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Passage-Based Reading

(Note: Passages on the PSAT/NMSQT are between 450 and 850 words long. This passage is taken from the beginning of a short story by a nineteenth-century Russian writer.)

...His name was Akaky Akakyevitch. No one has been able to remember when and how long ago he entered the department. However many directors and high officials of all sorts came and went, he was always seen in the same place, at the very same duty, so that they used to declare that he must have been born a perpetual titular councillor in uniform all complete and with a bald patch on his head. The porters, far from getting up from their seats when he came in, took no more notice of him than if a simple fly had flown across the vestibule. His superiors treated him with a sort of domineering chilliness. The head clerk's assistant used to throw papers under his nose without even saying "Copy this" or "Here is an interesting, nice little case," as is usually done in well-behaved offices. And he would take it, gazing only at the papers without looking to see who had put them there and whether he had the right to do so; he would take the papers and at once set to work to copy them. The young clerks made jokes about him to the best of their clerkly wit, and told before his face all sorts of stories of their own invention about him. They would enquire when the wedding was to take place, or would scatter bits of paper on his head, calling them snow. In the midst of all this teasing, Akaky Akakyevitch never answered a word, but behaved as though there were no one there. Only when they jolted his arm and prevented him from going on with his work would he cry out, "Leave me alone! Why do you insult me?" There was something strange in the words and in the voice in which they were uttered, so that one young clerk, new to the office, was cut to the heart, and in those words thought that he heard others: "I am your brother."

The response to Akaky's words by the clerk who is "new to the office" is best described as

(A) confused
(B) mocking
(C) disbelieving
(D) timid
(E) compassionate