0

Hermione was screaming again: the sound went through Harry like physical pain. Barely conscious of the fierce prickling of his scar, he, too, started to run around the cellar, feeling the walls for he hardly knew what, knowing in his heart that it was useless.

"What else did you take, what else? ANSWER ME! CRUCIO!"

Hermione's screams echoed off the walls upstairs, Ron was half sobbing as he pounded the walls with his fists, and Harry, in utter desperation, seized Hagrid's pouch from around his neck and groped inside it: he pulled out Dumbledore's Snitch and shook it, hoping for he did not know what - nothing happened; he waved the broken halves of the phoenix wand, but they were lifeless -

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

I don't understand "for he hardly knew what" and "hoping for he did not know what". They look an incomplete clause to me. is there anything omitted? Can someone help explain them in the context?

  • "feeling the walls for he hardly know what" reads weird. Are you sure it is not "feeling the walls for he hardly knew what" in the book? – Eddie Kal Dec 11 '19 at 3:23
  • @EddieKal oh, typo. I just corrected. thanks! – dan Dec 11 '19 at 3:28
2

Simply judging from the context given: in both paragraphs Harry is flustered and disoriented. In an act of desperation, he makes an attempt to do something. He doesn't know what exactly he is supposed to do, but he has to do something. That is where the lines at issue come in.

[H]e, too, started to run around the cellar, feeling the walls for he hardly knew what, knowing in his heart that it was useless

Harry runs around the cellar and tries to feel the walls for something. He doesn't know what he is supposed to feel on the walls, and "in his heart" he knows it is a futile effort. That is why the author writes "feeling the walls for he hardly know what." Same goes for the other line.

[H]e pulled out Dumbledore's Snitch and shook it, hoping for he did not know what - nothing happened

Harry tries this (pulling out Dumbledore's Snitch and shaking it) and hopes something will happen. But he doesn't know exactly what should be expected to come out of that; he just does that in desperation. And, well, nothing comes out of it.

| improve this answer | |
  • If so, shouldn't it be feeling the walls for something he hardly know? Is it normal to use a full clause as an object of a preposition: "for he hardly know what"? "he hardly know what" should be a nominal phrase then. – dan Dec 11 '19 at 3:15
  • @dan "feeling the walls for something he hardly know" reads way too clunky compared to what Rowling actually wrote and would make some readers shake their heads. By full clause do you mean an independent clause? For here is actually a preposition. "Feel something for something". "I searched her bag, feeling for my keys." means I tried to find my keys in her bag. You are right "he hardly knew what" is a nominal. It could (or should) have been written "he-hardly-knew-what" – Eddie Kal Dec 11 '19 at 3:22
  • @AIQ That is what I just said in a comment. I copied-and-pasted to crank out an answer and then realized the tense/case problem. – Eddie Kal Dec 11 '19 at 3:26
  • 1
    +1 Great explanation. I think this Harry is flustered and disoriented says it all. – AIQ Dec 11 '19 at 6:24
  • 1
    @dan It is a literary usage and is fairly common in highbrow literature and journalism. I bet we can find some similar examples in the Economist. But I doubt we need to look that far. Aren't Lord Voldemort's monikers "You-Know-Who," "He Who Must Not Be Named" examples? I haven't read any Harry Potter books, but I think those are the names by which people mention him in the books. – Eddie Kal Dec 11 '19 at 14:30

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.