The way of the world could be slight... (obscure sentence)

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lingering

New Member
Italian
Hello there! I need a little help from you English-speaking people. Here’s a passage from The Maytrees by Annie Dillard:

The Maytrees’ lives, like the Nausets’, played out before the backdrop of fixed stars. The way of the world could be slight, then and now, but rarely, among individuals, vicious.

Any idea what that might mean? I’m pretty lost ^^’
Thank you so much!
 
  • MichaelW

    Senior Member
    English (British)
    I think it means that the "way of the world", the kinds of changes and influences the outside world might have on the families... "could be slight", that is, these changes and influences could happen in a minimal way... "then and now", in the past and the present... "but rarely, among individuals, vicious", the inflences rarely had a devastating effect on any given member of the families.

    The families have lived relatively tranquil and changeless lives for generations.
     
    Last edited:

    lingering

    New Member
    Italian
    Wow, what an answer… It’s definitely starting to make sense. Could you please substitute ‘slight’ and ‘vicious’ with two other adjectives? I’m starting to think the problem is I don’t understand the exact meaning of those two.
    Maybe she’s saying that nature is so vast and eternal that it doesn’t change (or might change slightly) while men come and go… First there were the Nausets (an Indian tribe, so people of the past), now there are the Maytrees, an ordinary family, and still life on Cape Cod is always the same. Men don’t (can’t) change nature, is that it? Gosh, I’m going crazy… Really, thanks for the help.
     

    vamink

    Senior Member
    English-England
    slight/minimal vicious/harsh

    basically:
    could be slight= could have a small effect
    could be vicious= could have a massive effect
    (vicious also has emotional connotations of being nasty/bad etc.)
     
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