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This is the whole paragraph I’m having trouble with:

His uncle backhanded him so hard across his left cheek that Isaac’s sense of self temporarily broke upon the ground on which his body fell. He lost any feeling of personal cohesion. And as the parts of his psyche put themselves back together, some secret piece of himself remained in the dirt, left behind in a place from which it would never be recovered.

I don't understand the meaning of "self temporarily" in the first sentence. Isaac's uncle backhanded him, but what happened next? And what is the meaning of "broke upon the ground"? What is that verb’s subject and what form is it in?

migrated from english.stackexchange.com Jun 9 at 14:09

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  • 2
    You should parse that as “lost his (sense of self) temporarily”. If it said “lost his apple temporarily”, you’d know what it meant. Try searching for or looking up “sense of self”. – Dan Bron Jun 9 at 10:52
  • 1
    Try parsing it differently: it's (Isaac's sense of self) that (temporarily broke). – oerkelens Jun 9 at 10:52
  • Try this paraphrase: 'His uncle backhanded him across his left cheek – so hard that temporarily (/, for a moment,) Isaac’s sense of self shattered – it was almost as if it broke upon the ground on which his body fell.' – Edwin Ashworth Jun 9 at 11:03
  • Thank you so much – Ali Motavaze Jun 9 at 11:03
  • The problem is that "self temporarily" is not a constituent. You can tell this because self is a common noun but the modifier temporarily is an adverb of manner, not an adjective. – tchrist Jun 9 at 14:07

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