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I was reading a novel, and came across a couple of sentences which I couldn't really get the meaning of. The particular sentences are marked in bold, and I've added some background, for the context.

Background-

“Elle, are you all right?”

“I’m fine.”

“You’re not acting fine.”

I turned my face to let water splash on it. “My father just died, Dan,and I went on a bender. How fine do you think I am?”

He rubbed my back. “Okay, I get it. Ask a stupid question—”

“Exactly.” I wasn’t up to verbal sparring.

Context-

There was to be a funeral, of course, and a gathering at the house, after. The perfect theater for my drama-queen mother to parade her grief in front of friends and family. I didn’t begrudge her, really. She’d never been a perfect mother or wife, and I had my issues with her, but she had been married to the man, after all. She’d chosen to stay with him. She’d earned her martyr’s crown.

Considering my father’s body had enough alcohol in it to keep him pickled for a year, she nonetheless wasted no time in setting it all up. If she couldn’t wait to get him into the ground, I don’t suppose I can blame her. I understood that urgency, that sense of having to always get the worst out of the way so as to move on to something else. I’d learned it from her.

So, the sentences in question are-

Considering my father’s body had enough alcohol in it to keep him pickled for a year, she nonetheless wasted no time in setting it all up. If she couldn’t wait to get him into the ground, I don’t suppose I can blame her.

Now, I found the most accurate definition of "pickled" in this context from this Merriam-Webster link which says-

pickled adjective

preserved with salt water or vinegar

very drunk or intoxicated

There are some related sentences where "pickled" is used in this conext-

Examples of PICKLED

He got pickled at the office party.

I must have been rather pickled when I agreed to your stupid scheme.

From the above description, it is clear that "pickled" in the sentence in question is intended to mean "drunk". Am I correct in this assessment?

If yes, my question is the next part of the sentence, which says-

she nonetheless wasted no time in setting it all up

Considering that her father had enough alcohol in him to keep him pickled(read: drunk) for a year, what was set up? My first thought was the setting-up of a casket, and/or other funeral setting, but this doesn't sit well with the first part of the sentence.

My last question is the first part of the next sentence-

If she couldn’t wait to get him into the ground

What does this mean? Is it supposed to mean something on the lines of- she wanted to be over with the funeral as soon as possible?

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1  
"Setting it all up": she got the funeral arrangements done very quickly. The commenter makes the sarcastic remark that such haste was not needed since the body would not decay quickly due to the amount of alcohol it contained - pickled as in "preserved". So she wanted to get the alcoholic father interred as soon as possible to get on with her life and stop thinking about him –  mplungjan Jul 30 at 13:14
3  
Here's my interpretation..."Pickled": he had a lot of alcohol in him when he died. "Setting it all up": Arranging for the funeral and hosting the family at the house afterwards. "...get him in the ground": Get him buried so she could move on with her life. –  Kristina Lopez Jul 30 at 13:15
    
Your interpretations are all correct. This is pretty normal colloquial conversational English. –  John Lawler Jul 30 at 14:12

1 Answer 1

up vote 1 down vote accepted

The narrator is suggesting that her father drank enough alcohol that his corpse could remain indefinitely preserved, just like a pickle --a darkly humorous exaggeration. Given this state of affairs, she suggests that there is no rush to have a funeral --the body will not decompose.

Nevertheless, her mother has held the funeral at the first possible opportunity, which the narrator thinks is both a sign of her eagerness to be the center of attention as the long-suffering widow, and a mark of how much a relief it is to finally be rid of her alcoholic husband.

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