Now the realization of his cowardice gains the upper hand, now defiance and pride.

It is from Carl Jung's "The Theory of Psychoanalysis"

[The neurotic] draws back [from his life tasks] not because of any real impossibility but because of an artificial barrier invented by himself…From this moment on he suffers from an internal conflict. Now the realization of his cowardice gains the upper hand, now defiance and pride. In either case his [energy] is engaged in a useless civil war, and the man becomes incapable of any new enterprise…His efficiency is reduced, he is not fully adapted, he has become – in a word – neurotic.

Although I vaguely understand that it means something along the lines of "once he realizes he is a coward, he then becomes defiant and proud," I'm kind of perplexed why the second "now" and what happens to "defiance and pride." It seems to me something is left out there.

So, what is the exact way to understand this sentence? Thanks for your answer.

2 Answers 2


The OED has the following definition of now...now with examples underneath:

used to introduce antithetical clauses, phrases, or words

  • a 1300 Cursor M. 24545 Nu i lig and no i stand, Bunden þus in balful band.
  • 1390 Gower Conf. I. 23 Now hier now ther, now to now fro, Now up now down, this world goth so.
  • c 1400 Mandeville (Roxb.) xiv. 65 Riȝt sodaynely es þare chaungeyng of þe aer, nowe grete calde and now grete hete.
  • c 1491 Chast. Goddes Chyld. 21 Her thoughtes ben full chaungable now here now there, now so, now thus, like to winde.
  • 1535 Coverdale 2 Sam. xi. 25 The swerde consumeth now one now another.
  • 1567 J. Maplet Gr. Forest 79 It is now abiding vpon the earth now in the waters.
  • 1620 T. Granger Div. Logike 258 Now vsed in this sence, now in that.
  • 1697 Dryden Virg. Georg. iii. 171 The flying Chariot kindles in the Course: And now a-low; and now aloft they fly.
  • 1741 Richardson Pamela I. 21 In this Quandary, now considering, now crying, and not knowing what to do, I pass'd the Time.
  • 1808 Scott Marm. vi. xxvii, Now low, now high, The pennon sunk and rose.
  • 1883 Stevenson Silverado Sq. 9 A great variety of oaks stood, now severally, now in a becoming grove.

The implied meaning of this construction could perhaps be glossed as "sometimes", but I think you can imagine that the first now refers to the very moment it's written, and the second now refers to the moment it, in turn, is written. This might be better conveyed in speech than in writing. The speaker of such an utterance transitions quickly from one moment to the other, suggesting a sort of vicissitude of a person's mood, or the weather, or something similar.

That, I think, would be the origin of this construction. It's quite simple, and nothing seems to be missing.

  • Thank you. I think I get it now. Just to make sure, does it basically mean the same thing if I rephrase the sentence like this "Now the realization of his cowardice gains the upper hand, then defiance and pride gains the upper hand"?
    – Harmonika
    Commented Aug 16, 2019 at 15:02
  • @Harmonika Something like that. Now this, the next moment that. or Today this, tomorrow that. would be better. Maybe you'd be happier with a semi-colon instead of a comma (Today X; tomorrow Y), but I don't think it's needed here at all.
    – user3395
    Commented Aug 16, 2019 at 15:46

There is no cause\effect event (as your construction once...then... implies). What is said is that the realization of his cowardice and defiance and pride alternate with each other. Now - this, now (then) - that, and so on in circles.

  • Thank you. Your answer is sure very helpful. Too bad I can't upvote for anything yet.
    – Harmonika
    Commented Aug 16, 2019 at 15:00

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