his eyes shifting gear constantly

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sisse nar

Senior Member
Hi, all.

This is from <A death in the family> by James Agee.

He is driving alone at night.
I don't get the bold part. How do his eyes shift gear?

He unbuttoned his vest and the top button of his trousers and settled back. After a few moments he wondered about taking off his coat; but the rhythm and momentum of night driving were too strongly persuasive to wish to break. He settled still more deeply, his eyes shifting gear constantly between the farthest reach of his lights and the nearest, and gave himself over entirely to the pleasures of the journey, and to its still undetermined but essentially grave significance.
  • cyberpedant

    Senior Member
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
    That book was published in the mid-50s, before the arrival of the automatic transmission. "Shifting gears" involved the movement of a lever from one position to another. This is a metaphor describing the driver's rapid eye movement "between the farthest reach of his lights and the nearest."
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