Past Simple vs. Past Perfect

This is an extract from a book called On the Beach by Nevil Shute:

'Yes, sir.' Peter had met the captain of Scorpion two or three times. The captain was about thirty-five and came from New England. When the war began, he had been(1) in his submarine. Peter had read his report. Towers was at that time between Kiska and Midway, but he headed(2) for Manila. His engines were driven by nuclear power and he had travelled(3) at full speed. On the fourth day the submarine was north of Iwojima. Towers had put(4) his periscope up to have a look over the sea, but he could not see much.>

1. Can I use was in (1)? If yes, what's the difference?
2. Can I use had headed in (2)? If yes, what's the difference?
3. Can I use travelled in (3)? If yes, what's the difference?
4. Can I use put in (4)? If yes, what's the difference?

Comments

  • DavidCrosbieDavidCrosbie ✭✭✭
    edited February 8

    @Contemporaneous

    1 The PAST PERFECT suggests, I think, an echo of INDIRECT SPEECH. It's the captain's story — which Peter might have expressed as

    The captain told me that when the war began, he'd been in his submarine.
    or
    The captain wrote in his report that when the war began, he'd been in his submarine.

    2 The clause relate what happened when the war began — not from the captain's point of view but as straight NARRATIVE.

    3 and 4 These returns to the captain's perspective with quasi INDIRECT SPEECH.

    You could change to all PAST SIMPLE

    When the war began, he was in his submarine. Peter had read his report. Towers was at that time between Kiska and Midway, but he headed for Manila. His engines were driven by nuclear power and he travelled at full speed. On the fourth day the submarine was north of Iwojima. Towers put his periscope up to have a look over the sea, but he could not see much.

    This seems much less interesting to me. And there's no sense of Peter recalling what he'd read in the captain's report. Indeed, that second sentence Peter had read his report becomes strange and out of place.

    [Note that the two sentences that can't sensibly be changed to PAST SIMPLE are

    Peter had met the captain of Scorpion two or three times. _
    and
    _Peter had read his report.
    ]

    You could also change it all to PAST PERFECT

    When the war began, he had been in his submarine. Peter had read his report. Towers had been at that time between Kiska and Midway, but he had headed for Manila. His engines were driven by nuclear power and he had travelled at full speed. On the fourth day the submarine had been north of Iwojima. Towers had put his periscope up to have a look over the sea, but he hadn't been able see much.

    Grammatically OK, but again the monotony of the verb forms makes it less interesting.

  • DavidCrosbieDavidCrosbie ✭✭✭
    edited February 8

    We use PRESNT PERFECT and PAST PERFECT to place a happening or a sate affairs relative to a reference time-point.

    Shute's passage is interesting because the reference time-point keeps changing.

    1 the time when somebody (Peter?) said 'Yes, sir'.
    Relative to this time-point
    Peter had met the captain of Scorpion two or three times.
    Peter had read his report.

    2 when the war began
    Relative to this time-point
    he had been in his submarine

    3 when Peter read the captain's report
    Relative to this time-point
    he had travelled at full speed
    Towers had put his periscope up

    Shute chose to refer these four happening/states of affairs to time points. But he chose the others to be narrative events or background states — using the PAST SIMPLE.

    The captain was about thirty-five and came from New England BACKGROUND STATE
    Towers was at that time between Kiska and Midway, BACKGROUND STATE
    but he headed for Manila. NARRATIVE EVENT
    His engines were driven by nuclear power BACKGROUND STATE
    On the fourth day the submarine was north of Iwojima. BACKGROUND STATE
    but he could not see much. NARRATIVE EVENT (actually a non-event)

    @Contemporaneous

  • Thank you very much, David! :)

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