Wuthering Heights - the value that a spider in a dungeon ...

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shiness

Senior Member
Korean, South Korea.
'On the contrary, a tiresomely active one. It is mine, at present; and, therefore, continue minutely. I perceive that people in these regions acquire over people in towns the value that a spider in a dungeon does over a spider in a cottage, to their various occupants; and yet the deepened attraction is not entirely owing to the situation of the looker-on. They DO live more in earnest, more in themselves, and less in surface, change, and frivolous external things.



Hey.

Having read the underlined part of the quote more than 15 times, I'm still as much vexed and confused as at the first moment I laid my eyes on it for its authenticity, grammartical structure, and above all, its even making any sense to you modern English natives. Perhaps yes? Because it is English, after all.

I acknowledge that about 200 years back in time, which is the period the novel was published, might have had a confidential language difference from its use today, and thus resulting in this massive confusion and difficulty specially for non natives studying and reading such an old English literature as this.

My question here is that I'd like to know how I should interpret the underlined, without misunderstanding, because I have no idea at all of Mr.Lockwood's metaphorical language in the quote. Perhaps anyone could rephrase the underlined in modernized English (if it is at all old-fashioned) and help me read through the novel better.

I find the novel even more difficult to read than "Pride & Prejudice", find my self stopped at some phrase at every 5 minutes for struggle in their hidden layer of meanings or vocabulrary.


Let me provide a direct online-link to the page under question.
http://www.literaturepage.com/read/wutheringheights-57.html
 
  • Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    I agree, this is not easy. Here is my reading:

    People who live in cottages don't pay much attention to spiders because they have so much else to look at.
    People who live in dungeons pay a lot of attention to a spider because they have nothing else to pay attention to.

    So:
    He is saying that people in the rural areas (=these regions) are more valuable and more interesting to each other than people who live in towns because they do not have as many other options, so they are more attentive to what they have.
     

    shiness

    Senior Member
    Korean, South Korea.
    Thanks but I still dont know how you could extract as much from the very quote that I was totally unable to make out anything out of.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Thanks but I still dont know how you could extract as much from the very quote that I was totally unable to make out anything out of.
    Well, I did follow your link and read a couple of pages of context. I noticed in particular the reference that said the narrator would be happy to watch a cat cleaning itself on the hearth.

    The part you underlined is particularly difficult to follow, though I wouldn't have the courage to criticize Emily Bronte's sentence structure.

    I've never read the book myself, but I should follow your good example and do it.
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    Thanks but I still dont know how you could extract as much from the very quote that I was totally unable to make out anything out of.
    I "extracted" precisely the same meaning, and frankly, I thought that meaning was fairly plain. I am not sure I understand why you are challenging in this way the answer you received.
     

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    It's a very difficult sentence, shiness. I initially made the mistake of trying to interpret it without the wider context, and failed.

    Here is how the meaning is extracted:
    I perceive that people in these regions acquire over people in towns the value that a spider in a dungeon does over a spider in a cottage, to their various occupants

    People (as a topic of interest) in these regions acquire a value, which we know from context is the value of being interesting to the local inhabitants; more interesting to the inhabitants of a country village than the inhabitants of a town are to others in the town. This value (the value of being interesting) described in two situations (town and country) is being compared to that same value of a spider in two situations: one is to the occupant of a dungeon, the other is to the occupant of a cottage. These are the "various occupants". The occupant of a cell has little to do, and therefore finds the spider more interesting (a villager is being compared to a prisoner). The occupant of a cottage has many concerns and is free to pursue them, therefore, the spider holds little or no interest to them (a town dweller is being compared to a cottage dweller).
     
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