I am reading a novel, and I did not understand one of the sentences in it. Following are two lines from the novel. The narrator is talking about a guy called Paul and her father.

They were once caught in a three-week rainstorm, my father said if you could spend three weeks in a wet tent with a man without killing him or having him kill you then he was a good man. Paul justified for him his own idea of the simple life; but for Paul, the anachronism was imposed, he'd never chosen it.

I did not understand the last sentence - Paul justified for him his own idea of the simple life; but for Paul, the anachronism was imposed, he'd never chosen it.

Could someone explain it to me? From the context, I think that it means - 'My father liked Paul's simple life, but for Paul it wasn't an option'.

  • 2
    This quotation is extremely odd. It contains punctuation errors, vague allusions, grammatically questionable structures, and puzzling, inconsistent internal references. I am actually more than baffled by the whole thing. Is this a translation of a work originally written in a language other than English (and very badly translated)? Can you assure us that the text is accurate? I don't see any way to answer your question without a much improved text. Apr 12, 2013 at 7:16
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    This means that the father already idealized "simple" living, and Paul's apparently simple lifestyle only affirmed his original feelings. Paul, however, seemingly didn't choose to live simply, and would perhaps have preferred a more ordinary (not simple) life. A link to the original, from Surfacing by Margaret Atwood: j.mp/17uCKxS
    – user13141
    Apr 12, 2013 at 7:20
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    @JohnM.Landsberg It seems once you sell a certain number of books, you can start using semi-colons and commas just exactly as you please. The grammar is hers, not OP's.
    – user13141
    Apr 12, 2013 at 7:26
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    @onomatomaniak Good lord, really?? This is actually how Atwood wrote this?? It's an execrable mess! Thanks for saving me from ever trying to read anything by Margaret Atwood. Apr 12, 2013 at 7:28
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    @PersianCat That's very true, but if that's the case then all the more reason to believe that the punctuation was a deliberate attempt to transcribe the way people spoke as she remembers it. This is not a scientific paper or annual report, it's creative writing. People don't converse in perfect sentences. I think it's sad that John Landsberg condemns it an 'execrable mess' without having read the full thing in context. I also can't imagine why his comment has received 2 votes for 'adding something to this post'.
    – Mynamite
    Apr 16, 2013 at 21:56

1 Answer 1


Here Paul is explaining why his idea of what a simple life means is justified.

Justify means to prove that something is right or reasonable.

It is usually used in terms of morality, for example you could shock someone by saying:

'Paul told his father that he would shoot Mr X in the head'

This would be murder, we all accept murder is morally wrong. However if we knew that Mr X was just about to do something extremely terrible like kill an entire bus full of children..

'after explaining the situation to his father, Paul justified for him why he would do such a thing'

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