awkward sentence

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mythceltic

Member
Slovak
The following sentence from the short story sounds awkward to me. "Fear of the sky since morning had kept them on the benches away from the strand a mile downhill they'd come to enjoy, fear of the long trudge past the golf links and Kincora and Central in rain; but they'd still the air here, sea air, it was some consolation. Even the strand, reached in good weather..." McGahern, the irish author.
I am not a native speaker but I feel certain awkwardness here. I think it is syntactic discontinuousness in " fear of the long trudge past the golf links...". Am I right? Or what does "past" mean? Is it a noun or a preposition?
Could any English native speaker write in what aspects exactly this sentence sounds awkward?
 
  • panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I don't know McGahern's books, though the style seems familiar.
    I wonder if he writes with some disregard for conventions such as sentence structure?
    If he does, then there are indeed what most would regard as "awkwardnesses" in his writing. I've tried to unwind the awkwardnesses to make sense as I understand it.
    I may be completely wrong.

    Fear of the sky since morning had kept them on the benches away from the strand a mile downhill they'd come to enjoy,

    Since morning, fear of the sky had kept them on the benches away from the strand they'd come a mile downhill to enjoy.
    <There are two inversions - in red/blue.>

    fear of the long trudge past the golf links and Kincora and Central in rain;
    (Expanding on the fear) fear of the long trudge past the golf links and Kincora and Central in the rain;
    <It is odd to add to the explanation of the fear in this way, though the inversion in the first part of the sentence, emphasising fear, makes it less odd.>

    but they'd still the air here, sea air, it was some consolation.
    But even on the benches, they still could enjoy the sea air - that was some consolation.

    Even the strand, reached in good weather...

    I don't know if this helps to explain the awkwardness - or perhaps I should describe them as literary devices.
     
    Last edited:

    kthxbai

    New Member
    English - US
    Panjandrum has explained the meaning well, I think.

    My attempt to answer your other questions:

    past is a preposition, meaning 'beyond'. The "trudge" extended beyond the golf links, and they might have had to undertake it "in rain".

    The basic syntax is fairly simple, with an ellipsis in the second part: "fear ... had kept them ..., fear .... [had kept them ... ]." What may slow down comprehension is the amount of description that is included in lengthy prepositional phrases.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Sorry kthxbai - I was editing while you were posting. Welcome to the forum :)

    Now that I have understood the structure better, the sentence seems a lot less awkward.
     

    mythceltic

    Member
    Slovak
    "I think the strange/awkward inversions in the full sentence might be reflecting sentence structures in the Irish language. I don't speak Irish, but it has strongly influenced the style of English that is used in Ireland and that kind of inversion is very familiar to me."

    Thank you Panj,
    Great answers. Did these inversions come from the Irish language? And what else was transfered to English used in Ireland?
    Yes, Kincora is in co. Clare. "Central" - its important if I want to translate it.

    Is there any way I can contact you by PM without sending private message? Because your insights are extremely helpful for me.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    This particular event is set in Strandhill, Co Sligo.
    I strongly suspect that Kincora and Central are the names of small hotels or boarding houses in Strandhill. That would fit with the rest of the context and would also be fairly typical names for such places.

    (For example, the house beside mine was called Kincora - about 100 years ago :))
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Panj, could there be another interpretation for away from the strand a mile downhill they'd come to enjoy?

    I was wondering about away from the strand which was a mile downhill and which they'd come to enjoy...
     

    mythceltic

    Member
    Slovak
    This particular event is set in Strandhill, Co Sligo.
    I strongly suspect that Kincora and Central are the names of small hotels or boarding houses in Strandhill. That would fit with the rest of the context and would also be fairly typical names for such places.

    (For example, the house beside mine was called Kincora - about 100 years ago :))
    Yes, and that is exactly the title of the short story - Strandhill, the Sea. Thank you again. I found in wikipedia that Kincora is a palace in co. Clare.
    What about the influence of the Irish language in my quotation or in English language in general?
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Panj, could there be another interpretation for away from the strand a mile downhill they'd come to enjoy?

    I was wondering about away from the strand which was a mile downhill and which they'd come to enjoy...
    I don't see why not :)
    I was thinking that they had walked a mile to enjoy the strand.
    But it could well be that they had come to this place (Strandhill) to enjoy the strand but on this particular day rather than walk the mile downhill to the strand they were sitting on benches.
    The wider context might help.
     

    Wilma_Sweden

    Senior Member
    Swedish (Scania)
    I don't see why not :)
    I was thinking that they had walked a mile to enjoy the strand.
    But it could well be that they had come to this place (Strandhill) to enjoy the strand but on this particular day rather than walk the mile downhill to the strand they were sitting on benches.
    The wider context might help.
    I also understood it as Loob did: They didn't want to risk getting caught in the rain while walking to the strand that was a mile downhill, so they stayed on the benches and enjoyed the sea air.

    /Wilma
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I also understood it as Loob did: They didn't want to risk getting caught in the rain while walking to the strand that was a mile downhill, so they stayed on the benches and enjoyed the sea air.
    /Wilma
    ... Yes, I'm sure you and Loob are right.
    The next bit of the text goes:
    Even the strand, reached in good weather, the mile downhill accomplished, the mile home uphill yet out of mind, and in possession of strand of Strandhill, long and level for miles,
     

    killalaman

    New Member
    english
    hello,

    With regard to Strandhill, The Sea. I know the area well, Kincora is the name of a well known former hotel in the village, Mc Gahern also references the owners the Huggards in the story. When he speaks of sitting on a bench overlooking the sea from a distance he is correct as there is quite a hill just up from the beach, hope this helps clarify some points
     
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