A character whose mother had committed suicide says:
"My mother left me a legacy of suicide."
A-Does this mean:
1- that the suicide itself was the legacy (legacy=suicide)
2-that all that was left to him by his mother was in a way marked by her suicide, (Perhaps he had inherited suicidal thoughts or tendencies, or his memories of her were all tainted by the thought of her suicide.)
B-If he had said: "She left me the legacy of her suicide." would that mean that the suicide itself was the legacy?
In a sense, the suicide was the legacy. That could mean many things. For one thing, she might have left the unspoken message that suicide is "a way out". Also, as you suggested, his memory of her might be tainted by her suicide.
It is true what you say. Actually I just wanted to know about the grammatical structure of the sentence, but a legacy of suicide is indeed an unfortunate and enduring legacy. People who commit suicide rarely think about what happens because of their act to those who are close to them. The pain and the feeling of loss and guilt and the feeling that may-be it could have been easily avoided and ...
And it is also true that by committing suicide one does suggest that suicide is a way out.
"Suicide is a permanent solution for a temporary problem." (A doctor told me this.)
"-A man decide to commit suicide by swallowing 200 aspirin pills.
-After the first two, he felt much better!"
(This one was in a Benny Hill Show.)
Grammatically speaking, suicide was the legacy. Also, altho you can't literally leave a suicide to somebody, the writer meant that suicide was in a sense the legacy the mother left her son. In that sense it is like any other psychological legacy. A suicide can have an impact on a family that lasts for generations, most notably in the Hemingway family. (Ernest Hemingway committed suicide.)
Thanks for your replies RonBee and TDOL. I have thought a bit about this.
The word "of" has different functions.
1-A man of honour; a train of terror; a woman of wealth (the second noun becomes almost an adjective)
2-a pile of books; a door of iron, a wall of blue bricks, a symphony of beautiful notes (the second noun tells you the STUFF the first noun is composed/made of)
3-The city of London, the crime of murdering my dog, (here the first noun is the second noun, the city which is London ...)
In "a legacy of ill-will", I would say that the stuff bequethed is ill-will.
In "a legacy of destruction and pollution" we have again the same thing, which corresponds to #2
Now does "a legacy of suicide" correspond to 1, 2 or 3? I think both 1 (suicide marks the legacy, describes it almost like an adjective) and 2 (the STUFF inherited was suicide) are perhaps acceptable. I don't think "of" here could have the third meaning, because it is "A legacy", not "THE legacy".
Now the other question is, what does:
2-She left me the legacy of her suicide." mean?
To me it sounds like the legacy belongs to the suicide (like "handle of the door"; "of" is possessive). I received from her the legacy her suicide left behind.
But may-be here the "of" could have the third meaning, ie. the legacy is her suicide? (Like "the city of London").
Could one say: "the crime of his murder" meaning the "the crime of murdering him"? I don't think so, but may-be I am wrong.
A legacy can be something tangible, such as a bequest, that is something left to somebody in a will; or it can be something intangible, such as something taught by example or otherwise, or values. The "of" phrase simply indicates the kind of legacy. In the phrase "legacy of suicide" the "of suicide" indicates the kind of legacy. Such a legacy is, of course, an intangible one.