Question re. Ethan Frome

Reply Sat 11 Jul, 2015 04:51 pm
Hi everyone, I just finished Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton and I have a question about a line near the end of the book. I've put the particular part that's giving me trouble in bold. The line is spoken by Miss Hale.

"Yes: it's pretty bad. And they ain't any of 'em easy people either. Mattie was, before the accident; I never knew a sweeter nature. But she's suffered too much—that's what I always say when folks tell me how she's soured. And Zeena, she was always cranky. Not but what she bears with Mattie wonderful—I've seen that myself. But sometimes the two of them get going at each other, and then Ethan's face'd break your heart..."

I've read this line about 10 times now, but I can't quite understand what she means by it. For more context, here's the full text of Ethan Frome: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/4517/4517-h/4517-h.htm
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View best answer, chosen by jbphilouza
Reply Sat 11 Jul, 2015 05:38 pm
Wharton means Zeena generally deals with Mattie's sourness kindly and without becoming bad tempered.

"bear" is a verb in this sentence, and here means to accept, tolerate or endure something, usually unpleasant.

So Zeena endures Mattie's sourness well.

Reply Sat 11 Jul, 2015 05:49 pm
Thanks dlowan. That was my interpretation too, I guess what I'm really asking is why the sentence is structured as it is. In the prologue, Wharton says she wanted to capture the local vernacular, but I'm having trouble seeing the grammatical "logic" behind the sentence. Any ideas?
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Reply Sat 11 Jul, 2015 07:37 pm
Not but what she bears with Mattie wonderful.

Logic? In ENGLISH?

I guess it just needs to be accepted as vernacular and older English to boot.

She bears with Mattie wonderful is clear now, no?
Correct English would say wonderfully.

Not but what refers back to the previous mention of Zeena having been a cranky...ie irritable...woman and forward to the face that Zeena DOES run out of patience with Mattie sometimes.

"She was always cranky, but notwithstanding that, she puts up with Mattie's sourness wonderfully but sometimes her patience wears thin and she and Mattie fight with each other, which upsets Ethan terribly" is probably the best rendering of the passageI can give you.

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