Is there any help for interpreting a passage written like this?
1. Jane thought the car was ugly. Because she thought it was necessary, Mary washed the car.
If I were personally writing this, I would rewrite it to be more clear. But, if I'm not the author, are there any rules to help me determine whether 'she' is Jane or Mary? When trying to find out the answer to this question, I ran across the "last antecedent rule". (I am not a lawyer, or studying to be one.) It is a doctrine for the legal interpretation for statutes by which "Referential and qualifying phrases, where no contrary intention appears, refer solely to the last antecedent." If I apply this rule, I would think 'she' would be Jane. Does this rule apply in the same way when making a literary interpretation?
How far does a reference need to before it the passage becomes completely non-ambiguous? Suppose I add one sentence:
2. Jane thought the car was ugly. Dust covered it completely. Because she thought it was necessary, Mary washed the car.
The physical space injected by the middle sentence now lends weight to the idea 'she' is 'Mary,' yet the legal definition I read implies 'she' is still Jane. I wouldnʻt normally say to rewrite this --- I would say 'she' is Mary, but is that reasonable? Should I rewrite? How far off does any prior antecedent need to be before this becomes a non-issue?