General Writing and Grammar Help/A strange writing.

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Question
Dear Ted,

It's been a long time. Happy New Year!

There is a sentence:

To them the task seemed inevitable and satisfying and they were devoted to it for more than a century and this in spite of coming from missionary stock.

…and this in spite of coming from missionary stock.

I feel the writing is strange. Here what does "this" mean?  Please tell me. Thanks!

Best Wishes,

Walden

Answer
Dear Walden:

It's been a long time. Happy New Year!

*** It HAS been a long time.  I have missed receiving your questions/messages.

There is a sentence:

To them the task seemed inevitable and satisfying and they were devoted to it for more than a century and this in spite of coming from missionary stock.

…and this in spite of coming from missionary stock.

I feel the writing is strange. Here what does "this" mean?  Please tell me. Thanks!

*** I am surprised that Pearl Buck wrote such an ambiguous sentence.  She used "this" to refer to everything that happened during the fifty years.  In other words, they were missionaries and came from missionary backgrounds.  One would suppose that they were not be able to perform "the task."  However, her statement indicates that they WERE ABLE to complete "the task"

Ted

General Writing and Grammar Help

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Ted Nesbitt

Expertise

I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.

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I have been one of the highest-ranked volunteers in this category for more than a decade.

Education/Credentials
B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

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