Heaving violently

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Senior Member
I'm reading a novel by C.M. Palov, written in 2012. A girl is kidnapped, and the only thing they give her to eat is "a nauseating rotation of spaghetti hoops and cheese sandwiches". While her guard is sleeping, she gets up from her bed to take a piece of glass which could help her to escape. She manages to get the piece of glass, and when she's almost back to her bed the guard wakes up and asks her what she's doing. The girl pretends that she's about to vomit, and the guard holds a plastic bag under her chin. The chapter ends with this sentence (in the direct speech it's the girl, Anala, who's speaking):
‘Thank you for –’ Heaving violently, Anala retched on cue, the spaghetti hoops finally getting the better of her.

I'm having some problems with this sentence, especially with the two words in bold. The last part is clear; the second part should mean that Anala vomited at the right time, just when she needed to do so (she has to show the guard that she had got up because she was sick), right? And what about the first part? To heave means to vomit, to throw up. So, if this is the case, the same action would be repeated twice.

Could somenone help me understand this sentence, please?
Thank you in advance.

  • JustKate

    Senior Member
    Here heaving doesn't just refer to vomiting (though you're right that it can). It's talking about the heaving motions her body made as she "retched on cue." So she didn't just vomit, she vomited and her body heaved as she did so.


    Senior Member
    English - US
    The author does use two expressions for vomiting. They want to provide a graphic description, not to indicate that she vomited twice.


    Senior Member
    English - Canada
    Heaving violently is a present participle adjective describing Anala. We can put participial adjectives before or after the noun in English (We could also say "Anala, heaving violently, retched on cue...".

    To heave does mean to vomit (I checked Google's definition), but I have never used or thought of this as this definition (possibly informal BrE). The author is using it here to mean "to rise and fall rhythmically or spasmodically" which is the much more common definition. Basically, Anala is breathing heavily and shifting back and forth.

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