This is the sentence I've got problems with. It's a bit dated translation but I believe one of the suggestions I listed below is applicable here.

"What was it had happened to work this revolution in him?"

(these are definitions from Google dictionary)

1. bring into a specified emotional state. "Harold had worked himself into a minor rage" 2. produce as a result. "with a dash of blusher here and there, you can work miracles"

  • Which one do you think works better, and why?
    – randomhead
    Commented Sep 29, 2021 at 17:07
  • 2
    Understand work here as cause [to come about. The subject ("him") has experienced some kind of metaphoric "revolution" (i.e. - a massive change, perhaps alluding to a 180° "half-turn" so he's metaphorically "facing" in the opposite direction to before). The sentence asks what might have happened to cause that change. Commented Sep 29, 2021 at 17:16
  • Not the question, but the phrasing "what was it had happened" could be replaced by "what had happened". Commented Sep 29, 2021 at 17:18
  • 1
    Crime and Punishment again. Work used this way was quite common in the 19th Century - e.g. I knew a wicked man but God worked a great change in him. This is the 1913 translation I think? Commented Sep 29, 2021 at 18:45

1 Answer 1


The second definition ("produce as a result") fits the meaning here.

The word "cause" would also work here, and have the same meaning:

What was it had happened to cause this revolution in him?

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .