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But the thing I didn't care a damn about, didn't even grasp to be happening, was the passing-away of the old life I'd know. (Coming up for air)

What is the object of the verb grasp ? Is it the thing or relativizer which ?
I think the relativizer which is understood to be between the thing and I but was omitted.
And I wonder if having either the thing or which as an object will result in a difference in meaning.

And what is the implied subject of to be happening , is it the thing or which?
Do they mean the same?
I wonder if having either the thing or which as an implied subject will result in a difference in meaning in this case.

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But the thing I didn't care a damn about ____ , didn't even grasp ____ to be happening, was the passing-away of the old life I'd known.

There are no relative pronouns present, but there are still anaphoric relations to the head noun "thing".

The '____' gap notations indicate the covert presence of the relativised elements, with the gaps functioning as complement of "about" as well as subject of the "to be happening" clause, and interpreted as "thing".

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  • Does that mean the verb grasp is used as a catenative verb in this sentence if thing is the subject of the infinitive clause?
    – Peilin
    Mar 18 '19 at 2:26
  • Sorry for bothering, does the gap also function as the object of the verb "grasp"?
    – Peilin
    Mar 20 '19 at 14:22
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Between "thing" and the verb "didn't care about" is an implied "that" or "which." Note that "that I did not even care about" is a subordinate clause identifying "thing." In that clause "I" is the the subject, and "that" (meaning "thing") is the object. (I prefer to say that it is the object of the verb "care about," but others may say it is the object of the preposition "about.")

The same relative pronoun and the same subject are implied with respect to "grasp."

So

The thing I didn't care, didn't even grasp ...

means

The thing that I didn't care about and that I did not even grasp ...

That, however, does not help explain "to be happening."

When it is awkward to use a clause without a lot of verbiage, we can sometimes abbreviate it with the infinitive "to be" plus a participle.

But the thing I didn't care a damn about, didn't even grasp to be happening, was ...

means

But the thing that I didn't care a damn about and that I did not even grasp to be a thing that was happening was ...

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  • Thanks, but why can't the meaning be "that I did not even grasp the thing that was happening was..."
    – Peilin
    Mar 20 '19 at 13:59
  • Start with meaning. Can the "thing" in question be grasped? No. It is an event, a process. Is the "thing" the only thing that was happening? No. In any event, the obvious object is "to be happening" because thing does not even appear in the clause. It is very breathless prose and not what I call decent writing style. But people do talk that way, all the time. Mar 20 '19 at 18:28

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