non-native English speaker here. I'm here to ask about some words that really confuse me. It comes from 1984 by George Orwell. The line is here:

Down in the street little eddies of wind were whirling dust and torn paper into spirals, and though the sun was shining and the sky a harsh blue, there seemed to be no colour in anything, except the posters that were plastered everywhere.

The definition of 'tear' is here: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/tear

The definition of 'spiral' is here: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/spiral

1984 is here: http://www.george-orwell.org/1984/0.html

Alright, it's impossible that wind would have any way to make paper into spirals. So actually it means some pieces of paper were spinning around like spirals.

The question is, why Orwell would use wind's tearing? Does it contain any idiom usage, or just literature usage? How could I understand this sentence in native? Any discussion appreciated.

  • 2
    The paper is not torn into spirals. The torn paper is whirled into spirals. Does that help?
    – oerkelens
    Aug 25 '18 at 14:03
  • @oerkelens 1. There were pieces of paper as if they were torn by wind (actually nobody knew and it didn't matter). 2. With the wind, those pieces were whirled into spirals. Do I get it? Anyway thanks a lot!
    – Zoe Desvl
    Aug 25 '18 at 14:15
  • 1
    @ZoeDesvl: no, the paper was already torn before the wind did anything to it.
    – Colin Fine
    Aug 25 '18 at 14:21
  • @ColinFine Oops, seems like I made some big mistake. 'Torn' here is just a adjective instead of verb. Accordingly, it should be, dust as well as paper that was torn already were whirled by eddies of wind. Is it correct this time?
    – Zoe Desvl
    Aug 25 '18 at 14:27
  • I misunderstood the structure of this sentence, so that I was confused.
    – Zoe Desvl
    Aug 25 '18 at 14:29

See this usage:

1947 Indiana (Pa.) Evening Gaz. 21 OED

Confetti and torn paper blizzarded down on 2,000 American Navy men today as they marched through Sydney's streets.

In this example, torn is used as an adjective.

torn adj OED

a. Rent or riven by being pulled violently asunder; wearing torn garments.

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