merciful or merciless

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kahroba

Senior Member
Persian
Dear all
Could you tell me what's your interpretation for "for or against more or less merciful or merciless money increment" in the following context chosen from "Architect" (biography of Frank Lloyd Wright) in "The Big Money" by Dos Passos.
The properly citified citizen has become a broker, [a vendor of gadgetry], [a salesman] dealing chiefly in human frailties or the ideas and inventions of others, a puller of levers, a presser of buttons of vicarious power, his by way of machine craft... and over beside him and beneath him, even in his heart as he sleeps, is the taximeter of rent, in some form to goad this anxious consumer's unceasing struggle for or against more or less merciful or merciless money increment.
 
  • ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Hello Mr.K. My 7.30-in-the-morning head is trying to come up with an alternative way of putting this in English.

    ... [in some form] to remind this anxious consumer at all times that his life is a constant struggle, sometimes successful, sometimes not, to make more money.

    That's a fairly 'loose' interpretation:)
     

    kahroba

    Senior Member
    Persian
    Hello Mr.K. My 7.30-in-the-morning head is trying to come up with an alternative way of putting this in English.

    ... [in some form] to remind this anxious consumer at all times that his life is a constant struggle, sometimes successful, sometimes not, to make more money.

    That's a fairly 'loose' interpretation:)
    But can we, dear E, replace merciful and merciless with successful and unsuccessful?
     

    Cypherpunk

    Senior Member
    US, English
    I wouldn't suggest them as direct replacements for 'merciful and merciless' in just any sentence. As Ewie said, this was a 'loose' interpretation of the text. However, I think Ewie has captured the overall idea of the passage, here.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    The struggle can be merciful or merciless = Sometimes you win and make more money, sometimes you don't win and don't make more money.
    Because Mr.Dos uses so many (erm...) quantifiers for struggle (for or against, more or less, merciful or merciless) he makes it sound particularly aleatory*.

    *That's my big word for the day done, and it's only 8.10am here:(
     

    languageGuy

    Senior Member
    USA and English
    I don't think the struggle is merciful; it is the increment that is merciful. When taking a taxi, you watch the meter always increasing. This is what you must pay whether you get closer to your destination or not. You struggle against merciless increments (paying a lot for little distance) and struggle for merciful increments (paying a little for a long distance).
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    consumer's unceasing struggle for or against more or less merciful or merciless money increment.
    I'd just add that he's playing with ideas, and hence words, as usual; in this case, very obviously, with opposites.

    For - more - merciful as opposed to against - less - merciless

    The left-hand side getting him closer to his destination, the right-hand one clocking up the taximeter, to use Guy's image.
     
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