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In Atticus's closing speech he argues:

“Which, gentlemen, we know is in itself a lie as black as Tom Robinson’s skin, a lie I do not have to point out to you. You know the truth, and the truth is this: some Negroes lie, some Negroes are immoral, some Negro men are not to be trusted around women—black or white. But this is a truth that applies to the human race and to no particular race of men. There is not a person in this courtroom who has never told a lie, who has never done an immoral thing, and there is no man living who has never looked upon a woman without desire.

Should the last sentence end with:

"... and there is no man living who has never looked upon a woman without desire.

OR

"... and there is no man living who has never looked upon a woman with desire.

I have two copies of "To Kill a Mockingbird". One book has the first line, the other has the second line.

I would like to know which sentence would make most sense in this context. Which one is correct?

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  • 1
    It's talking about weaknesses, so the first version (without) fits the theme better.
    – Lawrence
    Mar 22, 2017 at 8:37
  • 1
    Could it be argued that a double negative turns into a positive and therefore (no man who has never =) all men "looked upon a woman with desire"?
    – cdek
    Mar 22, 2017 at 9:22
  • 5
    @Lawrence Hmmm. The point that Atticus is making is that all men at some point have looked at a woman with desire. In other words there is nothing strange about the defendant regarding a woman just because he is black. So it's definitely with that's required here - I think. Mar 22, 2017 at 11:51
  • 1
    @cdek Out of curiosity, do your different versions have any difference in copyright? In edition? Can you tell which one is more original?
    – rajah9
    Mar 22, 2017 at 12:33
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    @Lawrence I had to sit down with a pen and pencil to work it out! :) Mar 22, 2017 at 12:38

2 Answers 2

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If we parse from the right beginning with "has never looked at a woman with/without desire" and apply it to an individual man, call him Mark, then

Mark has never looked at a woman without desire

means that Mark desires every woman he sees.

Mark has never looked upon a woman with desire

means that Mark is not attracted to women.

The left part of the sentence "there is no man living who" tells us that "Mark" does not exist.

So either Atticus is saying there is no man who is a total nymphomaniac, desiring every woman he ever sees (the "without" meaning); or Atticus is saying there is no man who is un-attracted to at least one woman(the "with" meaning).

Neither of these really make his point. So parsing from the left is the only way to make a meaningful expression, and this is probably the most natural way to do it anyway.

"There is no man living who has never" is identical to "every man living has, at least once". in most cases men look upon some women with desire and others without. Every man has looked at a woman without desiring her. Every man has looked at a woman with desire. However, only "with" makes the point Atticus was making. Every man has, at some point, looked upon a woman with desire.

The correct version is

and there is no man living who has never looked upon a woman with desire.

but in rhetoric, as opposed to logic, both ways would be understood.

The phrasing is probably based on Matthew ch5 v28

But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart

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  • Prezackerly so +1 (was going to try and answer this question but was tying myself in knots ...) Mar 22, 2017 at 12:39
  • Thank you for your detailed answer. I would have sworn that it had to be 'without', but after a lot of pondering, it seems that 'with' makes most sense.
    – cdek
    Mar 22, 2017 at 21:03
  • So either Atticus is saying there is no man who is a total nymphomaniac is an unusual use of nymphomaniac. Jan 11, 2023 at 11:50
  • A tour de force +1
    – Greybeard
    Jan 11, 2023 at 14:53
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    Even parsing from the left, Atticus is of course wrong: there are plenty of men who have never looked at a woman with desire. Apart from the many gay and asexual men who have looked upon women, but never with desire (and who, admittedly, were much less likely to be at the forefront of readers’ and jurors’ minds in 1960 than they would be now), there are also many blind men who have never looked upon a woman full stop! Apr 27, 2023 at 11:11
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I don’t want to pick on anyone in particular, but for clarity’s sake, I have to point out that Lawrence has it backwards. With the “without” version, what Atticus says can be expressed as

~ ∃ x (M x · ~ ∃ t ∃ y [W y · ~ L x y t])

where

M x means x is a living man;

W y means y is a woman;

L a b t means that a looks on b with desire at time t.

If we minimize the scope of the negations, that expression becomes:

∀ x (~ M x ∨ ∃ t ∃ y [W y · ~ L x y t])

or

For any entity, either that entity is not a living man, or there’s some time when there’s some woman whom that entity (man) does not look on with desire

which is true, but, judging from the context in the novel, is not what Atticus meant. I suggest that the “without” was to begin with a typo.

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  • Have you read all the comments? Lawrence said 'I stand corrected' six years ago (four hours after the comment you are responding to).
    – jsw29
    Jul 5, 2023 at 15:18

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