4

Hands-off killing can be just as bad or worse. But, as one of the first great writers in English to document Stalin’s crimes, Robert Conquest, who had exposed the massive death tolls from Stalin’s purges and starvations, said to me, “Hitler’s just feels worse.” After reading Snyder’s Bloodlands, one acolyte of Conquest said to me that it still “feels” a little worse, but by a little less.

Source: http://lareviewofbooks.org/essay/hitler-continued-afterword-updated-edition-explaining-hitler-search-origins-evil

I would like to ask for the explaination of the sentence "Hitler’s just feels worse". I suppose that I understand the meaning (in a nutshell, despite Stalin's horrible crimes, it is Hitler who arouses more negative reactinos and emotions). But what does exactly the sentence mean? There is used the possessive noun but the second particular noun is not expressed (Hitler's criminal behaviour or what)…

2 Answers 2

1

At first, the most likely candidates are crimes (to draw an analogy between Stalin's crimes and Hitler's crimes) or purges and starvations (for the same reason).

However, the singular verb (feels) rules them out, as they are both plural!

The only likely object of the possessive in the cired paragraph that remains is hands-off killing, which is, after all, the main subject of the paragraph.

I am not very charmed by the writer's style, though. I only realized he meant "Hitler's hands-off killing" after I discarded the other options, and that doesn't make for fluent reading.

1
  • 1
    Or it could just be sloppy grammar. If you read the linked page, the author is contrasting "Hitler's hands-on killing" with "Stalin's hands-off killing" -- the "hands-off" in the part quoted is referring to Stalin, not Hitler. I just re-read the paragraph several times and it's not at all clear what specifically "Hitler's" is referring to. The general idea is clear enough: his killings, his crimes, maybe his evil, etc. But exactly what word or phrase the author is referring back to is not at all clear to me. It's not "hands-off killing" because in context that's not Hitler's, it's Stalin's.
    – Jay
    Commented Apr 20, 2015 at 19:37
1

Hands-off killing can be just as bad or worse. But, as one of the first great writers in English to document Stalin’s crimes, Robert Conquest, who had exposed the massive death tolls from Stalin’s purges and starvations, said to me, “Hitler’s just feels worse.” After reading Snyder’s Bloodlands, one acolyte of Conquest said to me that it still “feels” a little worse, but by a little less.

(In his correct answer, oerkelens noted that the object of the possessive is "hands-off killing". My answer has been modified to agree with his.)

The noun you're looking for has already been mentioned earlier in the sentence. So yes, your understanding of the above quote is correct.

Consider the following example:

Joey's car is impressive, but Joanne's is much more so.

From Wikipedia's English Possessive entry:

As pronouns

Possessives can also play the role of nouns or pronouns; namely they can stand alone as a noun phrase, without qualifying a noun. In this role they can function as the subject or object of verbs, or as a complement of prepositions. When a form corresponding to a personal pronoun is used in this role, the correct form must be used, as described above (mine rather than my, etc.).

Examples:

  1. I'll do my work, and you do yours. (here yours is a possessive pronoun, meaning "your work", and standing as the object of the verb do)

  2. My car is old, Mary's is new. (here Mary's means "Mary's car" and stands as the subject of its clause)

  3. Your house is nice, but I prefer to stay in mine. (here mine means "my house", and is the complement of the preposition in)

2
  • So why do those crimes, purges and starvations get a singular feels? I rather suspect the author refers to hands-off killing, although I don't applaud th econstruction.
    – oerkelens
    Commented Apr 20, 2015 at 12:23
  • You are absolutely correct, though nothing can be said with certainty reading these kind of texts :/ to be honest I paid less attention to the objects and was concentrating more on explaining this kind of general structure to the OP. Answer edited.
    – zerohedge
    Commented Apr 20, 2015 at 12:28

You must log in to answer this question.

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