Reading for Results - Online Practice
Drawing Inferences About Implied Main Ideas

Copyright 2006 © Laraine Flemming.
The right to copy this material is granted exclusively to instructors and students using textbooks written by Laraine Flemming. General distribution and redistribution are strictly prohibited.

Directions: Click on the appropriate button to identify the main idea implied in the paragraph.

Note: If you let the cursor rest on a pink word, a brief definition will pop up.


Throughout his lifetime, the sixteenth-century explorer Francis Drake (1518-1585) was fierce in his hatred of both Spain and the Catholic religion. Like every other Englishman of the time, Drake knew that Spain's ruler Philip II was determined to replace British Protestantism with his own brand of aggressive and intolerant Catholicism. But the British would have none of it, and no one was more aggressively anti-Catholic or anti-Spain than Captain Francis Drake. In 1568, Drake had been on board a ship forced by bad weather into port at the Caribbean island of San Juan de Ulua. The island was under Spanish control, and in due time a Spanish fleet arrived. Anxious to avoid trouble, Drake's admiral asked permission to remain in port until his ship was repaired and ready to sail. Permission was given by Spanish officials. Or so it seemed. When the British were peacefully making repairs and feeling safe from harm, sailors on the Spanish fleet opened fire. Drake managed to escape with his ship but four other British ships were destroyed, and only fifty out of four hundred men escaped with their lives. As if that weren't enough to fuel his hatred, Drake also knew many stories like that of a former shipmate, Morgan Gilbert. Gilbert was taken by the Spanish when his ship was confiscated. Like many other British sailors unlucky enough to fall into Spanish hands, Gilbert received two hundred lashes with a rawhide whip and was sentenced to twenty years at hard labor for being a heretic, or nonbeliever, in the Catholic faith.

Implied main idea:

a. Francis Drake was like most Englishmen of the time: He hated the Spanish on principle, simply because they weren't British.

b. The sea captain and explorer Francis Drake was famous for his irrational hatred of all things Spanish.

c. Francis Drake's hatred of Spain and Catholicism was mainly the result of bad personal experience.


In the summer of 1497, the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama (1460-1524) set sail for India, hoping to find a route that would give Portugal control over the lucrative spice trade. He returned twenty-six months later, with only half of his fleet and a third of his crew. But that mattered little to the Portuguese public or their king. For all of Portugal, only one thing mattered: da Gama had made it to India, a country brimming with gold, gems, and spices. He was a hero, whose name was on everyone's lips. Da Gama's success was not lost on a teenage boy named Ferdinand Magellan (1480-1521), who yearned to win similar glory for himself. Unlike da Gama, though, Magellan could not advance himself in his homeland of Portugal, so he set off for Spain, anxious to convince the Spanish king that Spain could find its own route to India and the "spice Islands" of Asia. After finding a sponsor among international bankers, Magellan set sail on 1519, only to find the voyage harder and longer than he ever imagined. Then his men, mistrustful of a foreigner to begin with, mutinied. Although Magellan defeated the plot to wrest control from him, it was more than a year before he discovered the Straits of Magellan that now bear his name. Jubilant that he had the new route to India he had promised his benefactors, Magellan could not know that he was not to return to Spain a hero like Da Gama. He died on April 27, 1521 from multiple wounds received when he recklessly decided to interfere in warfare between two hostile Pacific island chieftains.

Implied main idea:

a. Although Ferdinand Magellan achieved his goal of finding a new route to India, he died before he could enjoy the honors given his hero Vasco da Gama.

b. Ferdinand Magellan's reckless nature brought him success; it also brought him death.

c. Although Vasco da Gama was his hero, Ferdinand Magellan never became as famous as the older Portuguese explorer.


For more than forty years, the Bermuda Triangle has been considered a place of mystery and danger. Bounded by Miami, Puerto Rico, and Bermuda, the Bermuda Triangle has also been called the "Devil's Triangle" due to its allegedly dark powers. According to oft-repeated stories, those who ventured into the triangle were never seen or heard from again. This legend began with a 1964 article in Argosy magazine. The article described how five military airplanes had set out on a training mission, flown over the Bermuda Triangle, and vanished. The cause of the planes' disappearance was considered inexplicable. Following the Argosy article, the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle was taken up by several other magazines. All of them basically repeated the same point: The Bermuda Triangle was a dangerous place. Since nobody did any additional research into the planes' disappearance, it wasn't long before a legend was born. Turns out, when someone did do the research, there were a lot of practical reasons why the planes could have vanished. The leader of the mission was ill, and there was little up-to-date navigational equipment on board. The fuel supply was inadequate, and the crew members inexperienced. Any one of these factors alone could have accounted for the planes' mysterious disappearance without the Bermuda Triangle playing any role.

Implied main idea:

a. Argosy made up the story about the Bermuda Triangle in order to sell copies of the magazine.

b. The five planes mentioned in the Argosy article vanished because the fuel ran out; there was no mystery involved.

c. There's no solid evidence for the claim that the Bermuda Triangle has mysterious and deadly powers.


The very name of our country, the United States of America, suggests both unity and division. To the modern citizen, it is the unity that counts, with Americans generally thinking of themselves living in one country divided mainly by geography. But there was a time when many Americans thought in distinctly different terms. In 1774 when John Adams spoke of "our country," he meant Massachusetts. Even Thomas Jefferson took a while to move beyond his own region of birth and in his early years, "my country" usually meant Virginia to him. Consider, too, the original heading for the Declaration of Independence, which was described as "The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America." As Daniel Boorstein has written in The Americans, "An unsuspecting historian a thousand years hence might assume...that the Declaration brought into being thirteen new and separate nations...." In 1787, Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut participated in making plans for a federal government that would have power over the entire country. However, his words suggest that his head and heart were at war with each other. Like many others, Ellsworth knew that the states should strive for unity. Yet for him, it was his home state that inspired the strongest patriotic feeling, as he publicly declared "my happiness depends as much on the existence of my state government, as a new-born infant depends upon its mother for nourishment." Ellsworth was not alone in those sentiments.

Implied main idea:

a. In the eighteenth century, some of the most famous men in politics could not bring themselves to support a federal government limiting states' rights.

b. Early in the history of the United States, many Americans were more devoted to their own home states than to any notion of a common country.

c. After the Civil War, Americans began to abandon the notion of states' rights in favor of uniting under a federal government.


During a publicity tour for his best-selling novel The Da Vinci Code, author Dan Brown insisted the characters and plot of the novel were pure fiction. But according to Brown, the information about secret rituals and ancient documents was factually based. His critics, however, beg to differ. For instance, Brown claims in the novel that Christians viewed Jesus as a mere mortal until 325 A.D., at which point the Roman emperor Constantine turned Jesus into a god. Larry Hurtado of Scotland's University of Edinburgh says this is nonsense. Hurtado's book Lord Jesus Christ examines the first century A.D. belief in Jesus as a god, and Hurtado insists that Brown's chain of events is all wrong. In Brown's book, perhaps the most controversial "fact" is the description of Jesus's marriage to Mary Magdalene. Harold Attridge, the Dean of Yale's Divinity School, insists that the marriage is pure fiction and says more about the American need to sexualize every experience than it does about what really happened. Ben Witherington, who writes and lectures on religious topics, has developed an entire series of lectures that revolves around the errors in Brown's book. Brown, however, doesn't seem concerned. He is quoted as saying "It's a book about big ideas, you can love them or you can hate them. But we're all talking about them, and that's really the point." (Source of Information: Richard N. Ostling. "The Movie Due, the 'Da Vinci' Debate Persists."

Implied main idea:

a. Although it doesn't seem to disturb author Dan Brown, some religious experts have serious doubts about his claims that the history in his book The Da Vinci Code is based on fact.

b. Dan Brown, the author of The Da Vinci Code, has an agenda; he wants to undermine Christians' belief in Jesus.

c. All of the criticism of The Da Vinci Code can be traced to the jealousy other writers feel toward the book's extraordinary success.

Last change made to this page: 05/16/06

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