so far from venturing to offer him more

Irelia20150604

Senior Member
Chinese
The quotation comes from Charlotte Brontë – Jane Eyre (Chap. 34) | Genius

Quotation: The first time I found St. John alone after this communication, I felt tempted to inquire if the event distressed him: but he seemed so little to need sympathy, that, so far from venturing to offer him more, I experienced some shame at the recollection of what I had already hazarded.

Context: St. John had said Miss Oliver, whom he loved, would marry another man soon.
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Hi everyone! Does the bold part essentially mean “I didn’t dare to offer him more sympathy”? The expression “so far from” here is a little odd to me.
 
  • Mrs JJJ

    Senior Member
    USA
    English (British)
    The expression "so far from" here does indeed sound a little odd to the modern ear. Nowadays, I think that an author would probably omit the word so and write simply:

    "he seemed so little to need sympathy, that, far from venturing to offer him more......"

    In this context, the phrase "far from" is used to indicate that a reaction/feeling/characteristic/ etc. is almost the opposite from what one might perhaps expect. (i.e. It is so far away from what one might expect that it is at almost the opposite end of the scale. Not happy, but sad. Not cowardly, but extremely courageous. And so on.)

    eg.

    Far from being delighted when she received the invitation to the party, Claire was devastated, because she could not afford to buy a dress to wear to it.
    Far from welcoming the news of their son's engagement, Mr. and Mrs. Jones did everything they could to persuade him not to get married.
    Far from being honest and trustworthy, Sylvester Johnson is one of the most dishonest politicians I've ever met.


    In simple words, one might therefore express Jane's thoughts thus:

    St. John Rivers seemed to have so little need of sympathy, that not only did I refrain from offering him any sympathy (on this occasion), but I even felt rather ashamed, as I recalled my previous efforts to do so.
     
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    There's another related expression which is current in English which might also be an aide to understanding: "Far from it."

    It contradicts an assumption or idea by metaphorically backing up in the opposite direction, so to speak. :)

    Speaker 1: "You got in late from the concert last night, and now it's 7 o'clock in the morning and you haven't slept. Aren't you tired?"

    Speaker 2 answering: "Far from it!" (it=tired)

    (Now Speaker 1 understands that Speaker2 is energized alert/exhilarated, far away from any notion of being tired.)
     
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