lashed to the mast

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kahroba

Senior Member
Persian
Dear all
What's your interpretation for "had em lashed to the mast" in the following context from "Manhattan Transfer" by Dos Passos:
Time: 1910s
Location: a restaurant somewhere in Manhattan, New York
At the table where Jimmy Herf sat they were drinking whiskey and soda. A yellowskinned man with light hair and a thin nose standing out crooked between childish blue eyes was talking in a confidential singsong: " Honest I had em lased to the mast. The police department is cookoo, absolutely cookoo treating it as a rape and suicide case. That old man and his lovely innocent daughter were murdered, foully murdered. And do you know who by...?"
 
  • Psychae

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    Hey,

    I cant personally tell for sure which meaning of "lashed to the mast" is intended there, or even whether it's being used literally or metaphorically! Do you know who "em" refers to (criminals/police/someone else)?
     

    kahroba

    Senior Member
    Persian
    Hey,

    I cant personally tell for sure which meaning of "lashed to the mast" is intended there, or even whether it's being used literally or metaphorically! Do you know who "em" refers to (criminals/police/someone else)?
    No clue at all. The passage has just been started and the reader doesn't know the speaker at all.
     

    Psychae

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    Hm well someone else will have an idea then! It seems possible though that it's supposed to be ambiguous since the man's having a confidential conversation.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    In the Odyssey, Odysseus has himself tied to the mast so he can safely hear the Sirens' song while his men had their ears plugged with wax so they could safely steer the ship without being seduced by the Sirens' song.

    Later authors have used this image to express the idea of compelling someone to listen to truths that they might not want to hear. Perhaps the old man has managed to force people to listen to an unwelcome truth about the murders -- or imagines he has.
     
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