In THE SAINT by V.S. Pritchett:

I saw the shoes dip, water rise above his ankles and up his socks. He tried to move his grip now to a yet higher branch. He did not succeed, and in making this effort, his coat and waist-coat rose and parted from his trousers. One seam of shirt with its pant-loops and brace-tabs broke like a crack across the middle of Mr. Timberlake. It was like a fatal flaw in a statue, an earthquake crack which made the monumental mortal. The last Greeks must have felt as I felt then, when they saw a crack across the middle of some statue of Apollo. It was at this moment I realized that the final revelation about man and society on earth had come to nobody and that Mr. Timberlake knew nothing at all about the origin of evil.

I suppose "monumental mortal" = "monumental statue of a mortal" in the bolded sentence, but why is it "made" by the earthquake crack? I could understand the whole sentence(probably means an earthquake crack on a monumental statue of a mortal), but the "made" part is confusing to me.

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    Makes the monumental mortal - makes that which is monumental mortal (subject to damage, toppling, etc). Commented Nov 25, 2021 at 14:03
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    In the cited context, the monumental is like The poor [are always with us]. Just as the poor means people who are poor, so the monumental means things which are monumental (impressively large and/or long-lasting, like a monument). So to some extent, monumental things (like a stone carved statue) could be called "immortal", but not if there's a crack in the stone. That crack could destroy the statue, making it "mortal = subject to death and decay". Commented Nov 25, 2021 at 14:03
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    Timberlake's shirt hanging out of his trousers is a "fatal flaw" that "cuts him down to size". If it weren't for that he would be a very imposing figure, but his shirt hanging out is a clear indication that he puts his pants on one leg at a time, just like all us "ordinary mortals". Commented Nov 25, 2021 at 14:07

2 Answers 2


"Mortal" is simply describing what the "monumental" thing was made into. That part of the sentence does not actually refer to a statue, it refers to some monumental thing in general.

Consider an easier example:

Eating berries made her tongue purple.

Her tongue was made (caused to become) purple. What caused this? Eating berries.

Your sentence is more complex and confusing because "the monumental" (referring to some generic monumental thing) is very similar to "the monument" (referring to a specific object) and because "mortal" is not something that people or objects generally become. But it uses the same structure:

An earthquake crack made the monumental mortal.

The monumental [thing] was caused to become mortal. What caused this? An earthquake crack.


I do not think you're interpreting it right - in your interpretation (the) mortal is a noun and monumental is an adjective modifying it, but while this is grammatically sound it does not really make sense in context.

Instead, (the) monumental functions as a noun, and mortal is an adjective. As such, the earthquake takes the monumental (something grandiose, eternal) and makes it mortal (subject to death and decay, no longer special). It's a similar construction to, eg. It made John angry.

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