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Could someone explain the meaning of bold part in the sentence below?

No human eye can isolate the unhappy coincidence of line and place which suggests evil in the face of a house, and yet somehow a maniac juxtaposition, a badly turned angle, some chance meeting of roof and sky, turned Hill House into a place of despair, more frightening because...

(The haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson)

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  • It's just a ridiculously roundabout way of saying the writer can't identify exactly why the house looks so creepy. Don't copy this style in normal contexts - especially not conversational contexts. It's only suitable for a certain class of ("dated", today) "gothic literature". Apr 29 at 15:47
  • Thank you for your advice.
    – yatterman
    Apr 30 at 2:05

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There are at least two possible meanings that could be derived from this - I'm not familiar with the book so the wider context might tell you which it is.

It could just be poetic hyperbole to emphasise the concept of no one. You might not be able to imagine any eye but a human eye looking at this particular matter, so it just adds emphasis that it means not a single person. This is similar to saying "not a person on earth" - are there people anywhere else but on earth?

Perhaps though, there is an inference that there are eyes other than human ones watching over this matter. I notice the source has a supernatural theme, so perhaps it implies that someone other than a human - a god, a supernatural being - might be able to see what humans cannot.

It could also be intended to build a specific plot element rather than exist as just a vague inference. For example, in Shakepeare's Macbeth the main character is told that "no man born of a woman" can harm him, which he takes as hyperbole. The plot twist is that he eventually dies at the hand of someone removed from his dead mother's womb by caesarean section, technically not a 'birth'. So maybe, if you continue with the story, there will be a non-human that this refers to.

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  • Thank you for your nice and kind explanation.
    – yatterman
    Apr 30 at 1:59
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coincidence there means where line and place coincide or meet. No human eye can isolate (i.e. single out and point to, identify) that particular unhappy intersection or juxtaposition. Compare the French phrase that has been borrowed into English: je ne sais quoi, which refers to a certain something, a quality, that you can't "put your finger on", i.e. it's not possible to say exactly what it is.

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  • Thank you very much.
    – yatterman
    Apr 29 at 15:15

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