There are two men who helped her.
July 21, 2022 8:21 PM   Subscribe

To the people who have read The Moon and Six Pence. "When Strickland suggested that in her surrender to him therew was a sense of triumph over Dirk Stroeve, because HE had come to her help in her extremity, he opened the door to many a dark conjecture." My question is who HE is. And why do you think so? For me, the reason why you came to think of it is important. Thank you for helping my English.
posted by mizukko to Writing & Language (8 answers total)
I have not read the piece but in the excerpt you shared, I think HE is Dirk and capitalising it gives emphasis that he came to her rather than her going to him. The making of this move by Dirk is a win for the narrator (for some reason) and possibly unusual or unexpected, which is why it is emphasised. In my own writing, I would have emphasised it like this: he, but there are no hard and fast rules.
posted by Thella at 8:48 PM on July 21, 2022

Response by poster: I am sorry if my way of asking question is not correct. It's me who wrote "he" with capital letters to point out my problem.
posted by mizukko at 9:53 PM on July 21, 2022

Best answer: I found an excerpt here. I then quickly read through the opening and novel summary. As the text is written in the first person, where the narrator was talking about a man who's having an affair with Blanche, I would understand that the HE refers to this man, who is Strickland.

To explain: in your quoted passage, what the narrator is saying is that Strickland implied to Blanche that the fact she finally agreed (or succumbed) to becoming his (Strickland's) mistress was due to his (Strickland's) coming to her in her (perceived or real) moment of need or desperation. This submission to the affair is *also* a triumph of Strickland over this other guy Dirk, as it was Strickland who 'won' Blanche as well as saying Dirk is a weaker man for *not* being able to come to Blanche in the same (helpful) way. This implication, once made clear to Blanche, disturbed her greatly and she spent the rest of that passage being described by the narrator to be doing a number of actions to reassure herself that Strickland actually does love her, but to no avail. That's my reading.
posted by cendawanita at 10:25 PM on July 21, 2022 [2 favorites]

As far as English grammar goes this sentence is ambiguous - interpretation is going to depend on whatever context we have from the story and from the real world, as in the comment above.

By the way, I think the HE is not capitalized in the original, right? I mention this only because in some contexts (mostly older books, or religious writing, or writing meant to convey a religious sensibility) a capitalized He or HE can also refer to God. So it's best not to add capitalization or other emphasis to a quote without a note like "(emphasis added)", because sometimes that can affect people's interpretations.
posted by trig at 9:51 AM on July 22, 2022

Best answer: Even for a native English speaker with good reading comprehension, this is a difficult and ambiguous sentence. Having read the book myself (and having just skimmed through the important parts again to remind myself of some of the details), I think that the "he" in question is actually Stroeve and the person who is experiencing the triumph is Blanche, not Strickland.

The evidence that I have for this is from an earlier passage that tells how Stroeve rescued Blanche from the shame of an illegitimate pregnancy and a suicide attempt by marrying her. After he tells the narrator this story, Strickland says, "'A woman can forgive a man for the harm he does her,' he said, 'but she can never forgive him for the sacrifices he makes on her account.'" Her triumph, then, is revenge on Stroeve rescuing her "in her extremity."

The narrator is upset when he remembers this characterization of Blanche's motives and the dark conjecture he refers to is his own feeling of revulsion. The narrator goes on to say, right after the passage you quote, "I hope it was not true. It seems to me rather horrible. But who can fathom the subtleties of the human heart? Certainly not those who expect from it only decorous sentiments and normal emotions."

In my reading, the passage might be understood as, "When Strickland suggested (to me, the narrator) that in her (Blanche's) surrender to him (Strickland) there was a sense of triumph (in her heart) over Dirk Stroeve, because he (Stroeve) had come to her help in her extremity, he (Strickland) opened the door to many a dark conjecture (in me, the narrator)."
posted by merriment at 11:31 AM on July 22, 2022 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you for answering my question. I'm still thinking about it. Is this Blanche's triumph? Isn't it possible to think that is the one of Strickland ? Because he rescued Blanche from her second extremity which was given by Dirk by marrying her. Anyhow don't you think Strickland was so derisive that he felt a sort of triumph over Dirk ?
posted by mizukko at 9:14 AM on July 24, 2022

I think that's also a valid reading, yes. It's a very ambiguous passage.
posted by merriment at 9:46 AM on July 24, 2022

Response by poster: I almost give up thinking about this problem. Anyway thank you for letting me know that isn't easy to understand.
posted by mizukko at 8:54 AM on July 28, 2022

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