his eyes sting and shine


Senior Member
Dear all,
this is from the story 'Horsie' by Dorothy Parker.

Camilla would look at the baby, amusement in her slow glance. “Good night, useless,” she would say. She would hold out a finger, for Diane’s pink hand to curl around. And Gerald’s heart would quicken, and his eyes sting and shine.

To me sting and shine are signs of opposite emotions --wrath or displeasure on the one hand and delight (here I am not sure) on the other correspondingly. I don't think these can be combined so they must alternate.

Is my understanding correct? Thank you.
  • goldenband

    Senior Member
    English - American
    No, "sting" means his eyes felt mildly irritated, as if by tears. "Shine" does suggest a positive emotion -- a softening and widening of the eyes, perhaps with dilated pupils.

    My guess is that Gerald is experiencing tears of joy -- not weeping, but his eyes are filling with tears because he's happy or delighted.


    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I think the writer is deliberately and artfully ambiguous with this description of Gerald's show of emotion. All I can gather for sure is that Gerald was feeling strong emotion, with tears beginning to well up in his eyes. (Sting and shine both suggest this, so I don't necessarily see any conflict). He could be experiencing a surge of pride and love for his wife. He could be feeling intense jealousy of the baby, or his emotions could even be conflicting.
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