2

Shall we not have the advantage of his wisdom and honesty, nevertheless? Can we not count upon some independent votes? Are there not many individuals in the country who do not attend conventions? But no: I find that the respectable man, so called, has immediately drifted from his position, and despairs of his country, when his country has more reason to despair of him. He forthwith adopts one of the candidates thus selected as the only available one, thus proving that he is himself available for any purposes of the demagogue.

  1. Is "no" the answer to the former question?

    -Can we not count upon some independent votes? (Is it equal to "Can't we count upon... "?)

    -No, we can't.

  2. Does there exist the construction "immediately...when..."?

    Does his country first "despair of him" then he "drifted from his position" or the reverse?

    I'm not clear which happened first because there's "has more reason" in the clause. Do we first have "He forthwith adopts one of the candidates thus selected" then "his country has more reason to despair" then "he despairs"

    OR

    "He despairs of the country"(the country already despairs of him) and "forthwith adopts one of the candidates thus selected" first and "his country has more reason to despair" then, and there's no construction of "immediately...when"?

  • 1
    He immediately put down the phone when he realised he'd dialed a wrong number. Nothing wrong with immediately + when there. The problem in your example context is the verb form has immediately drifted. That should be present tense immediately drifts (to match despairs and has more reason elsewhere in the sentence). Your version could be credible in certain (unusual) contexts, but it's not really idiomatic. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica May 30 '17 at 15:29
  • when there might be paraphrased "although, to the contrary", or "whereas" or "and yet"; and I think immediately is meant to be understood as "at present". – Tᴚoɯɐuo May 30 '17 at 15:29
2

when here can be understood to mean "whereas" or "although" or "however".

You are turning it counterclockwise when you should be turning it clockwise.

The respectable man ... despairs of his country when his country has greater reason to despair of him.

Thoreau's argument is that the "respectable man" ("so called" -- i.e. he doesn't really deserve to be called such) is letting his country down by ceding responsibility for the selection of political leaders to politicians and editors.

|improve this answer|||||
  • Can I replace "when" with "before"? If so, I don't think "has more reasons" equals "has greater reason". I think "more" just describes quantity not extent and I'm not sure which really happens first. Does "The country despair of the man" because "the man leaves his position" or others? – Leon Zero May 30 '17 at 22:51
  • 1
    @LeonZero - No, this use of "when" cannot be replaced with "before". This particular usage of the conjunction has nothing at all to do with time or sequencing. In this dictionary, the "when" being used is definition #7 - while on the contrary; considering that; whereas – PMV May 31 '17 at 0:16
  • @LeonZero: "reason" is singular there, not plural. "more reason to despair" means "has greater cause to despair". As I wrote in my answer, the reason the country has greater cause to despair of the "respectable man" than he has cause to despair of the country is that the man is ceding to pundits and politicians his own responsibilities as a citizen. (You omitted that context from your excerpt of the Thoreau passage.) – Tᴚoɯɐuo May 31 '17 at 9:29
0

"Shall we not have the advantage of his wisdom and honesty, nevertheless? Can we not count upon some independent votes? Are there not many individuals in the country who do not attend conventions? But no: I find that the respectable man, so called, has immediately drifted from his position, and despairs of his country, when his country has more reason to despair of him."

Can we not is the shortened form of: can't we count on

The but no goes with all the preceding questions, and what comes after the colon describes the situation of what the author thinks of what are called respectable men by others. The so-called respectable man. It is a general statement about that type of man or those men.

Easier to understand: I find that the so-called respectable man has immediately drifted from his position. This man despairs of his country. [is in despair about his country] when the country has more reason to be in despair over him or about him.

To despair of something means: to be in despair about or over something.

|improve this answer|||||
-1

"Can we not" = "Can't we"

Concerning the immediately..when, "Yes! Such a construction exists."

"I find that the respectable man, so called, has immediately drifted from his position, and despairs of his country, when his country has more reason to despair of him."

"When" is a conjunction here and means that "although his country has more reason to despair of him, he immediately drifts from his position, and despairs of his country"

|improve this answer|||||
  • Question of "more reason", does it mean his country already despaired of him but not to the extent that the respectable man wants to leave from his position? And if "more reason to despair" is the premise, can I imply from the context that it is the respectable man that made the country despair? – Leon Zero May 30 '17 at 15:59
  • 1
    when here does not have its usual temporal meaning. – Tᴚoɯɐuo May 31 '17 at 9:37
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo I agree. On second thought you're absolutely right! "When" is a simple conjunction here. – SovereignSun May 31 '17 at 9:42

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.