The Man With The Weed Makes It An Even Question Whether He B

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wholegrain

Senior Member
French
FULL EXTRACT:

THE MAN WITH THE WEED MAKES IT AN EVEN QUESTION WHETHER HE BE A GREAT SAGE OR A GREAT SIMPLETON.

Herman Melville - The Confidence Man

http://www.online-literature.com/melville/confidence-man/5/
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I don't know what "it" refers to and I fail to understand the sentence.

I think "it" refers to the question to whether he be a great sage or the contrary thereof, but I fail to know to what it is "even".
 
Last edited:
  • wholegrain

    Senior Member
    French
    Shouldn't it be: "THE MAN WITH THE WEED MAKES THEM EVEN QUESTIONS WHETHER HE BE A GREAT SAGE OR A GREAT SIMPLETON." instead?
     

    toshev

    Senior Member
    Australia, English
    An even question is a situation in which two outcomes are considered equally likely.

    The passage is a chapter heading, if I understand it correctly, and chapter headings in those days often anticipated the action that would take place.

    My understanding is that the man with the weed's actions, as they take place in the chapter, will lead to a situation in which there is an even question of whether "he" -- referring either to the man with the weed himself, or another -- becomes a great sage or a great simpleton.

    Now, in the modern era, I can quite easily envisage a scenario where a man with weed might make it an even question of whether he turn out a great sage or great simpleton, much of that depending on the quality of the weed itself and his reaction to it.
     
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