4

From A mole of moles, I meet this sentence:

Plumes of hot meat and bubbles of trapped gases like methane—along with the air from the lungs of the deceased moles—periodically rise through the mole crust and erupt volcanically from the surface, a geyser of death blasting mole bodies free of the planet.

How to understand the emboldened bit? In either ways to break down it, the word free seems to be out-of-place:

  • a geyser of [(death blasting mole bodies free) of the planet]
  • [a geyser of death] blasting [mole bodies free of the planet]

It looks like the word free belongs to the phrase mole bodies free, but again, what does it mean? It cannot be an suffix like smoke-free or body-free because it doesn't make any sense to me, plus that in the phrase the word bodies is in plural form.

How should I understand this sentence?

2

The structure is like this: [a geyser (of death)] [blasting [mole bodies] [free of the planet]]

The participle "blasting" modifies "geyser" (or the whole noun phrase "geyser of death"), not "death" by itself.

"Mole bodies" is the object of the participle.

The phrase starting with "free" is, as Alan Carmack says, complement to the object. It explains the result of the blasting: the mole bodies are made free of the planet.

Unfortunately, I don't know the exact conditions when an adjective or adjectival phrase can be used as a complement like this. It depends a lot on the identity of the verb. I think a similar example is the expression "scared senseless," where the adjective "senseless" describes the resulting state of whoever was scared.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    'Scared senseless' seems like 'shot dead' (which you can read about on ELU) and 'tickled pink' – Alan Carmack Nov 5 '16 at 15:58
1

a geyser of death blasting mole bodies free of the planet

[a geyser of death] [blasting] [mole bodies] [free] [of the planet]

Compare

[a park ranger] [setting] [baby bears] [free] [from the trap]

Free is an adjective that serves as a complement to 'mole bodies'.

See Oxford, definition 2 with examples.

To rewrite the sentence: The mole bodies are blasted free of the planet by the geyser of death

| improve this answer | |
  • so in this case, does it mean that the mole bodies are escaped from the planet by the blasting of the geyser of death? – Ooker Nov 3 '16 at 15:52
  • 2
    Yes. Although we don't use escape in the passive, so I would say The mole bodies are blasted free of the planet by the geyser of death. – Alan Carmack Nov 3 '16 at 15:58

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.