"...that nothing would do but he must marry upon it."

wholegrain

Senior Member
French
The Confidence Man by Herman Melville

http://www.online-literature.com/melville/confidence-man/6/

"A certain Frenchman of New Orleans, an old man, less slender in purse than limb, happening to attend the theatre one evening, was so charmed with the character of a faithful wife, as there represented to the life, that nothing would do but he must marry upon it."

I fail to see how "he must marry upon it"--that is, upon the theater--can be an object, if I am not mistaken... Can anyone clarify the construction and its meaning?
 
  • mtmjr

    Senior Member
    English (US)
    Well, "it" is not replacing "theater". This man is at the theater and he is so charmed by the performance of the character playing a faithful wife that he decided that he wanted to get married. Melville is saying that this Frenchman, upon seeing this lovely female character, decided he must get married.

    ...nothing would do but he must marry upon seeing her performance.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I think young-but-wise mtmjr is right.

    Another strange Melville turn of phrase (I'm not a fan, as you may have noticed).
     

    wholegrain

    Senior Member
    French
    but is "he must marry upon seeing her performance." an object?

    also, how can it be "performance" if the word was not mentioned, I find it to be quite perplexing...
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    No, it's not. But "seeing the performance" is the best interpretation we can put on "it" in Melville's phrase.

    "It" can of course refer to a variety of things (including abstract nouns) as well as 'objects'.

    You're right that it's perplexing: it's difficult for us, too. I find Melville's style very annoying.
     

    mjscott

    Senior Member
    American English
    I'm not sure what it takes to appreciate Melville. Ditto to Loob's comment. I will turn to Melville only if I'm on a desert island and it's the only thing to read. I don't espouse his turning of a phrase.
     

    Sedulia

    Senior Member
    **Literate** American English
    I think there is always an audience for obfuscation. The very fact that it's hard makes some people think it must be good.
     
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    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Wait... I am confused... doesn't he mean by "that nothing would do but he must marry upon it." "that nothing would satisfy him but this?", "this" being "he must marry upon her performance."???
    Yes - nothing would satisfy him after seeing her performance except marrying her.
     

    mjscott

    Senior Member
    American English
    Loob-
    But he didn't marry the performer, he married someone else--or so says the paragraph. I can relate to Melville, but I would never marry him, even if he were on a deserted island and we were the last people in existence. Obfuscation, "I'm reading it because it's hard," --Yowch! If he "beat around the bush" so much in print, how much moreso would it have been in real life! Nope, wouldn't like him, wouldn't marry him--he would never beat around my bush!
     

    mtmjr

    Senior Member
    English (US)
    Yes, "it" in this case is a prepositional object (object of "upon"). When it is written out as a phrase (i.e. "seeing her performance"), I don't know if it is called an "object", but for all intents and purposes, it is.

    ...gotta love the word "it":D
     

    wholegrain

    Senior Member
    French
    Another thing... does he mean that he would not be satisfied by anything else but the obligation to marry someone upon her performance?
     
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    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Loob-
    But he didn't marry the performer, he married someone else--or so says the paragraph.
    You're quite right, mjscott: I didn't read the link properly. (Can I plead my antipathy to Melville as an excuse?:eek:)

    After seeing the performance, nothing would do but marrying someone - and he did.
     

    Full Tilt Boogie

    Senior Member
    British English
    The Confidence Man by Herman Melville

    http://www.online-literature.com/melville/confidence-man/6/

    "A certain Frenchman of New Orleans, an old man, less slender in purse than limb, happening to attend the theatre one evening, was so charmed with the character of a faithful wife, as there represented to the life, that nothing would do but he must marry upon it."

    I fail to see how "he must marry upon it"--that is, upon the theater--can be an object, if I am not mistaken... Can anyone clarify the construction and its meaning?
    Having never read Melville (and by some of the comments here that's apparently no great loss), I took it to mean that, having seen the theatre performance of the goodly wife, he was then persuaded to marry - as he may/might have been in some doubt to do so beforehand. It would be easy to read into it that he then decided to marry the actress playing the goodly wife, but that would be somewhat stretching the analogy.
     

    mjscott

    Senior Member
    American English
    Antipathy to Melville is perfectly acceptable. It's only in moments of OCD that I would double click, read the first paragraph, remember how much I hate reading Melville, use the edit button to find the word marry, read the sentence, curse Melville again, then read the complete paragraph to find out he married someone else. You were smarter than me to not read it. You will be saner in your twilight years not trying to decipher this obtuse author!
     
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