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"I have learned that when a newborn baby holds, with its little hand, his father’s finger, it has trapped him for the rest of his life." - Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1927-2014)

The word 'him' here at the last clause refer to the baby or father?

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This is a translation of the original Spanish. You should look to the original to find out what pronouns are used and what they refer to. Otherwise you're talking about the translation. –  John Lawler Apr 18 at 5:01
    
@JohnLawler - sorry to be a pest, but if, in the above, it was stipulated that the baby was a boy (baby boy holds, with his little hand), could we be so certain that him/his life was the fathers? (NB I'm aware you're not saying this is the case.) I'm trying to look at this grammatically, and don't see this as cut-and-dry. Am I missing something? (Now I'll look at it in Spanish.) –  medica Apr 18 at 5:18
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Babies are problematic in English because their pronouns are gender-marked but they aren't. When presented with a new baby, generally I ask if the parents have decided on a name yet; that might give me a clue. In writing, it's much the same -- the language resources are simply poorly structured. Luckily, people slur over pronouns a lot, and they're clearly going away. In this situation, many English speakers would use their instead of his (however GGM might have put it in Spanish, which has a completely different set of pronouns with completely different rules). –  John Lawler Apr 18 at 16:03

2 Answers 2

Since the baby does the holding (trapping) the 'him' referred to is the father. Also the baby is referred to as 'it' in the phrase "its little hand". The baby (it) traps the father (him).

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Him refers to to the father. The subject of the clause is the baby and finger and father are the objects. This is the translator's ambiguity and not an English language quote by Marquez at all. This is from a poem called La Marioneta by a Mexican ventriloquist named Johnny Welch who passed the work off as that of Marquez in 2000. Here it is in Spanish where it is less ambiguous, but no more authentic:

He aprendido que cuando un recién nacido

aprieta con su pequeño puño,

por vez primera, el dedo de su padre,

lo tiene atrapado por siempre.

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Thanks. It seems that Marquez lift it from Johnny Welch then :-) prrb.ca/articles/issue08-marquez.html –  neversaint Apr 18 at 4:38
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