it seems a more than fair trade

Tea Addict

Senior Member
Republic of Korea Korean
Hello everyone. I would like to know what "it seems a more than fair trade." means in the following sentences:

Four lives destroyed by that one night. One guilty life in recompense for an innocent: it seems a more than fair trade.

- Lucy Foley, The Guest List, Chapter 64

This is a thriller novel published in 2020 in the United Kingdom. One hundred and fifty guests gathered at some remote and deserted fictional islet called Inis an Amplóra off the coast of the island of Ireland to celebrate the wedding between Jules (a self-made woman running an online magazine called The Download) and Will (a celebrity appearing in a TV show program called Survive the Night). (I put the scene summary in the spoiler alert for future readers.)
The wedding planner Aoife is thinking how killing one guilty life would be "a more than fair trade."

In this part, I am wondering what this sentence means.
Does it mean that it's even better than a fair trade (an eye for an eye)...? Or it cannot be considered as a fair trade, perhaps...?
And, I also wonder as to how "more than" is inserted after "a", functioning like an adjective.

I would very much appreciate your help. :)
 
  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It’s a play on words – using the set term “fair trade” (a commercial system whereby workers in developing countries are guaranteed a fair wage for their labour) to mean one particular transaction. That is, using trade countably instead of uncountably. In short, it’s describing the situation as amounting to a reasonable exchange or deal.
     

    Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    Dear lingobingo,

    Thank you very much for the explanation.
    So "trade" here is being used as a countable noun, to describe that the situation is a quite reasonable exchange, a reasonable single transaction.
    Then it might imply that "taking 1 guilty life versus giving 1 innocent life" is mathematically fair. (Though it might not be very fair, because it's guilty versus innocent, I guess...)

    Then, may I ask, by "more than" here, would it be okay to understand that it means "enough, almost, nearly" or "overly sufficient"...?
    Actually, I am confused about how "more than" can be inserted, grammatically, between "a" and "fair trade," so I was wondering about the structure and the meaning of "more than."
     

    bandini

    Senior Member
    inglés gabacho
    Dear lingobingo,

    Thank you very much for the explanation.
    So "trade" here is being used as a countable noun, to describe that the situation is a quite reasonable exchange, a reasonable single transaction.
    Then it might imply that "taking 1 guilty life versus giving 1 innocent life" is mathematically fair. (Though it might not be very fair, because it's guilty versus innocent, I guess...)

    Then, may I ask, by "more than" here, would it be okay to understand that it means "enough, almost, nearly" or "overly sufficient"...?
    Actually, I am confused about how "more than" can be inserted, grammatically, between "a" and "fair trade," so I was wondering about the structure and the meaning of "more than."
    Yes, I agree. My using "more than" you are insinuating that the advantage is now tilted in your favor. That you got a "good deal."
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Then, may I ask, by "more than" here, would it be okay to understand that it means "enough, almost, nearly" or "overly sufficient"...?
    It doesn’t mean any of those.

    It seems like a reasonable exchange/a fair trade to me. What do you think? Is it fair?
    It’s more than [just] fair – it’s very fair.
     

    Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    Dear bandini and lingobingo,

    Thank you very much for the explanations.
    After reading your explanations, I thought, "perhaps...?" and looked "more than" up and found that it could be used as an adverb itself! I didn't think that it was a set phrase... how surprising, that they can go together as one adverb!

    more than meaning - Google Search

    more than meaning - adverb
    1. extremely (used before an adjective conveying a positive feeling or attitude).
      "she is more than happy to oblige"

    So, if my googling is correct :D, the sentence would mean that "taking one guilty life for one innocent life would be an extremely, very (=more than) fair trade."

    Then here, I guess, it could also mean that it was a very very fair trade, that the action of taking one guilty life can be justified enough, because already more than enough sacrifice (one innocent life) has been provided. Probably it could have been a roundabout way to say "because it's not enough to take one guilty life for one innocent (it would only be right to take more guilty lives for one innocent), it would be very very fair to take one guilty life here."

    I think I am now grasping its meaning all thanks to you. I sincerely appreciate your help. :)
     

    Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    Dear bandini,

    Thank you very much for the additional explanation!
    So "very fair" would not mean that it was actually not fair, but that it was very actually indeed fair!
    So the speaker is really thinking that taking one life versus giving one life was fair.
    I sincerely appreciate your help. :)
     
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