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I'm having trouble understanding the following paragraph from Thomas Hardy's "Return of the Native." Using this as an example, what tricks and methods might help me simplify complex passages like this and expose the meaning?

Could Thomasin's mournfulness now and Eustacia's serenity during life have been reduced to common measure, they would have touched the same mark nearly. But Thomasin's former brightness made shadow of that which in a sombre atmosphere was light itself.

  • You probably need to read the entire essay again. – Hot Licks Feb 19 at 21:21
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    This may be better for the Literature SE, which deals more with literary interpretation. If you post there, it would also help to explain what you think it means, and identify what parts you feel are confusing or ambiguous. Otherwise it's hard to know exactly where to start! – TaliesinMerlin Feb 19 at 21:21
  • books.google.com/… – Hot Licks Feb 19 at 21:22
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    Hardy's prose is really dense and hard to navigate. I congratulate you for jumping right in, but be prepared for some very tough sledding. – Robusto Feb 19 at 21:42
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because explaining arbitrary passages, especially when the goal is not specified, is not what ELU is for. If a grammatical construction or meaning of a particular vocabulary item is pointed out, some attempt at understanding should be given in the question. – Mitch Feb 20 at 16:31
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Could Thomasin's mournfulness now and Eustacia's serenity during life have been reduced to common measure, they would have touched the same mark nearly. But Thomasin's former brightness made shadow of that which in a sombre atmosphere was light itself.

If {Thomasin's mournfulness now} and {Eustacia's serenity when she was alive} could have been converted into the same units of measurement, they would have almost reached the same level as each other. But Thomasin's earlier brightness caused any brightness that existed in this sombre atmosphere to seem to be nothing more than a shadow.

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  • Nice! If Shakespeare can be “translated” into modern English, can Hardy be that far behind? – Global Charm Feb 21 at 8:50

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