Are there three clauses or two in this one sentence from the book The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald:

Blinking away the brightness of the street outside my eyes picked him out obscurely in the anteroom, talking to another man.

Is it, for example:
1. Blinking away the brightness of the street outside.
2. my eyes picked him out obscurely in the anteroom.
3. (he is) talking to another man.

If so, one comma misses, after outside.
But, F. Scott Fitzgerald knew better!

I can't review - A clause is a group of words that includes a subject and a verb - "Blinking away the brightness of the street outside my eyes picked him out obscurely in the anteroom"

How you would have explained to me?

  • 1
    Three clauses. "...the street outside my eyes..." really needs a comma, as you say. You can't expect writers or proof-readers (or anyone) to be perfect, and mistakes do slip through, just as they do (perhaps more so) in movies. Good catch. Unless FSF did that deliberately, to make you think of another meaning. Aug 14 '19 at 19:21
  • 1
    Lately I have been trying to read a lot of books labeled as "classics." Jane Austen, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Oscar Wilde, you get the idea. And the thing I'm seeing is, I don't understand what makes them "classics." Because the main thing I find is, they are hard to read. How did the brightness of the street pick him out? Sigh. Maybe I should go back to grade school and learn to read again.
    – puppetsock
    Aug 14 '19 at 19:57
  • @puppetsock - Here is an interesting blog post on what makes a classic a classic. They don't tend to be superficial, easy reads. In many cases, I think they are assigned in school before a young reader is ready to truly appreciate them.
    – J.R.
    Aug 14 '19 at 21:25
  • @J.R. Thank you. But can you tell me, how did FSF believe that his eyes could talk to another man? In other words, I still have my tongue in my cheek. I'm teasing about "classics" that use deliberately obscure writing style. This is how I first read this sentence. "Blinking away, the brightness of the street, outside my eyes, picked him out, obscurely talking to another man in the anteroom." Yes, by sitting and puzzling over this sentence for a while I can parse what the author probably meant. But it causes me to put the book back on the book seller's shelf.
    – puppetsock
    Aug 15 '19 at 13:34
  • Yes, that's too many commas. I think that particular sentence is hard to read just because of the word outside. Initially, one might think the opening clause ends with the word street. But once you realize that the sentence begins: Blinking away the brightness of the street outside..., the rest of it falls into place pretty easily.
    – J.R.
    Aug 15 '19 at 14:04

There are three clauses. The main clause (with the verb emphasised) is:

my eyes picked him out obscurely in the anteroom

There are two participle clauses:

Blinking away the brightness of the street outside


talking to another man.

The first describes what the speaker was doing at the time, and the second describes the person in the anteroom.

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