The ACT expects students to be able to identify the writer's topic, point, or goal, as well as the rhetorical tools he or she uses to achieve it.
What is the overall intent of the following passage, and what specific rhetorical devices are used to achieve it?
Veedil watched Ms. Epstein nervously. She was holding the classroom door open slightly, her arm bent backward at what appeared to be an uncomfortable angle, obviously not expecting the conversation to last. Mr. Larsen was whispering to her intently and standing back slightly as if to invite her to fully commit to the hallway and close the door. As he whispered he darted his eyes about the interior of the classroom. For an instant, they landed on Veedil. Their eyes met, and Veedil saw recognition, discomfort, and – and this was what sent Veedil’s heart to the floor of his stomach – fear. He’d never seen an adult look at him that way before, and his lack of experience began to degenerate into panic. He knew the two adults were talking about him. He knew they weren’t saying anything good. He knew he could do nothing about it.
Ms. Epstein looked through the small window, saw him staring, and smiled tensely and artificially. Veedil’s mouth instinctually curled itself into a reflection of her mirthless grin; but his eyes, like hers, did not participate. She turned back to Mr. Larsen for a moment (as her head turned, Veedil could see her smile vaporize like paper on fire), then reluctantly opened the door and took one half-step inside.
“Veedil, honey,” she called to him in a counterfeit casual tone, “Could I see you out in the hall for a moment?” Her free hand, the one not gripping the door like a lifeline, made a welcoming, yet imperative “come here” gesture. The joyless smile had returned to her face, as well, and Veedil’s growing panic froze him to his chair. The child part of him wanted to obey the adult, but the animal in him was suddenly afraid of Ms. Epstein and wanted to flee. Slowly, the child began to win out, and Veedil slid from his chair and stood up. A few of the other children, oblivious to the dangerous transformation their teacher had undergone, turned their faces to him with bored semi-interest. He looked back at them, his face pleading for one of them to go in his place; but Ms. Epstein made the imperative gesture again, and that got his feet moving. As he reached her, her outstretched arm curled around him with dreadful tenderness and guided him out into the sterile, institutional hallway. He saw Mr. Larsen, who was glaring at the floor, first; but then he saw the uniformed policeman eyeing him with a mixture of fear, sympathy, and annoyance. Veedil began to cry.
The policeman’s face swam into two or three as he knelt down and put a hand on Veedil’s shoulder, so Veedil focused on the brass badge hanging from the officer’s chest. The bright fluorescent lights made little glints on the edges of the raised lettering, and in Veedil’s watery eyes, those glints turned into stars and flashes with long rays. He lost himself in them, hearing little of what the officer actually said. He was able to answer some of the seemingly pointless questions with nods or shakes of his head, but he didn’t really understand what he was answering to.
“Is your dad’s name Josef Sobel?”
A slow nod.
“And your mom’s name was -- is Irina?”
Another, slower nod.
“Do you have another relative living close by?”
Veedil simply stood still, tears sliding down the sides of his nose and collecting on his upper lip. They tasted salty and sour.
ANSWER: The author is attempting to illustrate a child's fear and confusion while facing an unknown situation over which he has no control. The author's use of hyperbole, imagery, and limited third-person perspective attempt to put the reader in a child's place. The description of fear and nervousness on the part of the adults indicates that the situation is unusual and serious. The author's use of, "your mom's name was -- is Irina," in the dialogue implies that something has happened to the child's mother.