This is an excerpt from The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells. I can’t understand the italicized part. The excerpt follows:

His irritability, though it might have been comprehensible to an urban brain-worker, was an amazing thing to these quiet Sussex villagers. The frantic gesticulations they surprised now and then, the headlong pace after nightfall that swept him upon them round quiet corners, the inhuman bludgeoning of all tentative advances of curiosity, the taste for twilight that led to the closing of doors, the pulling down of blinds, the extinction of candles and lamps— who could agree with such goings on?

2 Answers 2


For the grammatical resolution read it from the back:

who could agree with

  • frantic gesticulations..
  • pace after nightfall ..
  • bludgeoning of .. advances ..
  • taste for twilight..
  • ..

For the semantics: the headlong pace after nightfall that swept him upon them round quiet corners means that he paced in the dark and came around quiet corners, head first.

To me the slightly weirder part is the use of surprise, which is used not on a person but on 'gesticulations'..

  • The online Merriam-Webster gives the following sub-definition of surprise: 2 b : to detect or elicit by a taking unawares <sometimes surprised a tragic shadow in her eyes — Willa Cather>
    – Erik Kowal
    Nov 1, 2014 at 11:14
  • Yes. Maybe 'weird' is a bit too strong, but to my (German) ears it sounded at least unusual.
    – TaW
    Nov 1, 2014 at 11:17

I think it is a parallel fronting construction. The first occurence is “The frantic gesticulations they suprised now and then”, where you see the object moved forward. The italicized part just omits the predicate “suprised”.

  • Could you make it a bit more clear or write the sentence in plain English? Nov 1, 2014 at 6:52
  • Plainly speaking, they surprised frantic gesticulations, the headlong pace, the inhuman bludgeoning, etc.
    – Artyom
    Nov 1, 2014 at 11:43

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.