Question 23

The passage given below is followed by four alternate summaries. Choose the option that best captures the essence of the passage.

The weight of society’s expectations is hardly a new phenomenon but it has become particularly draining over recent decades, perhaps because expectations themselves are so multifarious and contradictory. The perfectionism of the 1950s was rooted in the norms of mass culture and captured in famous advertising images of the ideal white American family that now seem self-satirising. In that era, perfectionism meant seamlessly conforming to values, behaviour and appearance: chiselled confidence for men, demure graciousness for women. The perfectionist was under pressure to look like everyone else, only more so. The perfectionists of today, by contrast, feel an obligation to stand out through their idiosyncratic style and wit if they are to gain a foothold in the attention economy.


The passage contrasts the 1950s, where perfectionism meant conforming to societal norms, with contemporary times, where individuals feel pressured to stand out and gain attention through unique style and wit. This evolution from conformism to non-conformism is a key point in the passage, making Option B the most accurate summary. It effectively captures the changing nature of perfectionism in response to multifarious and contradictory societal expectations over the decades.

Option A focuses on the media's role and people adhering to ideals, which is not the primary emphasis of the passage that highlights the evolution of societal expectations over time.

Option C suggests tension and conflict related to the changing idea of perfection, but the passage emphasises the historical shift in expectations rather than conflict.

Option D overgeneralizes by stating that people are willing to go to any lengths to attract attention, which is not explicitly supported by the passage that highlights the changing nature of perfectionism.

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