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  1. suprunp's Avatar
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    #1

    I was strongest

    [Sue:] I was strongest once, I know, and perhaps I treated you cruelly. But Jude, return good for evil! I am the weaker now.
    (T. Hardy: Jude the Obscure)

    Shouldn't she have said "I was the strongest..."?

    Thanks.

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    #2

    Re: I was strongest

    If there are only two of them, she should have said 'I was stronger...' or 'I was the stronger one...'

    Rover

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    #3

    Re: I was strongest

    Quote Originally Posted by suprunp View Post
    [Sue:] I was strongest once, I know, and perhaps I treated you cruelly. But Jude, return good for evil! I am the weaker now.
    (T. Hardy: Jude the Obscure)

    Shouldn't she have said "I was the strongest..."?

    Thanks.
    NOTE: NOT A TEACHER

    (1) I once read that after you learn the rules, it is OK to break them -- so long as

    you know that you are breaking them. I assume that Mr. Hardy was a properly

    educated English gentleman who knew the rules. If he did break the rule that we

    ordinary people are expected to follow, then I guess that is his "right" as a great

    novelist.

    (2) But I am wondering whether he actually did break the rule. Consider what Mr.

    Michael Swan in his popular Practical English Usage says:

    The is not used with superlatives ...when we compare the same person ...

    in different situations.

    (a) Mr. Swan's examples:

    She works hardest when she's doing something for the family.
    He's nicest when he's had a few drinks.

    (3) Well, maybe "I was strongest once" = something like "I was strongest in a past

    situation that was different from the current situation."

    (4) What do you think?

  2. suprunp's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: I was strongest

    Thank you, TheParser, for your interesting reading of this sentence, although my point of view is slightly different, being probably shaped by having read this novel up to the moment mentioned.

    I think that Sue is comparing herself with Jude here.
    She was the stronger one of the two of them back then (for instance, in her believes that she eventually implanted in Jude) and now, having lost the faith in those believes and actually made a volte-face, she is the weaker one and Jude, having acquired her former doctrines (thus having swapped places with her, as it were) is the stronger one.

    A wild guess: her seeming lost of grammar might be due to her mental state (she is distraught, despondent and floundering).

    As I can't be the last instance in this case I'd like to know what you think about this.

    Thanks.

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    #5

    Re: I was strongest

    If he had used comparative/comparative, her fall might have seemed less dramatic than from superlative to the opposite comparative. Logic suggests the stronger...the weaker to me, but I feel it's got more oomph his way. Grammar should never get in the way of a good story- break every rule if it helps. It's got more chest, more sob in it.

    I was strongest once (chest heaving, tears welling up)... but I am the weaker now (her voice goes gruff and hoarse, reader reaches for the tissues)

    Last edited by Tdol; 26-Sep-2011 at 19:10. Reason: typo

  3. Bennevis's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: I was strongest

    Quote Originally Posted by TheParser View Post
    She works hardest when she's doing something for the family.
    He's nicest when he's had a few drinks.
    Dear TheParser,

    I wanted to point out that in the 1st sentence "hardest" is actually an adverb. Therefore, we don't need the definite article in front of it: I work hard. I work hardest (e.g. in the afternoon).
    As far as "I was strongest once", it just feels right if we say "I was stronger once" and, further, "I was strongest once".

    I just don't feel it's wrong if we're talking of an attribute that is not compared with those of other people.
    I was the strongest (among us).
    I was strongest (compared to any other time I felt I was strong).

    Do you, guys, get this?

  4. suprunp's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: I was strongest

    Quote Originally Posted by Bennevis View Post
    Do you, guys, get this?
    One thing, guys, that I must confess I don't get (and there is a little niggle at the back of my mind because of this) is why she says "I was strongest once..." and then, as if in contrast to this, "I am the wicker now". She certainly (in my humble opinion) wants to compare these two 'states' of her life, two different stages, if you like - once and now. To do this she must choose a reference point - either it being her or someone else (Jude).

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    #8

    Re: I was strongest

    I'd cut the guy some slack- he's writing a novel and not a treatise on grammar- people aren't consistent. She was very up once, and she's more down now IMO. She is comparing them and they're worse than you think- they're imbalanced and out of kilter. It's heart and soul, love and loss, rather than parallelism. If you want perfectly balanced sentences, try Gibbon's Decline and Fall. Hardy's dealing with the glories, pain and mess of life. And this story is particularly messy- so much so that the reaction cause Hardy to abandon novels and turn to verse. It's a tough story whose themes would still shock and hurt if published today.


    Christmas: 1924
    Peace upon earth!' was said. We sing it,
    And pay a million priests to bring it.
    After two thousand years of mass
    We've got as far as poison-gas.
    Four lines that still kick like a mule.

  5. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: I was strongest

    Why is everyone suddenly being referred to as a "guy" in the last few posts?

  6. 5jj's Avatar
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    #10

    Re: I was strongest

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    Why is everyone suddenly being referred to as a "guy" in the last few posts?
    I don't know - I am confused (something else that has become very common in the last few dats).

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