machines clicking

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Senior Member
Dear all
Please tell me if "they" in the following context from "The Three Soldiers" by Dos Possos, refers to the soldiers of the men sitting at desks.
Time: 1919
Location: Paris​

PEOPLE walking along the boulevard looked curiously through the railing at the line of men in olive-drab that straggled round the edge of the courtyard. The line moved slowly, past a table where an officer and two enlisted men sat poring over big lists of names and piles of palely tinted banknotes and silver francs that glittered white. The men at the table had red faces and tense, serious expressions. They pushed the money into the soldiers' hands with a rough jerk and pronounced the names as if they were machines clicking.​
  • Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    It's the men at the table, K: they're saying the soldiers' names mechanically, without any expression.

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Dear Karoba,

    The men at the table (the officer and the two enlisted men) pushed the money into the soldiers' hands and pronounced the names mechanically.

    They are the men at the table, I think. I know that grammatically they could be the soldiers, but I think the point is that DP wishes to stress the mechanical nature of the repetitive action of the men at the table.

    P.S. My post crossed with Loob's. There's unanimity for you!
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