bone knit from famine

< Previous | Next >


Senior Member
There is a sentence in Adam Johnson's Orphan Master's Son that I can't make out. It says: There was one patient in the infirmary, a small soldier of about sixteen, bones knit from the famine.
I can't make out how one's bone may be knit from famine? Can anybody explain?
Thank you.
  • suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    If I read that I'd assume it meant he was tiny - as a result of being malnourished. It is poetic rather than literal.


    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    It could be two things.

    First, starvation results in loss of bone density. Since the bones are brittle and weak, they break easily and do not heal well. When a bone heals, we often say it "knits" together. A person who has suffered starvation may have bones that have not healed properly after being fractured.

    Second, the soldier is young and has not finished growing, so starvation will certainly have stunted his bone growth. That's why he is so small, and his posture is probably hunched from lack of bone growth.

    See also: osteoporosis anorexia
    < Previous | Next >