a drowned corpse [glanced through] the green water

Irelia20150604

Senior Member
Chinese
The context comes from Jane Eyre Chapter 13

These pictures were in water-colours. The first represented clouds low and livid, rolling over a swollen sea: all the distance was in eclipse; so, too, was the foreground; or rather, the nearest billows, for there was no land. One gleam of light lifted into relief a half-submerged mast, on which sat a cormorant, dark and large, with wings flecked with foam; its beak held a gold bracelet set with gems, that I had touched with as brilliant tints as my palette could yield, and as glittering distinctness as my pencil could impart. Sinking below the bird and mast, a drowned corpse glanced through the green water; a fair arm was the only limb clearly visible, whence the bracelet had been washed or torn.
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Hi everyone! I don't understand "glance through" here. The definition of "to look quickly or briefly" and "to look at or through something briefly and quickly:" seems not to work here. :confused: What does the phrase mean?
 
  • Glenfarclas

    Senior Member
    English (American)
    No. How do you think a dead body would rise up out of the water? :confused:

    Don't forget common sense just because you're reading a novel. The body was sinking into the sea.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I'm not as sure as Glen that that's the right OED definition, for several reasons:
    - the OED labels that definition obsolete (that's the meaning of the † symbol)
    - we've already been told the body is "sinking"
    - elsewhere in the book, the author uses "glanced" mainly in the sense of "looked quickly"; once (with "off") in the sense of "bounced off"; and twice in the sense of "flickered"/"glimmered"/"was reflected":
    ~ The moon was set, and it was very dark; Bessie carried a lantern, whose light glanced on wet steps and gravel road sodden by a recent thaw.
    ~ According as the shifting obscurity and flickering gleam [of the candle] hovered here or glanced there, it was now the bearded physician, Luke, that bent his brow; now St. John's long hair that waved;...

    Others may not agree, but I would say that "glanced" in post 1 probably means "glimmered".
    -
    -
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I am very close to agreeing with Loob. Jane is describing the picture in terms of the light and shade which emphasise the various symbolic objects in the painting
    One gleam of light lifted into relief a half-submerged mast, on which sat a cormorant, dark and large, with wings flecked with foam; its beak held a gold bracelet set with gems, that I had touched with as brilliant tints as my palette could yield, and as glittering distinctness as my pencil could impart. Sinking below the bird and mast, a drowned corpse glanced through the green water;
    I think "a drowned corpse glanced through the green water;" is a reduced passive = a drowned corpse is/can be glanced through the green water; i.e. can be seen indistinctly by the observer.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    It is a painting and is not moving, and the emphasis is on light and shade, not movement.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Yes, I've seen that painting... it's going to take some time to remove the image from my mind. :D

    On a merely physical level, it is not possible that the arm is out of the water, it will be very close to, but below, the surface, hence "a fair arm was the only limb clearly visible,". The body below the surface is lying somewhat on its side.

    References to the painting is simply a circular argument - they cannot be held as evidence as they are, by definition, merely someone's interpretation of the passage - an artist's rather than that of someone examining the language.
     
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