Test | Study Guide

Theodore Thomas

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Course Hero. (2019, December 20). Test Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved August 17, 2022, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Test/

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Course Hero. "Test Study Guide." December 20, 2019. Accessed August 17, 2022. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Test/.


Course Hero, "Test Study Guide," December 20, 2019, accessed August 17, 2022, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Test/.

Test | Themes


Reality and Simulation

"Test" contains two stories, one imagined and one real. The story begins in the middle of Robert's simulated drive down a highway, dropping the reader into what feels like a real moment. Thomas describes this simulation with such detail about sounds, smells, and emotions that it appears to be reality—to the protagonist as well as to the reader. The reader does not realize that it is a simulation until Robert does. The "real" story that follows feels surreal to Robert and to the reader.

Signing the application is presented to Robert as the way to succeed in obtaining his driver's license, but the uniformed man then tells him that his signature has caused his failure. Robert has learned the lesson of the test—feeling guilty and moved by its events—but is prevented from moving forward because he accepted it as a test whose consequences were not real. Everything is the opposite of what it appears, making reality less real than the simulation. In the world of the 1960s with television proliferating and the increasing realism of film and movies, Thomas challenges his reader to decide what constitutes reality.

Governmental Power

The test that Robert takes is impossible to pass. He is a skilled driver and does everything possible to correct the car's trajectory. When Robert wakes, he is groggy but quickly accepts the hypnosis as simply a simulation. Having learned the lesson of the test—that the consequences of driving can be horrific—Robert is ready to move on with his license. The government denies him this chance however because they believe that he should be too affected by the test to want to drive.

Thomas creates a government and a system of bureaucracy that is baffling to his protagonist as well as to his reader. As the reader wonders how anyone could pass the test, Robert is carried off for "treatment." In this story, people are at the mercy of a government that is impossible to outsmart. The government is able to control the citizens in mind and body, with hypnotic capabilities and an army of doctors.


The hypnotic simulation reflects the lack of control that people have over their own lives. The story stresses what a skilled driver Robert is. He is observant, taking note of the convertible and the truck ahead of him and driving cautiously. He is in control until the convertible hits him. He even reacts well to the impact of the blue convertible, doing everything he possibly can to correct the car's dangerous trajectory and regain control of the car. When the car is hit by oncoming traffic, he maintains his cool head and manages to steer the car straight. Then he sees the car coming straight at him. During the course of a dangerous collision, Robert manages to regain control of his car twice. Still the crash is fatal. Thomas carefully conveys the calm, level-headed control of his protagonist even while demonstrating that his control is utterly meaningless. In this way Thomas challenges his reader to evaluate whether or not a person can truly exert control over life and its events.

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