fruitless effort

See: failure
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While the count was being turned over, one of his arms fell back helplessly and he made a fruitless effort to pull it forward.
It was believed that the search for the bodies had been a fruitless effort merely because the drowning must have occurred in mid- channel, since the boys, being good swimmers, would otherwise have escaped to shore.
They had done their best, and now he was sure they would doubtless remain to die with him in a fruitless effort to defend him.
The pause which followed this fruitless effort was ended by the same speaker, who, taking up one of the many volumes of plays that lay on the table, and turning it over, suddenly exclaimed--"Lovers' Vows
The young soldier made a desperate but fruitless effort to spring to the side of Alice, when he saw the dark hand of a savage twisted in the rich tresses which were flowing in volumes over her shoulders, while a knife was passed around the head from which they fell, as if to denote the horrid manner in which it was about to be robbed of its beautiful ornament.
His hand seemed to make a fruitless effort to release his tomahawk, which was confined by its handle to his belt, while his eyes gradually became vacant.
Spenlow went home without me (I had had an insane hope that he might take me back again), as if I were a mariner myself, and the ship to which I belonged had sailed away and left me on a desert island; I shall make no fruitless effort to describe.
Then, sitting in Beth's little chair close beside him, Jo told her troubles, the resentful sorrow for her loss, the fruitless efforts that discouraged her, the want of faith that made life look so dark, and all the sad bewilderment which we call despair.
He made fruitless efforts to go on; it was impossible.
She listened, she bowed, and she smiled--and, sometimes, she answered; but it was evidently without meaning or interest, until, wearied with his fruitless efforts to make an impression, and perhaps with a hope of exciting a little jealousy, he turned his attention to her more lively companion.
So far from allowing a single foot to be wet, or a repetition of the fruitless efforts of his people to drive away their foe with missiles, the whole of the party was commanded to retire from the shore, while he himself communicated his intentions to one or two of his most favoured followers.
I spared him my exhortations and fruitless efforts at conversion too, for I saw it was all in vain: God might awaken that heart, supine and stupefied with self-indulgence, and remove the film of sensual darkness from his eyes, but I could not.