Little Women: Gapping and Wrapping
Posted by Neal on March 7, 2012
Two posts ago, I wrote about a right-node wrapping that I found in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. It was this:
At the door her sisters seized and bore her to the parlor in a triumphal procession.
An ordinary transitive verb (seized) and a transitive followed by a directional prepositional phrase (bore … to the parlor) are coordinated, and share a single direct object, her. The V+PP bore … to the parlor wraps around this direct object, giving rise to a syntactically non-parallel coordination that, if phrased in a parallel manner, would probably be written
…her sisters [seized her] and [bore her to the parlor in a triumphal procession].
Tonight I was reading aloud some more of Little Women, and it occurred to me that Alcott really seemed to like using another kind of non-parallel coordination that I’ve blogged about a few times: gapping. This is a coordination of two or more clauses that have the same verb, but different subjects, and different content following the verb. In this kind of coordination, some or all of the verb is simply left out, just like a shared subject or shared direct object might be omitted from a more typical coordination. You can find other examples in the other posts in the Gapping category; here’s what I was noticing in Chapter 8 of Little Women:
- Sitting on the floor with one boot on, Amy began to cry and Meg [began] to reason with her, when Laurie called from below, and the two girls hurried down, leaving their sister wailing.
- Meg flew to rescue Amy, and Beth [flew] to pacify Jo, but Jo was quite beside herself….
- Laurie had vanished round the bend, Jo was just at the turn, and Amy [was] far behind, striking out toward the smoother ice in the middle of the river.
Then, only a page or so after that last example (it’s hard to tell with the Kindle), I came to this sentence:
“She is not hurt, and won’t even take cold, I think, you were so sensible in covering and getting her home quickly,” replied her mother cheerfully.
I had to read that one twice. They covered her, and got her home. They didn’t cover her home and get her home. Wow — in one chapter, three cases of gapping, capped off with a right-node wrapping!