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I'm reading The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead and found this part is difficult to understand.

The scene is like this. Lila Mae is an elevator inspector. While she was returning to Headquater she heard the news from the radio that the elevator of Briggs building which she had inspected yesterday fell. Now she arrived the guild and Chancre, Chairman of the elevator inspector's guild is holding a press conference at the entrance of the HQ.

She(Lila Mae) doesn’t have a plan yet, figures she has at least until the press conference is over before she has to meet Chancre, and that much time to get her story straight. Unfortunately, Lila Mae realizes, she turned in her inspection report on the Briggs building yesterday afternoon, and even if she could think of a way to sneak into Processing, past Miss Bally and her girls, they would have already removed it. As evidence. How long before they pull in Internal Affairs, if they haven’t already?

I wonder what "pull in" means here.

2 Answers 2

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In this context you could replace pull in with

How long before they call in / bring in Internal Affairs, if they haven’t already?

pull in (v.)

To involve someone in an activity or situation. Used chiefly in the passive: I got pulled into the scam because I thought I was going to make money. AHD credited at The Free Farlex Dictionary

I would note that page defining pull in at the online ADH does not include the above definition and has just the related

To obtain, earn, or secure: How much money does he pull in? She pulled in half of the opponent's supporters. AHD

Although some dictionaries document pull in meaning to arrest, to restrain, and to earn (among other meanings), only one of the few I checked had the, neutral sense of involve, bring in.

BTW, I enjoyed the book.


The idea is to move across between those buildings as quickly as the flames die down, to sever the enemy line. That happens, we can pull in more troops to try and roll them up." Rick Shelly; Lieutenant (2011)

The Mad Dogs will pull in reinforcements, and the police will pull in reinforcements, and we'll have another shoot-out. Mirah Bolender; Fortress of Magi (2021)

A provider does not need to become the expert in all areas, but can instead pull in an expert, or use a facility with on-site expertise. R. Dealey and M. Evans; Discovering Theory in Clinical Practice (2020)

The ability to project a personal image of a productive and influential scholar, or a "high producer" ... opened up more opportunities for becoming an important node in scholarly networks, and made it easier for a researcher to pull in additional human and financial resources from across the home institution, as well as from other institutions. A. Oleksiyenko; Academic Collaboration in the Global Marketplace (2019)

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To "pull in" someone (or two or more people) is to involve them in a situation. To pull, in this instance, is to invite others into an investigation of the occurrence involving the elevator Lila Mae inspected.

You can assume that pulling in Internal Affairs would perhaps endanger Lil Mae's employment with the elevator company, because internal-affairs departments within a company investigate suspected incompetence (or even malfeasance) of an employee, which could lead to the employee being dismissed (i.e., fired, sacked, let go).

By the way, the "pulling in" does not involve (necessarily!) physically grasping a person or persons and dragging them into an investigation. To pull in is metaphorical and maybe even metonymic, in that "to pull in" is a metonymy for inviting or involving someone to take part in--in this case--an investigation.

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  • Can you cite (another) dictionay definition for pull someone in? I had difficulty finding one.
    – DjinTonic
    Commented Feb 26, 2022 at 15:29
  • @DjinTonic: Pull into (See the McGraw-Hill definition).
    – Justin
    Commented Feb 26, 2022 at 15:49
  • 1
    @Justin Thank you.
    – DjinTonic
    Commented Feb 26, 2022 at 15:55

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