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The following is the opening paragraph to The Girl on the Train:

She’s buried beneath a silver birch tree, down towards the old train tracks, her grave marked with a cairn.

Is the word down necessary? What is its semantic contribution?

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It's telling us that the train tracks are "down" from the "here" of the narrator. Perhaps the downhill side of town, perhaps the old train tracks are in a railway cutting. It's giving us a sense of the physical geography and simultaneously giving us an emotional clue. It's not over towards the old train tracks: somewhere away from here, suggesting a distance. It's not up towards the tracks, suggesting effort to get there. It's down towards the old train tracks, a place you might fall to.

  • So it means "in a downward direction"? – Apollyon Jun 19 at 4:30
  • Yes, it has just its ordinary meaning, which in a town can mean "down the road" or "downhill". – jonathanjo Jun 19 at 4:41

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