you can’t be entertained without entertaining in return

Tea Addict

Senior Member
Republic of Korea Korean
Hello everyone. I would like to know what "you can’t be entertained without entertaining in return" means in the following sentences:

"As a bachelor he might possibly have got into the right circles, though his character would in any case have made it difficult for him to curry favour. But as a married man, without means, the situation was hopeless. Once married you must live up to the standard of the society you frequent; you can’t be entertained without entertaining in return. Now if his wife had brought him only a couple of thousand pounds all might have been well."

- George Gissing, New Grub Street, Chapter 3

Jasper Milvain, the protagonist of this novel which was published in 1891 in the United Kingdom, who is eager to be successful as a literary critic, is speaking of his friend Reardon, who is a financially struggling novelist. Jasper describes Reardon to be an old type of novelist who can't keep up with the times, and says that his marriage was the last straw on his misery and poverty. That is because, as a married man, one must live up to the standard of the society one frequents, and that one "can’t be entertained without entertaining in return."

In this part, I would like to know what Jasper means in the underlined part.
Does it mean that, in order to be entertained, one must entertain someone, and thus managing the reciprocating circle unbroken?
Or that, when one was entertained, it was one's moral duty to entertain in return?
In short, I would like to see through his intention in this part--does he want to be entertained further in order to seek further advantages by entertaining someone, or think that it is his duty to entertain someone once he is entertained?
I want to know on which side his emphasis is placed--to be entertained? or to entertain? (That is the question.)

I would very much appreciate your help. :)
 
  • PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    you frequent; you can’t be entertained without entertaining in return.
    This is a witticism: to entertain is used as a pun in several meanings:
    "to entertain [someone/something]" = to tolerate/allow someone/something (now formal/old-fashioned.)
    "to entertain [an opinion]" = to hold an opinion.
    "to entertain [guests]" = to provide food and drink, etc., for guests

    A: "Father, may I go out with Cedric this evening?"
    B: "Certainly not! I would not entertain your going out in the evening, and I do not entertain many favourable thoughts on Cedric's character! Can you not find a suitable young man to entertain at home?"

    You can’t be entertained (you cannot be tolerated in society) without entertaining (providing dinner parties, etc) in return.
     

    Chasint

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I didn't see the subtleties voiced by PaulQ although I don't discount the possibility.

    My reading was simply:

    "you can’t be invited to the homes of others without inviting them in return"

    This rule still applies today in my experience.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I read it the same way as Chasint did. As a married man, with your own household, you would have certain social obligations.
     

    Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    Dear PaulQ, Chasint, and velisarius,

    Thank you very much for the explanations.
    And thank you for the explanations on subtle nuances of "to entertain"! Father obviously does not like Cedric that much. :)

    And, if I may ask one more question as to the nuance of "can't" here, is it close to "shouldn't" here?
    Or does it simply mean that "it is not possible"?
     

    Chasint

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It means "it is not possible in this society" It might be possible in other societies.
     

    Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    Dear Chasint,

    Thank you very much for the additional explanation.
    Then the underlined part meant that it was not possible to be invited without inviting someone in return.
    I truly appreciate your help. :)
     
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