Correction (When quite is *not* ambiguous . . .)

At our Saturday meeting I mentioned a passage in which Green’s love of porous (or translucent) prose leads him to have Mrs. Jack ask her mother-in-law, “What d’you mean by quite?” – when, in fact, Mrs. Tennant hasn’t used the word “quite” in her previous dialogue. 
I owe blog readers an apology.  I realize now that I completely misread Mrs Jack’s question.  First off, Green’s text doesn’t have a “by” after “mean” … The correct sentence is: “What d’you mean quite?” Because I was listening with my American ears, I subconsciously inserted quotation marks around “quite” – and so understood that Violet was asking her mother-in-law why she used that word.  But if I’d had my British ears turned on, I would have heard quite in rather a different way.  Using more straight-forward syntax, I believe we can phrase Violet’s question as “What do you quite mean?” 
… I see no reason to pursue this “interesting” point any further.  (Old scholars never die, they just babble more nonsense than they used to.)
I’ve now located the passage in question and I attach a PDF of it.  As I still haven’t found my hard copy of Loving, perhaps someone else could supply the appropriate page numbers in a reply to this post.  (Kindle says the passage occurs about 90% into the book.)
Of course, this short section supplies but one example of Green’s whirling, spinning language whose words, images, and intuitions push the boundaries of linearity;  challenge our normal processes of understanding;  and create worlds for our imagination to swim in that are fascinating and distinctive – yet often impossible to explain or to comprehend with any certainty.
— Tom

2 thoughts on “Correction (When quite is *not* ambiguous . . .)

  1. not wanting to be outdone by Tom…
    I found a Masters Thesis about Henry Green; I’ve read very little of it so far, but in case anyone else has more time




    • Interesting, Elisa. Is the thesis available online? Of course, if it’s written in post-modern-lit-crit English, I won’t be able to understand it. – Tom

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