When I was little, children were bought two kinds of ice cream, sold from those white wagons with canopies
made of silvery metal: either the two-cent cone or the four-cent ice-cream pie. The two-cent cone was
very small, in fact it could fit comfortably into a child's hand, and it was made by taking the ice cream from
its container with a special scoop and piling it on the cone. Granny always suggested I eat only a part of
the cone, then throw away the pointed end, because it had been touched by the vendor's hand (though that
was the best part, nice and crunchy, and it was regularly eaten in secret, after a pretence of discarding it).
The four-cent pie was made by a special little machine, also silvery, which pressed two disks of sweet
biscuit against a cylindrical section of ice cream. First you had to thrust your tongue into the gap between
the biscuits until it touched the central nucleus of ice cream; then, gradually, you ate the whole thing, the
biscuit surfaces softening as they became soaked in creamy nectar. Granny had no advice to give here: in
theory the pies had been touched only by the machine; in practice, the vendor had held them in his hand
while giving them to us, but it was impossible to isolate the contaminated area.
I was fascinated, however, by some of my peers, whose parents bought them not a four-cent pie but two
two-cent cones. These privileged children advanced proudly with one cone in their right hand and one in
their left; and expertly moving their head from side to side, they licked first one, then the other. This liturgy
seemed to me so sumptuously enviable, that many times I asked to be allowed to celebrate it. In vain. My
elders were inflexible: a four-cent ice, yes; but two two-cent ones, absolutely no.
As anyone can see, neither mathematics nor economy nor dietetics justified this refusal. Nor did hygiene,
assuming that in due course the tips of both cones were discarded. The pathetic, and obviously mendacious,
justification was that a boy concerned with turning his eyes from one cone to the other was more
inclined to stumble over stones, steps, or cracks in the pavement. I dimly sensed that there was another
secret justification, cruelly pedagogical, but I was unable to grasp it.
Today, citizen and victim of a consumer society, a civilization of excess and waste (which the society of the
thirties was not), I realize that those dear and now departed elders were right. Two two-cent cones instead
of one at four cents did not signify squandering, economically speaking, but symbolically they surely did.
It was for this precise reason, that I yearned for them: because two ice creams suggested excess. And this
was precisely why they were denied to me: because they looked indecent, an insult to poverty, a display
of fictitious privilege, a boast of wealth. Only spoiled children ate two cones at once, those children who in
fairy tales were rightly punished, as Pinocchio was when he rejected the skin and the stalk. And parents who encouraged this weakness, appropriate to little parvenus, were bringing up their children in the foolish
theatre of "I'd like to but I can't." They were preparing them to turn up at tourist-class check-in with a fake
Gucci bag bought from a street peddler on the beach at Rimini.
Nowadays the moralist risks seeming at odds with morality, in a world where the consumer civilization now
wants even adults to be spoiled, and promises them always something more, from the wristwatch in the
box of detergent to the bonus bangle sheathed, with the magazine it accompanies, in a plastic envelope.
Like the parents of those ambidextrous gluttons I so envied, the consumer civilization pretends to give
more, but actually gives, for four cents, what is worth four cents. You will throwaway the old transistor radio
to purchase the new one, that boasts an alarm clock as well, but some inexplicable defect in the mechanism
will guarantee that the radio lasts only a year. The new cheap car will have leather seats, double side
mirrors adjustable from inside, and a panelled dashboard, but it will not last nearly so long as the glorious
old Fiat 500, which, even when it broke down, could be started again with a kick.
The morality of the old days made Spartans of us all, while today's morality wants all of us to be Sybarites.
Which of the following cannot be inferred from the passage?
(1) Today's society is more extravagant than the society of the 1930s.
(2) The act of eating two ice cream cones is akin to a ceremonial process.
(3) Elders rightly suggested that a boy turning eyes from one cone to the other was more likely to fall.
(4) Despite seeming to promise more, the consumer civilization gives away exactly what the thing
(5) The consumer civilization attempts to spoil children and adults alike.
In the passage, the phrase "little parvenus" refers to
(1) naughty midgets.
(2) old hags.
(3) arrogant people.
(4) young upstarts.
(5) foolish kids.
The author pined for two two-cent cones instead of one four-cent pie because
(1) it made dietetic sense.
(2) it suggested intemperance.
(3) it was more fun.
(4) it had a visual appeal.
(5) he was a glutton.
What does the author mean by "nowadays the moralist risks seeming at odds with morality"?
(1) The moralists of yesterday have become immoral today.
(2) The concept of morality has changed over the years.
(3) Consumerism is amoral.
(4) The risks associated with immorality have gone up.
(5) The purist's view of morality is fast becoming popular.
According to the author, the justification for refusal to let him eat two cones was plausibly
(1) didactic. (2) dietetic. (3) dialectic. (4) diatonic. (5) diastolic.