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Hi,

Following is from "A Tale of Two Cities" by Dickens.

The underlined "where corn should have been", does this mean "where there now is rye, but there must have been corn before" i.e. "I am sure that Rye replaced corn"

OR "the right thing was that corn be planted in this place, but for some reason, corn was not planted, but rye was planted there" i.e. the writer is blaming for not planting corn.

Which is the correct understanding?

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The water of the fountain ran‚ the swift river ran‚ the day ran into evening‚ so much life in the city ran into death according to rule‚ time and tide waited for no man‚ the rats were sleeping close together in their dark holes again‚ the Fancy Ball was lighted up at supper‚ all things ran their course.

Chapter VIII

Monseigneur in the Country

A BEAUTIFUL LANDSCAPE, with the corn bright in it, but not abundant. Patches of poor rye where corn should have been, patches of poor peas and beans, patches of most coarse vegetable substitutes for wheat. On inanimate nature, as on the men and women who cultivated it, a prevalent tendency towards an appearance of vegetating unwillingly—a dejected disposition to give up, and wither away.

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pructusThe underlined "where corn should have been", does this mean "where there now is rye, but there must have been corn before" i.e. "I am sure that Rye replaced corn"
OR "the right thing was that corn be planted in this place, but for some reason, corn was not planted, but rye was planted there" i.e. the writer is blaming for not planting corn.
Which is the correct understanding?
Rye bread (black or brown bread) was what the poor people ate in the times before modern agricultural practices (chemical fertilizers, weed and insect controls). Rye was a tough grass that grew in poor soils.

White bread was a luxury that could only be afforded by the wealthy. Wheat was harder to grow and required good soils. Corn was a new crop that probably required a lot of fertilizer and care, thus, even more a luxury than wheat.
He is saying that times were tough, perhaps the corn had been planted, but it did not survive and "poor rye" (not a lot, and not very productive plants) grew in its place. This fits with the description "a dejected disposition to give up, wither away and die."
Thanks a lot, AlpheccaStars!!

So, it comes to the conclusion that "should have been" allows of both interpretation, "guess" and "blaming" and this passage it is "guess"?

And the reason for this interpretaion comes from the context?

----->> On second thought, I feel this sentence should allow both interpretation, at the same time. It is guess and also some kind of blaming, too. Am I correct?
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There is no one to blame blame, except perhaps the weather.
Dickens does not imply that the people should have behaved differently and spent more time or care on their plantings. The crops just failed. It is a very pessimistic, dark tone in his writing.
Even the rats were sleeping close together, implying that a freeze or very cold weather might have been responsible.

There was a lot of disease, poverty, and hardship, so the average life expectancy in London during Dickens' time was low, less than 30 years.
By the way, don't take the word "corn" too literally. In Britain in Dickens's time and even later, corn could mean just about any kind of grain.

www.m-w.com

British : the grain of a cereal grass that is the primary crop of a region (as wheat in Britain and oats in Scotland and Ireland)

CJ
Thanks AlpheccaStars!!

This part is quite new to me, because until now, I've learned that "should have P.P." refers to "blaming". I had to let the new meaning that you explained(guessing) come through or put on top of what I already know, which is "should have P.P. is used to blame someone". So I've learned that "should have P.P." is used for both "guessing" and "blaming".

Thus, I applied my new knowledge on this passage and thought that this passage might allow for both understanding, guessing and blaming.
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Thanks, Calif!!

That is the knowledge that I would have never considered, if not mentioned by someone.
CalifJimBy the way, don't take the word "corn" too literally. In Britain in Dickens's time and even later, corn could mean just about any kind of grain.
Even today, the term "cornflakes" is used for any kind of boxed breakfast cereal - be it made of corn, rice, wheat, barley, oats, etc.
pructusI've learned that "should have P.P." refers to "blaming".
In this case, it only means that he expected corn to be there, not rye. It was something unexpected, due to unusual conditions.
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