The greatest of them is what it always is with women.

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如沐春风

Senior Member
Chinese
Hello, everyone. Sorry to bother you again.
How to parse “what it always is with women” in the following sentence?
What does the word “it” refer to?

She has her faults, and the greatest of them is what it always is with women.
(Far from the Madding Crowd)

Looking forward to your explanation. Thank you.
 
  • dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    She has her faults, and her greatest fault...is the same "greatest fault" that all women have.

    Here "greatest of them" means "greatest of her faults".

    The word "it" refers to "a person's greatest fault". Hers is the same as every woman's.

    I am sure "what that fault is" is stated in another sentence.
     

    如沐春风

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    She has her faults, and her greatest fault...is the same "greatest fault" that all women have.

    Here "greatest of them" means "greatest of her faults".

    The word "it" refers to "a person's greatest fault". Hers is the same as every woman's.

    I am sure "what that fault is" is stated in another sentence.
    Thank you very much, dojibear, for your explanation.
    So we can paraphrase "the greatest of them is what it always is with women " as
    "The greatest of her faults is what the greatest fault with women always is".
    Am I right?
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Yes. There are various slightly different ways you could paraphrase it, such as:

    She has her faults, and the greatest of those is the same one that’s every woman’s greatest fault.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Interesting. I’ve just checked the link above (a Chinese page for English students?) and compared it with Hardy’s novel, and the text is quite different. Presumably the text in the link is a film synopsis/script? What the book says is:

    “But she has her faults,” said Gabriel.
    “True, farmer.”
    “And the greatest of them all is — well, what it is always.”
    “Beating people down; ay, ’tis so.”

    But what Gabriel actually means is: “Vanity.”
     
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