the better to conceal their fear of not getting things

Tea Addict

Senior Member
Republic of Korea Korean
Hello everyone. I would like to know what "the better to conceal their fear of not getting things" means in the following sentences:

With this air of chronic turmoil, she got you to mean exactly what she had in mind for you, not because she liked to have her way, but because everything about her seemed so unusually charged, craggy, and barbed that not to give in to her jostling was like snubbing everything she was. Which is how she cornered you. To question her manner was to slight not just the manner but the person behind the manner. Even her way of arching her eyebrows, which warned you she required instant submission, could, if questioned, be likened to the rough plumage with which tiny birds puff themselves up to three times their size, the better to conceal their fear of not getting things simply by asking for them.

- André Aciman, Eight White Nights, First Night

This is a novel published in the United States of America in 2010. The protagonist meets Clara at a New year's eve party. Here, Clara is trying to get him a cup of fruit punch. When she insists that she would bring the fruit punch for him even when he politely declined her offer, the protagonist thinks how her manner resembles the way tiny birds puff themselves up.

In this part, I wonder what the underlined expression means, especially what "the better to" means.
I am not sure how "the better to" is connected to the rest of the sentence, and what that might mean...

I would very much appreciate your help. :)
 
  • bh7

    Senior Member
    Canada; English
    The author compares a woman's arching of her eyebrows to a tiny bird puffing up its plumage, so as to appear bigger and more impressive, hoping thereby to increase its chances of getting what it is looking for. The little bird is afraid that due to its small size it will not obtain what it wants. Puffing up its feathers is a way for it to overcome this fear.

    ..., the better to conceal their fear of not getting things
    ..., in order to better hide their fear of not getting things ...
    ..., so as to better hide their fear of not getting things ....
     

    Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    Dear bh7,

    Thank you very much for the explanation.
    So her way of arching her eyebrows was being likened to the way tiny birds puff themselves up, in order to better conceal their fear of not obtaining things!

    In that case, "the better to do something" would function like an adverbial clause and have the following meaning:

    the better to

    (all) the better to (do something)​

    Easier or more effective to do something as a result.A: "Unfortunately, your first project is going to be pretty detailed and labor-intensive." B: "That's all right—all the better to learn the company's data-entry system."A: "Grandma, your glasses are so big!" B: "The better to see you with, my dear."I'm happy with the change in music—this faster tempo is all the better to choreograph to.

    The birds puff themselves up, in order to better conceal their fear of not obtaining various things they want; similarly, she was arching her eyebrows, in order to better conceal her fear that she might not get various things she wanted if she simply asked for those things. (She felt that she needed a more forcible measure, such as arching her eyebrows, than just politely asking, in order to get what she wanted.)

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