what he hoped was <appreciation>


Ross and Dan, tired out from rowing nowhere, rubbed their tender shoulders and watched Phil with what he thought was skepticism, but hoped was appreciation, after he swore he could row them to land by himself, No problem, with the two child-sized oars —cast-offs from a summer camp and covered in green chipped paint.

The original text is here: under stars tossed absurdly across the sky like birdseed

Does appreciation mean "gratitude" or "understanding" given the context?
  • Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    In my opinion, 'gratitude' is the better choice -- though it's not exact. He wants them to be pleased that he is rowing the boat for them. 'Skepticism' is more like doubt. He thinks they may not believe that he can row them, but he hopes that they don't.