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she barely had the energy to stomp on the spider, let alone the will strong enough to care.

Could you please tell me what the object of "care" is?

Also, I don't know it means "she could not care about herself" or "she could not care about the spider".

The fuller text is here:

A scuffling sound caught her attention. She saw a tarantula, body as big as an apple, scurrying out from its hiding place in the corner. She got to her feet and used the mop to chase it outside. It was crueler to send the spider back out into the heat than to crush it with her shoe. Besides, she barely had the energy to stomp on the spider, let alone the will strong enough to care. She had trouble lately doing anything that didn’t result in food or water. The key to life in this dry heat was conservation of everything: water, food, emotion. That last one was the biggest challenge.

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

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    The implied "object" of to care here is whether to stomp on the spider or not. Which isn't quite the same thing as caring about the spider itself (which she presumably doesn't, either). Apparently the reason she doesn't care whether she stomps on the spider or not is because she lacks "will" (i.e. she doesn't have any willpower). I'm not sure the ideas are well expressed though. Feb 17, 2021 at 17:10
  • This passage is definitely confusing. I assume that @FumbleFingers is right about the intended meaning, but it is ambiguous. The main source of confusion is that "besides". You'd expect a "but" as in, "it was cruel, but she didn't have the energy or the will to care." In that case, care would probably mean care that it's cruel not to crush the spider. As is, with the "besides", the author appears to be saying: "It was cruel not to kill the spider, and she wanted to be cruel. In addition, she didn't have the energy to kill it." But with that reading, the "care" doesn't fit at all.
    – Juhasz
    Feb 17, 2021 at 17:36
  • "Care" is intransitive, so it doesn't have an object. It does, though, have an ellipted complement, probably something like "about the spider".
    – BillJ
    Feb 17, 2021 at 17:47

1 Answer 1

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to care [about something] means to have concern about it.

  • I don't care about that. = That is not important to me, does not matter to me.

So, the will to care means: she did not have the will to know if she killed the spider or not. It did not matter to her.

To care for someone = to take care of someone or have romantic feelings for them.

She didn't care about the spider. The spider was not important to her.

It's didn't care, not couldn't care in these cases.

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