“She and Candide were destined to be together in both their eyes.”

My student is referring here to Cunégonde, the lovely aristocratic inamorata of the eponymous character in Voltaire’s extraordinary satire Candide. They carom around the globe like balls on a warped billiards table, meeting, glancing off each other, spinning away, colliding…. Their adventures are bizarre and darkly hilarious; and, yes, through it all, Candide longs for Cunégonde and Cunégonde knows she loves Candide.

In Candide’s eyes—”eyes” in the sense of “view,” or “belief,” or “opinion”—Cunégonde is his destiny. In Cunégonde’s eyes—again, “eyes” in the sense of “view” etc.—Candide is her destiny.

So what’s so wrong with my student’s sentence?

First of all we have an unfortunately placed adverbial prepositional phrase. Moved to the beginning of the sentence, “in both their eyes” would more clearly modify the sentence as a whole via its verb “were destined”: in their opinions, they were destined to be together. At the end of the sentence, though, the phrase can seem to be answering “where?” about “be together,” just as “in Peoria” would work in the sentence “She and Harold were destined to be together in Peoria.” They are destined to be together in their eyes. If such a thing is possible. Eeuuw.

And then we have that unlikely but very real student-writing Waterloo, “both.” Students stick it in all sorts of places in all sorts of sentences, trying to signify a unanimity of purpose, feeling, experience, or what-have-you. Most often they wind up suggesting collaboration or conjunction where there is none and never was any. I could give examples here, but the examples I have are interesting in their own right and deserve separate treatment. Something to look forward to!

Meanwhile, the fact that most eyes come in sets of two adds further confusion to the phrase “in both their eyes.” Do they have only two together, as the Fates shared but one when they wanted to see the future? In Candide, two one-eyed lovers would be no more surprising than the Old Woman With One Buttock. Voltaire may have missed a really good idea there….

Les yeux (tous les deux) de Voltaire

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About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

4 responses to ““She and Candide were destined to be together in both their eyes.”

  • englishteacherconfessions

    I just laughed out loud at your last paragraph.

  • philosophermouseofthehedge

    Once again, rolling on the floor. Thanks for the chuckles

  • sohila zadran

    Hmm it appears like your blog ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I submitted and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I as well am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still new to everything. Do you have any tips for newbie blog writers? I’d really appreciate it.

    • RAB

      I’m sorry your first comment was lost–thanks for this one! As for your question: I’ve read a lot of other people’s blogs now, and the most amazing thing is the perhaps-infinite variety. People are so interesting! I know that’s a wishy-washy word, but it’s the best I can come up with. Maybe I should say instead, so beautiful! For my own blog, I have a clear idea of what I want to do, and why–I wrote the “About” page first, to help me work that out for myself. And then I just think of one of the interested and interesting people I know, and write as if talking to that person. That guarantees that I’ll enjoy writing the entry and maybe others will enjoy reading it. Gradually you will attract readers, and gradually they will start writing engaging comments. Your blog will take more and more of your time, but you will feel it’s time very well spent. Thanks for your appreciation!

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