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I can't understand what the sentence "You never came and you never went" is related to. Does it clarify the previous utterance or is it a new thought which says that the person has never been anywhere? The source is Eudora Welty's story called "A visit of charity".

Here is the context:

"Hush!” said the sick woman. “You never went to school. You never came and you never went. You never were anything—only here. You never were born! You don’t know anything. Your head is empty, your heart and hands and your old black purse are all empty—you showed it to me. And yet you talk, talk, talk, talk, talk all the time until I think I’m losing my mind! Who are you? You’re a stranger—a perfect stranger! Don’t you know you’re a stranger? Is it possible that they have actually done a thing like this to anyone—sent them in a stranger to talk, and rock, and tell away her whole long rigmarole? Do they seriously suppose that I’ll be able to keep it up, day in, day out, night in, night out, living in the same room with a terrible old woman forever?”

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    This seems to be more a Literature question than an English Language one. I've looked at a synopsis of the story and the speaker seems to be an elderly care home resident complaining about her over-talkative room-mate. Presumably she means that she knows nothing about the other woman's life before they were made to share a room. Aug 1, 2021 at 14:38
  • Well that’s an interesting question. I never knew that Eudora was a woman’s name. Always thought of it as just an old Mac Mail client. Oh, and don’t worry, this is in no respect standard English — some kind of regional language or dialect (there are other non-grammatical usages in the extract). I couldn’t analyse it myself.
    – David
    Aug 2, 2021 at 19:46
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    @David It is in every respect standard English.
    – Xanne
    Sep 3, 2021 at 1:31
  • It's obviously metaphorical. "You were never born" is not literal.
    – Stuart F
    Jan 1 at 1:25
  • @David You never heard of Eudora Welty before? Well, that's a shame!!
    – user405662
    Jan 1 at 4:22

2 Answers 2

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In the context provided, "You never came you never went." references the knowledge level of her roommate. The complaint against her roommate is that she speaks incessantly on matters she is ill equipped to comment on.

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    @M17 thank you! How would you paraphrase or rephrase that sentence? I'm not a native English speaker, so I think I might understand its meaning better if I got some more clarification through seeing a slightly changed version.
    – Marie Mit
    Aug 2, 2021 at 17:54
  • This phrase may also be a subtle reference to the phrase in the Bible "to go out and come in" which refers to a person's ability to fight in a war or to be a productive member of society. For example, in Joshua 14:11, Caleb says, "As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both to go out, and to come in" (emphasis mine).
    – RobJarvis
    Aug 2, 2021 at 20:25
  • @RobJarvis, what an interesting assumption! Thank you!
    – Marie Mit
    Aug 2, 2021 at 22:24
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You are welcome Maria.

The sentence is comprised of two incomplete thoughts.

"You never came and you never went."

To gain the full meaning of the sentence, more information is required.

The preceding sentence, "You never went to school." provides the missing subject, "school." "You never went to school. You never came and you never went." The context is provided when those two sentences are read together.

The tone of a voice tells the listener if the person is happy or sad when they say hello. The sentence punctuation and word syntax, tells the reader the feeling behind the words.

In this case, if only the first four sentences are read, the reader might conclude that a woman is scolding herself. By reading the entire paragraph, more information is given. There are two women, only one is speaking, and the first woman is insulting the second woman.

Please let me know if I can help further.

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  • “School” might not be the subject. Based on the litany of complaints that follows, the complaint about never coming or going might be more general, and more literal.
    – Lawrence
    Sep 3, 2021 at 5:05

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