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In The Open Boat by Stephen Crane I stumbled across the following:

[The] captain gently and carefully waved the gull away. After it had been discouraged from the pursuit the captain breathed easier on account of his hair, and others breathed easier because the bird struck their minds at this time as being somewhow grewsome [sic] and ominous.

In the meantime the oiler and the correspondent rowed. And also they rowed.

They sat together in the same seat, and each rowed an oar. Then the oiler took both oars; then the correspondent took both oars; then the oiler; then the correspondent. They rowed and they rowed.

Although Crane likes semantic redundancies to heighten drama, whichever way I turn this simple (2nd) phrase, since there are no other people they could possibly refer to, it does not make sense to me. Can anyone help?

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  • If you are asking if you should ever use that structure, no don't. Starting a sentence with And has dramatic shock value, very effective if used rarely (as a spice is used judiciously). What Crane means, who knows. Maybe the first mention of rowed is code for something, and he needs to state that they actually rowed the boat. Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 21:22
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    'In the meantime' indicates prior context you haven't mentioned: is there a possible antecedent here? It wouldn't be good style, though. Perhaps one of the rowed's is the 'argued violently' homograph. Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 21:51
  • @EdwinAshworth - Outstanding idea. Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 21:56
  • I would be inclined to agree with @EdwinAshworth, however the one other explanation I can think of is that it may simply be repetition to emphasize how long they rowed for; "in the meantime" implies they are waiting for something which may or may not be taking a very long time.
    – Cameron
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 22:00
  • @Cameron I don't think that "[They] rowed. And also they rowed.” can be considered a variant of "[They] rowed. And they rowed.” Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 22:05

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Perhaps, they engaged in a row (had a quarrel) while they were rowing.

in the meantime: M-W while something else is being done or was being done.

row (intransitive verb): M-W to engage in a row : have a quarrel

OR

As the OP says, "the two rowers of the four shipwrecked in the boat were indeed rowing while one of the other two kept trying to knock away a seagull."Then the repetition of 'rowed' can be a deliberate use of the literary device 'epistrophe' or 'epiphora' (Wikipedia) to create a dramatic effect.

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