quantities and even more grateful that they did not get the atomic bomb at all.

At first reading, this memo is a straightforward account of the use and utility of the atomic bomb. Upon a second, closer reading, however, you may begin to see that this passage is actually trying subtly to persuade you of a certain point of view.

What is the implication of the sentences “They have been repaid many fold. And the end is not yet.”?

  • (A) America is more powerful than Japan.

  • (B) If Japan doesn’t surrender, America will continue its assault.

  • (C) It all started with Pearl Harbor.

  • (D) America is getting even with Japan.

Choices (A), (B), and (C) may all be considered correct; however, Choice (B) is the most correct answer because the two sentences quoted imply that even though America has gotten the upper hand, it will continue to attack Japan as long as the war continues. Choice (A) is questionable because although the passage supports that America has a more powerful weapon, it doesn’t necessarily prove that America is more powerful overall.

Choice (C) is a true statement but an incorrect answer because the passage states that Japan started the war by attacking Pearl Harbor; the sentences quoted in the question don’t imply so.

Choice (D) is incorrect because the sentences quoted indicate that America has already gotten more than even with Japan. Though the bombing itself may be considered payback, the sentence “And the end is not yet” implies that more is to come. (And it did. Three days after the bombing of Hiroshima, the United States dropped another atomic bomb on Nagasaki, prompting Japan’s unconditional surrender.)