Luis M. writes:
(...) But the
question about the value of that "as" at the beginning of the
fragment is still mysterious to me. You say it has a temporal value. All
right, but then we have a problem in the temporal construction, since the verb
corresponding to the subordinated phrase introduced by "as" is past
("As I walked to and fro..") and the verb of the main sentence is
present ("I wonder"). I mean, David wonders NOW of the crowd and the
people in it, and not THEN when he was walking to and fro between Southwark
and Blackfriars and in obscure streets.
"as" means "when" or "while" and the verb is in
past tense, isn't it strange that the main verb should not be in the same past
tense? You can say: "When I look back at those times, I wonder etc";
but can you say: "When I walked by the streets, I wonder..."?
Shouldn't it be "wondered", in this case?
Anyway, if I choose
to give that "as" a modal/causal value, things don't look better...
* * *
Dickens' text under discussion is:
" As I walked to and fro daily between Southwark and
Blackfriars, and lounged about at meal-times in obscure streets, the stones of
which may, for anything I know, be worn at this moment by my childish feet, I
wonder how many of these people were wanting in the crowd that used to come
filing before me in review again, to the echo of Captain Hopkins's voice!"
(David Copperfield, ch.11)
* * *
(...) Yes [you can say: "When I walked by the streets, I wonder..."]
if you think to whom Dickens/David is
talking to and see the whole development of the sentence... Dickens starts
talking to us - and he describes: "as I walked to and fro, ... and
lounged about" - then he sees the stones. What he suffered becomes vivid,
becomes present - for anything I know - and suddenly he stops seeing us, he is
seeing just his kid-self who is present before him, and talks with himself
"I wonder how many" etc.
It is an example of psychological time
where syntax can follow strange ways. That Dickens let this sentence as it is
and did not conform to the Royal Book of Tenses, is one of the reasons he
wrote a great book.
It can also be very illuminating on how Dickens
worked. It is obvious that he let himself be absorbed by the story while he
was writing in a mode we'd call today "automatic" - after we removed
from it its shallowness, ignorance and light speed!
Just an opinion.
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