When she opened her eyes...

Trisia

Senior Member
Romanian
Hi, I'm trying to add the final touches on a school-related translation (yes, it's homework) and I realised I'm unsure about the very beginning :eek:

I have one question. In the next sentence, would you say "when" means well, just "when" (at the time...), or can I take it to mean "as soon as"? (which would be my preference, by the way).
When Kenya opened her eyes it was to a flood of astonishing sunlight. So bright was this room, so radiant, that for the first few moments she did not consider her mother or the Doyles at all.

(Ann Patchett, Run)
I'd interpret it as "as soon as Kenya opened her eyes, an astonishing brightness/sunlight flooded her."

I know it may not seem like a big deal but it is to me. :)

Thanks.
 
  • AngelEyes

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    When Kenya opened her eyes, it was to a flood of astonishing sunlight.
    I think it means "at the exact instant she opened her eyes" which is closest in meaning to "as soon as".

    Ann, where was your editor? :rolleyes:

    Kenya opened her eyes to a flood of astonishing light.

    AngelEyes
     
    Last edited:

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I'd say it means just "when", Trisia.

    Actually, the sentence wouldn't work if you replaced "when" with "as soon as":( Though your paraphrase works, of course.

    I haven't been able to find much context, but the little I have found implies that the point of the sentence is the contrast between the flood of light the girl experiences and the dark awakenings she's used to. So it's more to do with the nature of the experience rather than the speed with which it comes upon her.

    Hope this makes sense...
     

    AngelEyes

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    Loob,

    I had to sit here and think about what you were writing. Now I think I get what you mean.

    Are you saying that in this story she's awakened before to darkness and this swift change in color is almost startling when it's so different this particular time?

    If that's the case, then I see the word choices the author used.

    When means just that.

    When Kenya opened her eyes[this time], it was to a flood of astonishing sunlight.

    AngelEyes
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Are you saying that in this story she's awakened before to darkness and this swift change in color is almost startling when it's so different this particular time?
    Yes, I think so, AngelEyes, though I may have misinterpreted the google hits I found.

    I've been thinking about this too, while walking the dogs:)

    Trisia, I wonder if you're interpreting "it was" as an impersonal construction, akin to "there was"?

    If the sentence was When Kenya opened her eyes there was a flood of astonishing sunlight, then you could think of it as describing two sequential events; equating "when" to "as soon as" would then be fine.

    But the "it" in your sentence is not impersonal - it refers to the opening of the eyes. It's a bit like the "it" in cleft sentences, except that it's looking backwards rather than forwards.

    Both
    When Kenya opened her eyes it was to a flood of astonishing sunlight
    and
    It was to a flood of astonishing sunlight that Kenya opened her eyes
    can be seen as expansions of AngelEyes' sentence:
    Kenya opened her eyes to a flood of astonishing sunlight.
     
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