I'm not sure who is stabbed and who is snarling here.

" Ralf launched himself like a cat; stabbed, snarling, with the spear, and the savage doubled up."

Thanks in advance

  • 2
    The guy who doubled up. Because he was stabbed. – Dan Bron Nov 14 '18 at 13:22
  • 2
    Ralf stabbed with the spear [while] snarling. – Kate Bunting Nov 14 '18 at 13:33
  • The use of that semicolon is ungrammatical. What follows it is not an independent clause nor is the semicolon being used to separate list items that contain commas. – Jason Bassford Nov 14 '18 at 16:59

It certainly could be more clearly said, but I would read this as the "savage" has been stabbed, resulting in their "doubling up." The actions "stabbed," and "snarling, with the spear," are a list of the things Ralf did after "launch(ing) himself like a cat."


This is a quote from Chapter 12 of the novel "Lord of the Flies" by William Golding.

Here's some context from about 3 paragraphs before your quote:

Ralph fastened his hands round the chewed spear and his hair fell. Someone was muttering, only a few yards away toward the Castle Rock. He heard a savage say "No!" in a shocked voice; and then there was suppressed laughter. He squatted back on his heels and showed his teeth at the wall of branches. He raise [sic] his spear, snarled a little, and waited.

Ralph attacks again at the time of your quote, about 3 paragraphs after this:

A smallish savage was standing between him and the rest of the forest, a savage striped red and white, and carrying a spear. He was coughing and smearing the paint about his eyes with the back of his hand as he tried to see through the increasing smoke. Ralph launched himself like a cat; stabbed, snarling, with the spear, and the savage doubled up.

We can parse the word snarling in the last sentence (which is also your quote) as a parenthetical, so that it's Ralph doing the stabbing with the spear, snarling as he does so.

  • It's a nice answer and all, nicely presented. But do we need it? It draws the same conclusion. For a dubiously-topical question. – Dan Bron Nov 15 '18 at 16:49
  • @DanBron Short answer: no. – Lawrence Nov 15 '18 at 16:56
  • Long answer: When I read the bare quote initially, I wasn't sure the sentence was well-formed. Then I wondered whether it was stabbing with the spear and (simultaneously) with the savage doubled up, whatever that meant. After I found out that it was a quote from a famous novel and got around to documenting this, I thought it was worth noting that the structure wasn't simply a list of 4 things post- semicolon as the other answer suggests. It was one action interrupted by a parenthetical and followed by the result. The OP didn't ask about the result, but the rest was interesting enough to note. – Lawrence Nov 15 '18 at 16:56
  • 1
    @Lawrence Thank you for clarifying in details. Appreciate it πŸ‘ŒπŸ‘ŒπŸ‘ŒπŸ‘ŒπŸ’πŸ’πŸ’ – FARLINGO Nov 15 '18 at 17:09

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