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I have a sentence like this:

But every now and then, I longed to search for a tender stalk of arrowroot, to feel the tease of a mango, just out of reach.

Is the mango out of reach or are the two things (to search for a tender stalk of arrowroot, and to feel the tease of a mango) out of reach?

The sentence is from a book which is about a gorilla captured by humans when he was a baby and living a human-like life. The preceding sentence is "I liked having sips of soda poured into my mouth like bubbling waterfall." And there is no sentence after it. Maybe it's the two things out of reach because the gorilla misses his life in jungle but cannot go back again.

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    I don't think it is possible to answer this without asking the writer. – Colin Fine Nov 2 '13 at 8:05
  • If the modifying phrase 'just out of reach' was intended to apply solely to the 'mango', I think that there should be no comma after 'mango', or that the comma after 'arrowroot' should be strengthened to a dash. The sentence is semantically strained in any case – perhaps one can long to undertake a search, but I'm not happy about 'longing to feel the tease' of something – this sounds tautologous. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 2 '13 at 9:27
  • You might want to give some additional information in here, in order to make this question clearer. If the sentence is derived from some text with several sentences, that'll be great if you put the preceding sentences (and the following ones) that might help the readers to understand that single sentence. – Safira Nov 2 '13 at 13:03
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    When I read it, it tells me that the gorilla has a desire to search for arrowroot (to eat), and to feel teased by the presence of a mango which it cannot actually reach because it is inaccessible, so it's the mango that's out of reach, not the arrowroot. although technically, in its circumstances, both are pipe dreams, of course. – bamboo Nov 2 '13 at 15:38
  • @bamboo: a desire to feel teased? Aren't animal drives rather more basic? – Edwin Ashworth Nov 2 '13 at 16:30
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With the context of the previous sentence:

I liked having sips of soda poured into my mouth like bubbling waterfall. But every now and then, I longed to search for a tender stalk of arrowroot, to feel the tease of a mango, just out of reach.

The specific meaning of "reach" is that the gorilla longs to feel the tease of a mango just out of reach. The comma appears to be extraneous and is the cause of the confusion.

The meaning of the entire sentence is that the gorilla's life is very easy and, even though he likes having luxuries such as soda, it sometimes longs for a life where he has to work for his food (e.g. searching for roots) or where he doesn't always get what he wants (e.g. an out of reach mango.)

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But every now and then, I longed to search for a tender stalk of arrowroot, to feel the tease of a mango, just out of reach.

It's like this:

But every now and then, I longed to search for heaven, to experience eternal life, just out of reach.

Now, which is out of reach, the heaven or the eternal life? Eternal life is the result when you go to heaven. It is the heaven that you search for, therefore it is the one that is out of reach for you.

I hope I answered your question correctly. I read the comments and they all make sense. However, I am just giving you my own understanding. I hope I make sense.

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