I read this in Kafka on the shore:

Man alive, how'd you get all that blood all over you? What the hell were you doing? But you don't remember a thing, do you.

I strongly believe there should have been a qestion mark after "do you" in the latter sentence. Am I right? But can it be that the writer want to imply that the only thing you do remember is that you don't remember a thing?


Using a full-stop here is a small artistic liberty. Even though the sentence is grammatically formed as a question, the full-stop makes the dialogue read like a statement. The speaker is asserting that what he said is true, instead of interrogating the listener and expecting a reply. It is a rhetorical question. In spoken language this distinction can be made with intonation, with the vocal pitch falling in "do you" instead of rising as it would if asking a normal question. In written English where it isn't possible to indicate intonation, a full-stop instead of a question mark can serve the same purpose.

  • I'd say it's a pretty big "artistic liberty". Competent writers would no more omit the question mark here than they would use lower-case "i" for the first person singular pronoun. – FumbleFingers Sep 15 '19 at 16:34
  • 2
    This liberty at least has a clear purpose; using lowercase "i" does not. Competent writers are free to take liberties when it serves a purpose. Whether the purpose justifies the liberty is a matter of opinion. Note that at one time, a horizontally-reversed question mark or "percontation mark" was used for this purpose, but it has long ago fallen into disuse. – TypeIA Sep 15 '19 at 16:48
  • Not so. It's easy to imagine a writer wishing to convey "lack of ego" or similar by using a lower case letter for I. It's just that in practice (e e cummings excepted) we almost never do this in anything except the most casual contexts (where it would normally imply "hurriedly casual" rather than "self-effacing" anyway). Sure - if you really are a competent writer, then (as George Orwell often pointed out), you can ignore any rules you like in pursuit of your art. But that's hardly sound advice for non-native learners here on ELL. – FumbleFingers Sep 15 '19 at 16:57
  • (Oh, and those "irony marks" were never actually used in English, even "a long time ago". Apart from which, most of the writers making various different proposals for the orthography weren't even native Anglophones anyway.) – FumbleFingers Sep 15 '19 at 16:59

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.