(I hope this isn't off topic, i'm really facing a problem in understanding it, please clear)

I was reading a story "The enemy" by Pearl S. Buck. There, what's happening is that a lady(Hana, Japanese) and his husband(Sadao, Japanese) carried a man(American, wounded) from a beach to their home. When they lifted him, author speaks:

He was very light, like a fowl that had been half-starved for a long time until it is only feathers and skeleton. So, his arms hanging.

I mean, i understood the English of it, but not the meaning. The american man is compared with a fowl here. In what sense? .....until it is only feathers and skeleton...Meaning of it. What is meaning by "So his arms hanging", hanging arms of a fowl? I mean what it is? please clear.

  • Both sentences are oddly phrased. Is the passage above translated from another language? Feb 2, 2018 at 10:05
  • No!...it is in English originally
    – Selena
    Feb 2, 2018 at 15:25
  • @MaxWilliams You haven't heard of Pearl S. Buck? Although she did live the first half of her life in China (as the daughter of missionaries) her writing was in English.
    – Barmar
    Feb 2, 2018 at 16:17
  • @Barmar i'm afraid I haven't. The phrasing is odd, you must admit - the first sentence switches from past to present tense and the second is very unidiomatic, even if it is formally correct (which I'm not even sure is the case). Feb 5, 2018 at 8:48

1 Answer 1


When you starve an animal they lose much of their body mass. A more common expression these days is "skin and bones", because there's very little muscle or fat retained after starvation. In the case of a bird, feathers cover the body, so this becomes "feathers and skeleton".

So she's saying that the man was so emaciated that he seemed like a fowl that had been starved and was in this condition.

His arms hanging doesn't seem to be related to the simile with the fowl, it's just another description of how weak he was, that he couldn't hold his arms up.

  • No words to explain, you cleared my doubt within a second. Thank you sir!..love from india
    – Selena
    Feb 2, 2018 at 15:26

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