4

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?

  • 1
    It's talking about weaknesses, so the first version (without) fits the theme better. – Lawrence Mar 22 '17 at 8:37
  • 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 '17 at 9:22
  • 3
    @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. – Araucaria Mar 22 '17 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 '17 at 12:33
  • 1
    @Lawrence I had to sit down with a pen and pencil to work it out! :) – Araucaria Mar 22 '17 at 12:38
7

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

  • Prezackerly so +1 (was going to try and answer this question but was tying myself in knots ...) – Araucaria Mar 22 '17 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 '17 at 21:03

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