use of definite article for things not defined earlier

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musicgold

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Hi,

The following is a para from a book. I don't understand why the author uses 'the' before things which he did not mention earlier. For example, in 'where is the mud', I am not sure which mud she is talking about.
I put the whole para, just to give you some reference for the sentences in question.

'An example from personal experience: Science fiction and fantasy writers seem to do a lot of stories that concern caves. These really bug me, as I like to go in caves, and most of these stories get every damned detail wrong. Caves in fantasy all seem to be airy, well-lit places full of perfect marble staircases and veins of pure gold -- which generally are not found in the limestone formations where caves usually form. When a story takes me into a cave like that, I ask myself -- Where is the mud? Where is the darkness? Where is cool, slightly clammy air? Where are the loose rocks on the floor, and the smell, and the bats? Even if the writer has, in reality, gotten it right, it is too late. Once I am in that state of mind, it will do no good at all for the writer to have five thousand pages of documentation on the principles of natural cave formation in igneous, ore-bearing, and metamorphic rock.'


Thanks,

MG.
 

LeighS

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'the' refers specifically to those things which should be found in whatever cave he is in at the time.
 

David L.

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If we were in a cave, there would be mud on the floor. I might say, "The mud is very deep", because I am specifically referring to the mud in this cave that we are in. Each different cave we entered, we would say "the", as in "the mud in this cave is not as deep as the mud in the last cave" - each reference to mud is to mud in a specific cave.

So, if in writing, the reader is transporated into a different world, so that we feel that we are really there, the details have to be correct. In effect, you are pointing out: every cave I've been in, there's mud. If this is supposed to be a cave that we're in (in fantasy), where's the mud, the rocks, the smell that are an intrinsic part of the interior of every cave?
 
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