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Wu Ting
How would you interpret this sentence? How would you interpret this sentence ‘There were racks of rockets standing to be touched off to call for help from the artillery or to signal with if the telephone wires were cut’? Does it mean if the telephone wires were cut, the rockets would be touched off to call for help from the artillery or to signal with? Or does it mean the rockets would be touched off when they needed help from the artillery as well as if the telephone wires were cut and they needed to use the rockets to signal with? Thanks. It’s from A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway.the context: I went along the narrow road down toward the river, left the car at the dressing station under the hill, crossed the pontoon bridge, which was protected by a shoulder of the mountain, and went through the trenches in the smashed-down town and along the edge of the slope. Everybody was in the dugouts. There were racks of rockets standing to be touched off to call for help from the artillery or to signal with if the telephone wires were cut. It was quiet, hot and dirty. I looked across the wire at the Austrian lines. Nobody was in sight. I had a drink with a captain that I knew in one of the dugouts and went back across the bridge.
Jan 17, 2016 10:06 AM
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Answers · 2
I would interpret it slightly different to what John did. I think your version is correct: ... if the telephone wires were cut, the rockets would be touched off to call for help from the artillery or to signal with In other words, they would normally use the phone lines to call for help, or for various other messages. If they were cut, they would use the rockets. That might be to call for artillery help, or it might be for some other signal. Assumedly, the rockets had different colours, or some other way to encode a message.
January 17, 2016
I have to LOL because Hemingway is famous for not using punctuation. It is considered to be his signature, and an important part of his art as a writer. Doesn't make him easy to read, though. I congratulate you on making the effort. Anyway, this run-on sentence means the rockets could be used in two cases: 1. to call for artillery suppport OR 2. to signal that the phone lines had been cut. There should be a comma before "or" to separate the two clauses.
January 17, 2016
Wu Ting
Language Skills
Chinese (Mandarin), English, French
Learning Language
English