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From Gone with the Wind, Chapter 16, by Margaret Mitchell, 1936:

Against no one was feeling more bitter than against Rhett Butler.

I understand what it means, but I don't understand how this sentence works grammatically. I am confused about what the subject and object of this sentence are.

To me, it seems like either the object or the subject is missing. Is the "one" in this case referring to Butler or to the people feeling bitter?

Is this just a rare type of grammatical construction, or is there something I'm missing?

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    The subject is the noun "feeling". – Mark Beadles May 9 '17 at 17:46
  • What @Mark said. To paraphrase the original: The feeling against Rhett Butler was more bitter than any feelings against anyone else. – FumbleFingers May 9 '17 at 18:05
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    @Lambie It's from the book, not from the movie. And it's no mistake, according to all online sources. – michael.hor257k May 9 '17 at 18:20
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    Welcome, @Redinkeydonkey, I'm new here myself. It helps to link to your source, so people can read the sentence you need help with in context. Also, not everyone here is American, so it can help to cite the source of the sentence more fullly. – user227547 May 9 '17 at 18:50
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    @Palizsche I wasn't aware that the book was publicly available, and I also thought the sentences around it weren't actually relevant for this question. Thanks for the tips, next time I'll provide more context. – Redinkeydonkey May 9 '17 at 21:07
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It's easier to understand in context (emphasis and comments are mine):

It was a situation made to order for speculators and profiteers, and men were not lacking to take advantage of it. As food and clothing grew scarcer and prices rose higher and higher, the public outcry against the speculators grew louder and more venomous. In those early days of 1864, no newspaper could be opened that did not carry scathing editorials denouncing the speculators as vultures and bloodsucking leeches and calling upon the government to put them down with a hard hand. The government did its best, but the efforts came to nothing, for the government was harried by many things.

Against no one was [this] feeling more bitter than against Rhett Butler. He had sold his boats when blockading grew too hazardous, and he was now openly engaged in food speculation.

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    Wow, I didn't even consider that feeling acts as a noun here. Can the "this" really be omitted here? – Redinkeydonkey May 9 '17 at 21:09
  • It sounds a little archaic without at least "the" in place, but the book is from 1936. – michael.hor257k May 9 '17 at 21:24
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    Right. In modern times, we might be more likely to use 'feelings' in the plural: "Against no one were feelings more bitter than against Rhett Butler." sounds more natural now. – Mark Beadles May 9 '17 at 22:57
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    Try replacing with "frustration," and then it sounds fine: "Against no one was frustration more bitter than against etc." – aparente001 May 10 '17 at 5:45
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With some context it's a bit easier to make sense of the original example:

The public outcry against the speculators grew louder and more venomous.[...] Against no one was feeling more bitter than against Rhett Butler.

The subject of the bolded clause is the noun phrase feeling which refers to the public sentiment. The structure of the sentence is complicated by the fronting of the negative adjunct (read 'adverbial') Against no-one.

Because this negative adjunct has the effect of negating the whole sentence, it causes compulsory subject-auxiliary inversion. For this reason we see the Subject feeling occurring after the verb was instead of before it:

  • Against no one was feeling more bitter than against Rhett Butler.

We can compare this with the ungrammatical example below:

  • *Against no one feeling was more bitter than against Rhett Butler.

Of course, because the noun feeling has an -ing ending, it's occurrence after the verb was makes it look a bit like it's part of a past continuous construction, and this makes the sentence a bit more difficult to intuitively analyse.

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    Yes, your last sentence describes the mistake I made reading that passage. – Redinkeydonkey May 10 '17 at 13:01
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    @Redinkeydonkey Yes, it's quite a finicky sentence. – Araucaria - Not here any more. May 10 '17 at 13:07

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