It surprised me to see what an opulent coffin was about...

stanzavuota

Senior Member
Italy, Italian
Hello,
A man witnesses the cremation of a friend. The body is in a very rich and elegant coffin. He tells:

"It surprised me to see what an opulent coffin was about to be put to the torch."

I can't understand. This construction is not clear to me. What did surprise the man? The simply view of a rich coffin near to be burned?
Is it different if I write: "It surprised me to see a such opulent coffin about to be put to the torch"?
I'll appreciate if you help me.
Sv
 
  • bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    "It surprised me to see such an opulent coffin about to be put to the torch" would also be idiomatic.

    What is the context and background? The line you quoted might be meant to sound elegant or sophisticated.
     

    Franzi

    Senior Member
    (San Francisco) English
    "It surprised me to see what an opulent coffin was about to be put to the torch."

    Is it different if I write: "It surprised me to see such an opulent coffin about to be put to the torch"?
    They are basically equivalent. In the second one, it sounds more like he's surprised to encounter the situation in general. In the first one, it sounds like only the degree of opulence surprises him.
     

    stanzavuota

    Senior Member
    Italy, Italian
    Thank you, Bibliolept and Franzi.

    In the first one, it sounds like only the degree of opulence surprises him.
    I think this explanation goes better with the sense of the scene.
    The man thinks the coffin (that is near to be burnt-out) is too much elegant and expensive.
    Thank you again.
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    An opulent coffin might make sense if the body were to be placed in a tomb. However, if the coffin is only there to be burned, why would anyone go to the trouble of making it opulent? Since it will all be indistinguishable ashes in a minute, a cardboard box would serve the purpose just as well.
     

    stanzavuota

    Senior Member
    Italy, Italian
    An opulent coffin might make sense if the body were to be placed in a tomb. However, if the coffin is only there to be burned, why would anyone go to the trouble of making it opulent? Since it will all be indistinguishable ashes in a minute, a cardboard box would serve the purpose just as well.
    I'm not sure about that. I don't see too many differences between burning an expensive coffin and burying it below the ground. It's both a "waste" (in a way) and a symbolic gesture...
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    I'm not sure about that.
    I am.

    I don't see too many differences between burning an expensive coffin and burying it below the ground. It's both a "waste" (in a way) and a symbolic gesture...
    While you may not see any difference, the narrator apaprently does: he is surprised not at the fact that the coffin is opulent, but that such an opulent coffin is going to be burned.
     

    stanzavuota

    Senior Member
    Italy, Italian
    While you may not see any difference, the narrator apparently does: he is surprised not at the fact that the coffin is opulent, but that such an opulent coffin is going to be burned.
    You're right, GreenWhiteBlue: the point is the narrator's view. :)
    Thanks again, and thanks Forero too.
     
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