1

His vote is of no more worth than that of any unprincipled foreigner or hireling native, who may have been bought. Oh for a man who is a man, and, as my neighbor says, has a bone in his back which you cannot pass your hand through!

How to understand the sentence in bold? Where's the subject in this sentence?

0

Oh

This is a simple interjection. Thoreau is expressing exasperation.

for

This is an elision. The full expression is "What I would not give for...", meaning "I really want..." Thoreau is shortening it to just the last word.

a man who is a man,

that is, a man who is a real man, and not a "unprincipled foreigner or hireling native" (kinda racist, but what are you going to do?)

and, as my neighbor says,

His neighbor uses a colloquial expression, which he will now quote

has a bone in his back which you cannot pass your hand through!

In modern English, we say a man has a "spine" or "backbone"; figuratively, he is stalwart and courageous. The imagery here is that a weak man's backbone is not missing, but is insubstantial, like a column of smoke or a stream of water, and you could put ("pass") your hand through it.

  • So the subject is "I" and it has been hidden from the sentence, "I really want my fellow men to be stalwart." Is it right? – Leon Zero May 21 '17 at 15:04
  • In the question, "What would I not do to find a real man?", the subject is -- I believe -- what, rather than I, but I'm not sure. – Malvolio May 21 '17 at 18:28
-1

Oh for a man who is a man

Introduction, he is making a definition of what being a man is

and, as my neighbor says

as his neighbor suggests

has a bone in his back which you cannot pass your hand through!

"a man" will have a strong backbone.

A person who is describes as having a weak backbone will not have a strength of character or strong integrity to stand up to opposition/challenges. They might be described as being

spineless

which is weak both physically and morally.

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