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The beetle was walking up the mountain to go home.

"Indeed it would have taken a monkey or a bird to climb the place which the beetle was now walking up. It was a smooth, flat part of the mountain-side, steep as a wall."

This content is from a novel "The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle"

I couldn't understand this sentence. And what shape is this mountain? The author said it was smooth and flat but steep.

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This is not describing the entire mountain, it's describing a "part of the mountain-side". There is no way of knowing what shape the entire mountain is based on this excerpt.

Vertical faces can still be smooth and flat. It means that there are no bumps.

Flat does not require the surface to be horizontal.

A wall, for example is very flat but it is still vertical.

So, imagine this "part of the mountain-side" to be a wall, and that should help you understand what the author is describing.


As to the first sentence, remember that many (or most) bugs can climb vertical surfaces due to having specialized feet. In general, most animals don't have this ability.

Birds could easily reach this point by "climbing" through the air ... in other words, by flying.

Monkeys are well known for their climbing abilities... though I'm not really sure that, if the description is to be believed, even a monkey could manage it.

The point of the two sentences is to imply that this is a very steep, vertical walk for the beetle and not many other creatures could manage it without special abilities like flight... but for the beetle, it is a simple matter of a walk... not a struggle at all.

  • Thank you for your helpful answer. I understand the shape of the place but I can't understand "it would have taken a monkey or a bird to climb the place". Does this sentence mean "This place would take much times for a monkey or a bird to climb"? – Yuuichi Tam May 4 '16 at 19:19
  • @YuuichiTam - It means it would have required a monkey or a bird to be able to get up there. "Take" is one of those English words that has many, many meanings! The definition here is 10 e (3). – stangdon May 4 '16 at 19:59
  • @YuuichiTam You need to be a lot more specific in your question if you want good answers. You were very specific about not understanding the second sentence, so that's what I directed my answer at... now you're being more specific about what's confusing in the first question but you can't expect us to figure that out on our own. Please edit your question to be specific about what parts are confusing you. – Catija May 4 '16 at 20:31

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