provided <the other one> still gripped

Tea Addict

Senior Member
Republic of Korea Korean
Hello everyone. I would like to know what "there was a possible handhold that his fingers found, provided the other one still gripped the limpet by his face" means in the following sentences:

The man was lying with one foot on a limpet, held mostly by friction. But his foot was on one limpet and the second one was before his eyes. He reached up and there was a possible handhold that his fingers found, provided the other one still gripped the limpet by his face. He moved up, up, up and then there was an edge for his fingers.

- William Golding, Pincher Martin, Chapter 2

This is a novel published in the United Kingdom in 1956. The novel mainly follows the state of mind of a sailor called Christopher "Pincher" Martin, a temporary naval lieutenant who is apparently desperately fighting for his life in the Atlantic after the military ship has sunk. Here, he has arrived at an island in the sea and now is struggling to climb up after having realized that the waters are rising because of the high tide.

In this part, I am wondering about the structure and meaning of the underlined part.
I first understood that the sentence could be divided as "(1) he reached up, (2) there was a possible handhold that his fingers found," but then the sentence becomes confusing for me to understand from the point "provided" appears. o_O

Probably I am confused because the verb appears twice ("found, provided"), so I wanted to ask you as to how to understand this sentence.


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

    Senior Member
    British English
    "Gripped the limpet by his face" here means "gripped the limpet that was near his face", not "gripped the limpet by its face" - in any case, limpets don.t have faces as we know them.
     

    Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    Dear abluter,

    Thank you very much for the explanation.
    I am sorry my question was not clear enough. :thank you:

    Actually, I was wondering how to understand the structure of the underlined sentence.
    I am wondering how the clause starting with "provided" could be connected to the rest of the sentence...

    (1) He reached up
    (2) and there was a possible handhold that his fingers found,
    (???) provided the other one still gripped the limpet by his face.

    Like this, I think (1) and (2) are complete sentences each and connected by "and," but then there comes "provided the other one still gripped the limpet by his face."

    I first thought that "found" and "provided" go together as two verbs of the sentence (2). But then there is "gripped (another verb!)", so I am confused as to how to understand this structure. :(
     

    abluter

    Senior Member
    British English
    I'm sorry, Tea Addict - I misunderstood your question, and I didn't read the original Golding text carefully enough.

    So "provided the other one still gripped etc" qualifies his ability to secure a handhold that his fingers found, as long as (provided that) his other one (hand? foot?) still gripped the limpet that was near his face.

    It's a bit difficult to visualize the position the man's body is in. I take it that he is trying to climb up a rock, on which there are two limpets, sticking out. He has got one foot on one of these limpets, and the other limpet was higher up the rock, on the level of and near his eyes. He reached up and found a handhold above his head, that would be possible, as long as the other one still gripped the limpet by his face.

    The question is "the other what?" The other hand? the other foot? I think it must be the other foot, even though a foot doesn't really grip. It's not at all clear.
     
    Last edited:

    abluter

    Senior Member
    British English
    On second thoughts, how could he get his other foot, (the one that was not on the lower limpet), up to the level of his face? So "the other one" must, after all, mean his other hand, the one that is not reaching up for the possible new handhold.
     
    Last edited:

    Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    Dear abluter,

    Thank you very much for the additional explanation!
    Oh, so "provided" here means "provided that," meaning that his fingers could find a handhold "as long as" the other hand still gripped the limpet by his face! Now I think I am seeing the structure clearer all thanks to you. :thank you:
    "Provided" would qualify (=provides a condition to) his hand's ability to find a handhold!

    The question is "the other what?" The other hand? the other foot? I think it must be the other foot, even though a foot doesn't really grip. It's not at all clear.
    Yes, it is not very clear, is it? I entirely agree with you. The only noun that "one" could refer to seems to be "fingers," but then fingers are plural! So I also wondered whether this "one" could be "foot."

    In case this might be helpful, here are some more sentences right before the quote. And I think there could be some hints as to what this "one" means (the underlines are mine)...

    Again he turned his face and looked up. His fingers closed over the limpet. Now his right leg was moving. The toes searched tremulously for the first limpet as the fingers had searched for the second. They did not find the limpet but the knee did. The hand let go, came down to the knee and lifted that part of the leg. The snarl behind the stiff face felt the limpet as a pain in the crook of the knee. The teeth set. The whole body began to wriggle; the hand went back to the higher limpet and pulled. The man moved sideways up the slope of the roof. The left leg came in and the seaboot stocking pushed the first leg away. The side of the foot was against the limpet. The leg straightened. Another torrent returned and washed down.


    So... would it be likely that "one" is "hand"? I wonder. :D
    I sincerely appreciate your help, for kindly letting me understand. :)
     

    abluter

    Senior Member
    British English
    Thank you very much, Tea Addict, for taking the trouble to type out the extra paragraph. It should give us more clues; I shall have to draw it to aid my imagination. For one thing, he seems to be on a "roof", not a rock.
     

    Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    Dear abluter,

    Thank you very much for the explanation. I am glad that an extra paragraph might be helpful! :)

    For one thing, he seems to be on a "roof", not a rock.
    Yes, that is a curious point indeed! I actually encountered "roof" here, which is another paragraph from the chapter 2. So I am guessing that "roof" might be a word to describe the shape/formation of the rock, but I might be wrong... :p (The underline is mine.)

    Before his face the rock widened above the narrowest part of the cleft into a funnel. The sides of the funnel were not very smooth; but they were smooth enough to refuse to hold a body by friction. They sloped away to the top of the rock like a roof angle. The track from his face to the cliff-like edge of the funnel at the top was nearly twice the length of a man. He began to turn his head, slowly, searching for handholds, but saw none. Only at about halfway there was a depression, but too shallow for a handhold. Blunted fingers would never be safe on the rounded edge.
     

    abluter

    Senior Member
    British English
    Thanks again - so it's not actually a roof, just a rock formation like a roof. I did read "Pincher Martin" about forty years ago, but had forgotten most of it. Golding's a marvellous writer, but his brave attempt to describe a complex physical situation is a good illustration of the limitations of prose in delineating things that would be immediately crystal-clear in a picture.
     

    Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    Dear abluter,

    Thank you very much for the explanation.
    I am glad that another excerpt could be helpful! :D

    Actually, this is my first time reading Pincher Martin, and it is indeed challenging for me to understand.
    But I am much helped by your kindness in navigating through this novel! :D

    So, I guess it would be okay to understand that "provided" here means "as long as/on condition that", qualifying his ability to find a handhold, and "the other one" means "the other hand," meaning that he was gripping the limpet close to his face while searching for another possible handhold for his second hand.

    I sincerely appreciate your help, for letting me understand. :)
     
    Top