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What does "they" refer to?


People have always done this, I thought. They looked for a curved road around the plain truth of it: an undetermined future, no destiny, no veined hand reaching into our lives, just what happened and our watching it. Knowing this was not enough, and I struggled to make it meaningful, as they had perhaps done here in Germany many years ago, looking for some pattern in all the strange things that occurred, covering their faces with ashes and pigments from berries they’d gathered from thawed valleys in spring, standing over the bodies of boys or women or old men covered by leaves or grasses ready to be lit beneath the stones that would hold them down in case the fires and the heat and the noise of the burning woke them from their strange sleep.
What does "they" refer to in "as they had perhaps done here in Germany many years ago"? PS: this paragraph is from "The Yellow Birds"(Chapter three).

For learning: English
Base language: English
Category: Language



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    I don't have enough writing to know this for certain (as I've never read that book). I think that the person is in Germany, though... Correct? If so, they might just be talking about ancient funeral rites of the old Germanic tribes, trying to cope with death and understand a mysterious, scary world. In this case, "they" is just "people who used to live here long ago".

    Of course, it might be some oddly poetic WWII reference or something, but that seems unlikely in this context, seeing as how nobody after WWII, to the best of my knowledge, covered their faces in berries while making funeral pyres.

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