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I've been reading 不思議の国のアリス (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland) and there's a sentence that is baffling me. It reads:

[After having fallen down the rabbit hole]

それがすごく急で、アリスがふみとどまろうかと考えるひまもないうちに、気がつくと何やら深い井戸みたいなところを落っこちているところでした。

My main concern is the bolded part. I'm not sure if it's Alice who "does not have any free time to consider remaining" or whether it's the "inside that does not have any free time to consider remaining". I guess the latter case would seem more probable; one could interpret it as figurative language: i.e. that's how relentlessly fast the rabbit hole seemed to progress.

How does うち work here? And who is the subject of the verb 気がつく? Is it Alice or the general observer?

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「Mini-sentence A + うちに + Mini-sentence B」=

"B happens while A is happening."

B = [気]{き}がつくと[何]{なに}やら[深]{ふか}い[井戸]{いど}みたいなところを[落]{お}っこちているところでした

A = アリスがふみとどまろうかと[考]{かんが}えるひまもない

Above is the structure of the whole sentence and one's comprehension of this structure is the prerequisite to a good analysis of any part of it.

You clearly are unfamiliar with the usage of 「~~うちに」, which is a temporal expression just like "while" in English. 「うち」 has several different meanings and you could find them all in a medium-sized dictionary. "Inside" is one of the meanings but that is not what it means in the sentence in question.

" And who is the subject of the verb 気がつく?"

It is Alice; No other possibilities.

「アリスがふみとどまろうかと考えるひまもないうちに」, therfore, means:

"while Alice had no time to think about holding her ground"

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The former; the fall was so sudden (それがすごく急で) that she had no time to consider bracing her feet.

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  • So then could one read it as "the inside where Alice had no time to consider bracing her feet"? – Quistis Trepe Apr 7 '15 at 7:17
  • Also who is the subject of the verb 気がつく? Is it Alice or the general observer? – Quistis Trepe Apr 7 '15 at 7:41
  • I don't know what you translated into "the inside where". The subject of すごく急で is それ(the fall), and the subject of ふみとどまろうかと考えるひまもない, 気がつく and 落っこちているところでした is Alice. – Micky Apr 7 '15 at 8:20
  • I think he's thinking of (ふみとどまろうかと考えるひまもない) うち as An うち=inside which hasn't got time to think – blutorange Apr 7 '15 at 8:25
  • But then what does うち mean here? – Quistis Trepe Apr 7 '15 at 8:51

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