face begun by being...ending by being...

nemo eve walle

Senior Member
chinese
Mrs. Skinner was a very little old woman, capless, with dirty white hair drawn back very very tightly from a face that had begun by being chiefly, and was now, through the loss of teeth and chin, and the wrinkling up of everything else, ending by being almost exclusively--nose.
From The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth/Book I/Chapter II
What does ''begun'' and ''ending'' mean here? Does something through her face, or what?
 
  • Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    My first attempt at parsing this sentence took "chiefly" to be an adverb, so that I thought the face began by being mainly (something) and then (something else).
    But this got me into trouble with the rest of the sentence, and it is clear that "chiefly" is actually an adjective here.
    The face was at first (it had begun by being) chief-like (presumably with bold features),
    and it was finally (it ended up by being) just a nose.
    The face had, over time, undergone a transformation.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I think "chiefly" is actually an adverb, Edinburgher - I think it goes with the "nose" at the end of the sentence.

    The woman's face had begun as 'chiefly nose', and had now ended up as 'almost exclusively nose'.

    :)
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    Yes, Loob, you're right, of course. I seem to have got my brain in a twist this morning, and couldn't reconstruct the way I had parsed it last night, which was the same as you say.
     
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