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Only, she began to be afraid of the ghastly white tombstones, that peculiar loathsome whiteness of carrara marble, detestable as false teeth, which stuck up on the hillside under tevershall church, and which she saw with such grim painfulness from the park.

  • Where's this from? It could do with some punctuation IMO including a comma before that. The word is introducing a clause that describes the white tombstones just mentioned. – Rupe Jul 4 '14 at 9:47
  • Just your usual determiner. Nothing special. Used that way in a great many languages, too. – RegDwigнt Jul 4 '14 at 12:51
  • From Lady Chatterley's Lover, by D.H. Lawrence. The only grammatical question I see is whether it should be that or those. – Peter Shor Jul 4 '14 at 12:52
  • I bet you’re having trouble with understanding the actual syntax involved here, which is one of nouns in apposition. – tchrist Jul 4 '14 at 14:14
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    @Barmar It's a demonstrative determiner; as such, it has no antecedent and must agree in number with the noun it determines. Whiteness, the head noun, is singular; therefore that must be singular also. The fact that multiple tombstones are being described as one whiteness is not really strange to me. Just consider it a semi-elliptical way of saying “that loathsome expanse of white marble”. Similarly, a communist might well speak of “the workers, that most noble and worthy class of people” vel sim. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 5 '14 at 10:03
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It isn't a clause connector, it's more of a reference on the feeling which the marble colouring brings.

Eg.

That feeling you get when you hear a sound in your house in the middle of the night.

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In the cited excerpt, the author adjusts the focus of the narrative in midsentence, from "the ghastly white tombstones" to "that peculiar loathsome whiteness" of the marble from which the tombstones are carved. The substance of the sentence wouldn't change if we reworded the first part of the sentence as follows:

Only, she began to be afraid of the ghastly white tombstones, and in particular of the peculiar loathsome whiteness of the carrara marble...

Presumably the author has opted to use that instead of the in the original version of the sentence in order to emphasize a familiarity with the "peculiar loathsome whiteness" that has captured the narrator's (and the character's) attention.

As Janus Bahs Jacquet's comment above explains, the that attaches forward to the later singular noun that it modifies ("whiteness") rather than backward to the earlier plural noun ("tombstones") that immediately precedes it. For this reason, that (not those) is the correct demonstrative determiner to use, given that the author had chosen to use such a determiner instead of using a simple definite article ("the").

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