Jewel, the one she labored so to bear and coddled and petted so and him flinging into tantrums or sulking spells, inventing devilment to devil her until I would have frailed him time and time.

As I lay dying, William Faulkner (1897–1962), pub Jonathan Cape 1930

What's the literal (or figurative) meaning of "until I would have frailed him"?


1 Answer 1


My 1957 Random House edition reads frailed not trailed. I'm pretty sure the speaker, Cora, is saying that she would have given Jewel a whipping on many occasions for all of his "devilment" [using some sort or rod or cane: a "frail" is a "flail", a farm tool with a short stick or rod swinging from it].

  • It's in The Faulkner Glossary exactly as you say. Oct 4 at 12:29
  • @Flumblefingers I very much appreciate your help. I have read those words. But I didn't know the correct word is frail not trail. I have one another question. If you could answer I really appreciate it. Isn't the word frail an adjective? If so, how is it used as a verb?
    – Soroush Gh
    Oct 4 at 22:47
  • It is the past participle of the verb to frail. "I would have frailed (would have thrashed/whipped) him. Compare I would have caned him or I would have whipped him where the verb is formed from the nouns cane and whip.
    – TimR
    Oct 4 at 23:30
  • @TimR thank you again.
    – Soroush Gh
    Oct 4 at 23:30

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