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Vicki had never seen anything like Dexter at table. She was disgusted, and ashamed for him. He gripped the spoon so that the whole handle vanished in his paw; he bent over the bowl and slurped so loudly that he seemed not to be using the spoon at all, but to be transferring the food from bowl to mouth by suction alone. Athena could eat properlywhy didn’t she correct him in private? But Athena went on spooning up her soup, glancing from time to time at the children, and spread around her a shy, attentive calm which even Elizabeth, to whom Dexter’s table manners were merely one more avenue to her complicated memories of his family, found soothing and agreeable.

Does "Athena could eat properly" mean "If Athena ate she could eat properly"?

Does "why she did not correct him in private?" mean "Why she did not correct him before when just she and Dexter were at home"?

Does "But Athena went on spooning up her soup" mean:

  1. she ate with her spoon?

  2. she just was stirring her soup?

Source: The Children's Bach by Helen Garner

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  • Dexter was eating his soup in an uncouth way, but Athena said nothing and just carried on eating her soup. To 'spoon' soup is to consume it by using a spoon in the normal way. – Michael Harvey Apr 13 at 6:58
  • Does my understanding about "Athena could eat properly" is correct? I thought "why she did not correct him in private" mean: why she did not correct him before when they were alone at home. am I right? but from the comment of @ Michael Harvey I got it that: why she did not correct him when they were eating with their guests. Which one is correct? – Viser Hashemi Apr 13 at 7:17
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Does "Athena could eat properly" mean "If Athena ate she could eat properly"?

No. It's a sentence about one's abilities in the past. It's not hypothetical.

Athena can eat properly. (=present)

Athena could eat properly. (=past)

It could mean she was old enough to know how to behave at the dinner table, how to hold a spoon, how to eat soup appropriately. She had learned table manners.

Does "why she did not correct him in private?" mean "Why she did not correct him before when just she and Dexter were at home"?

Yes.

Does "But Athena went on spooning up her soup" mean ...

  1. she ate with her spoon?
  2. she just was stirring her soup?

It means she went on eating her soup, perhaps feeling uncomfortable about Dexter's behaviour since she could have taught him some manners.

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  • Lots of thanks, I have another question about the last sentence:"which even Elizabeth, to whom Dexter’s table manners were merely one more avenue to her complicated memories of his family, found soothing and agreeable." what is the meanig of "found" ? Does it intransitive verb here? Can the verb "find" be intransitive? – Viser Hashemi Apr 13 at 8:30
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    @ViserHashemi it's used in the same sense as in "I find it difficult" or "I find her beautiful" which means "I think it's difficult" and "I think she is beautiful" respectively. It's transitive and the pattern is find + obj + noun/adjective. In your sentence, the object is "a shy, attentive calm" (of Athena) and the adjectives are "soothing and agreeable" – Andrew Tobilko Apr 13 at 8:41
  • Can we interpret the sentence "why she did not correct him in private?" as " when they were eating why she did not took him away in a private place to say him that he should not eat like that? – Viser Hashemi Apr 13 at 14:01
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    I think it more likely that Vicky thinks Athena should have taught the child better manners when there were no guests present, rather than expecting her to take him away now. – Kate Bunting Apr 14 at 14:08

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