I would like to know what "It made me think that throughout my life, up to this point, everything I’d done had felt either irrelevant or replaceable." means in the following sentences:

I went to a student cafe near campus and prepared for my interview with the board that would take place if I passed into the next round. I’d come to like my topic on Baldwin’s analysis of racism in America. Professor Mielewicz had praised it too, saying I’d be the first in the country to examine it. It made me think that throughout my life, up to this point, everything I’d done had felt either irrelevant or replaceable. Here, for the first time, was something wholly mine, something that needed me in order to exist. I was expecting news from the professor any day now. I tried to remain hopeful.

In this novel which is set in the 1980's in Poland under the socialist regime, where homosexuality was socially unacceptable, the protagonist Ludwik (a university graduate) left Poland in 1981 to live in the United States of America. And he remembers what it was like back then in Poland, where he submitted his proposal for a doctorate to the board after he had finished his studies at the university and was waiting for the result, preparing for the interview just in case.

In this part, I am confused because there are two seemingly similar verbs, "think" and "feel." Would it be alright to understand that his topic for the doctorate made him think, "Oh, this is why everything I did in my life felt irrelevant or replaceable at that time"?

In other words, I find it difficult to understand the past perfect tense of "had felt" here. Would it mean that he thought (now) he had felt (at that time, when he was doing things) that his actions were irrelevant or replaceable?

I am an English learner from South Korea, so thank you for your patience in advance as I may not know obvious things. I would very much appreciate your help. :)

1 Answer 1


From a grammatical point of view, I think it is the position of "throughout my life" that calls for the use of the past perfect, the meaning being that, now that he had been entrusted with a special mission, he recalled the futility of his past achievements.

If the realization had taken place at that moment, then the author would have said:

  • It made me think that everything I’d done throughout my life felt either irrelevant or replaceable.

I understand "it made me think" not as a realization at the time of narration but as a recognition of something he had already felt in the past. In the past he had done unimportant things, which he had perceived as such when doing them, and only now did he feel that he was really necessary.

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