a grappling force engaged the penetrating look

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Samedi14

Senior Member
France - French
(...) until the observer became aware that those soft and large dark meditative eyes had taken hold of him. In them lay no abstracted student's languor, no reflex burning of a solitary lamp; but a quiet grappling force engaged the penetrating look. Gazing upon them, you were drawn in suddenly among the thousand whirring wheels of a capacious and a vigorous mind...

Whose "penetrating look" is it? That of the man described here or that of somebody looking at him?

For more context, click here.

Thanks!
 
  • Samedi14

    Senior Member
    France - French
    Thank you, that's what I thought too, but it seems I'm wrong.
    I would love to have more opinions on the question to see if some people disagree...
     

    Nunty

    Senior Member
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    The way I read it, the "quiet grappling force" is in the "large dark meditative eyes" when regarded with "a penetrating look" by the observer.
     

    Samedi14

    Senior Member
    France - French
    So it seems both interpretations are possible... Or would you say it's impossible to understand it the other way round?
     

    Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    I'm going to respectfully disagree with NT. Why would the observer suddenly refer to his own gaze much less describe it as "penetrating"? The "grappling force" of the man's mind is coming through in his penetrating look.

    And, in fact, the key pieces of text are "...eyes had taken hold of him..." (the observer) and "...drawn in suddenly...". This reinforces the observation that the "quiet grappling force" of his mind dominated (engaged) the penetrating look.

    I went to the link you provided, Samedi, and found the pertinent paragraphs at the beginning of Chapter II. There are just very long and detailed descriptions of one man and the context doesn't support NT's opinion.
     

    Samedi14

    Senior Member
    France - French
    Dimcl, that's exactly what I think, but the professors who are going to mark my translation see it differently. They share NT's views.
    But from the answers I've have in the forum, it seems that doubt is permitted...
     

    Nunty

    Senior Member
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    I cannot believe I have the temerity to disagree with Dimcl! :eek:

    (...) until the observer became aware that those soft and large dark meditative eyes had taken hold of him. In them lay no abstracted student's languor, no reflex burning of a solitary lamp; but a quiet grappling force engaged the penetrating look. Gazing upon them, you were drawn in suddenly among the thousand whirring wheels of a capacious and a vigorous mind...
    "The observer" is not necessarily the one who is describing the scene or he may be describing it from a "third person removed" point of view. (Unfortunately, my browser won't display the source.) However, my analysis is this:

    In them - in the "soft and large dark meditative eyes"

    I think the semicolon after lamp is misleading and should be a comma.

    These eyes do not have an "abstracted student's languor", but instead a "quiet grappling force".

    This force engages the penetrating look coming from elsewhere. Eyes that are described as meditative can easily have within them a quiet grappling force but a penetrating look is not consistent with meditative.

    Further, if the penetrating look were to come from the dark meditative eyes, then the quiet grappling force would have to come from the observer. I find this just as inconsistent with the neutral-sounding observer as penetrating look is with meditative.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I agree with Nunty.

    If the 'penetrating look' were coming from the same source as the 'grappling force', then how could the 'grappling force' engage it?
     

    Samedi14

    Senior Member
    France - French
    The text was written in 1867. Maybe "engage had a slightly different meaning.
    Couldn't you read this as "his penetrating look were under the control of a quiet grappling force"?
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Again I agree with Nunty.

    Engage had a variety of meanings in 1867, and still does today. None of them would give the reading you suggest, Samedi:)
     
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