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river-boat Options
Gordon Freeman
Posted: Monday, May 18, 2015 3:17:55 AM

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Joined: 5/23/2014
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Location: Ulyanovsk, Uljanovsk, Russia
Hi,

To all parties present and participating in the life of the county, Aunt Alexandra was one of the last of her kind: she had river-boat, boarding school manners; let any moral come along and she would uphold it; she was born in the objective case; she was an incurable gossip.


I am aware that this is probably a difficult one, so let's make our suggestions and see if the truth comes out. What might these red parts mean? I made an online investigation into this. The results are scanty though. Found this and this.

In short, people mostly say that Alexandra was the last remnant of the vague, nostalgic past when tuxedoed gents slowly paddled their parasol-wielding ladies in some sweet little shady ponds. I think it's probable, but the wording of the phrase still seems somewhat otherworldly to me: she HAD river-boat, as if she were in possession of one.

As to the second phrase, some people explain it like there was a time when the objective case of the noun, of which we now have but a few remnants, was more widely in use, so the second phrase describes Alexandra as belonging to the bygone times in much the same way as the first does. I'm not sure about this at all though. And besides, isn't it somewhat incongruous that a girl of six or thereabouts, who makes the narration - the fact to which we are forces to make concessions all the time throughout the book - uses such complex ideas?
Romany
Posted: Monday, May 18, 2015 4:06:02 AM
Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 6/14/2009
Posts: 15,011
Neurons: 47,034
Location: Brighton, England, United Kingdom
Gordon -
s
Have you never seen pictures of the American river-boats? They were large, with cabins, and were powered by huge, revolving paddles. They are the reason for a lot of our phrases and idioms, which came from the gamblers who used to go up and down the river on them, playing cards and losing and winning vast amounts of money.

But they were very genteel, and the gamblers - unlike the uncouth, unwashed gamblers in pubs, or on street corner - wore black ties and tails, and had perfect manners.

So, Aunt Alexandre's manners were always formal - the kinds of manners one was taught at a good, private school, and used on formal occasions. Jem and Scout's town was small and parochial and one had not much chance to use these kinds of High Society manners. So in their experience, 'High Society" could only be glimpsed as the river-boats sailed gently past full of handsome, well-dressed people.

As to being "born in the objective case" it's a little double entendre: Yes, she spoke in a formal way (objective case), but she also 'objected" to so much going on around her - and gossiped about it.

But as to the way the book is written: yes, she gets inside her 6-year-old mind again. But she does so as an adult looking back. It's like when people say "Don't you wish you were young again, but knew all the things you know now?" So yes, she remembers how the world appeared to her when she was a small girl - but she's able to frame it with adult language skills. That's the reason the book has become a classic - she is able to blend the two: the thoughts and speech of a 6 yr old country girl, and the skillfull language-weaving of an adult.
Gordon Freeman
Posted: Monday, May 18, 2015 6:50:44 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 5/23/2014
Posts: 511
Neurons: 236,909
Location: Ulyanovsk, Uljanovsk, Russia
Thanks Romany, great post! I can feel myself become infused better yet with the people and things the book depicts.
leonAzul
Posted: Thursday, December 27, 2018 8:09:04 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 8/11/2011
Posts: 8,494
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Location: Miami, Florida, United States
Gordon Freeman wrote:
I think it's probable, but the wording of the phrase still seems somewhat otherworldly to me: she HAD river-boat, as if she were in possession of one.


I think you have mis-read this. What she had were manners that seemed at once informed by a river-boat experience and a boarding school. It's an interesting juxtaposition that suggests a river-boat is as gentile as a boarding school is dangerous.

"Make it go away, Mrs Whatsit," he whispered. "Make it go away. It's evil."
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