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Questions tagged [historical-context]

Questions regarding the influence of historical events or notions on a literary work, or about the extent to which works of literature accurately depict historical events, figures, customs, ideas, etcetera.

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Henry Green's Loving: What is the historical position of the English characters in Ireland?

Henry Green's Loving (1945) is set in the fictional Kinalty Castle during World War II. This Irish castle is the home of an English family, the Tennants. Mrs Tennant is a widow whose grown son, Jack, ...
verbose's user avatar
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14 votes
1 answer
3k views

Did Napoleon ever shoot a bookseller?

In The Oxford Book of Literary Anecdotes (1975) there is a story about Thomas Campbell (1777-1844) that runs as follows: At a literary dinner Campbell asked leave to propose a toast, and gave the ...
Barnaby's user avatar
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8 votes
1 answer
405 views

How does ignorance make a barren waste in "To the Nile" by John Keats?

The sonnet "To the Nile" (1818) by John Keats reads as follows: Son of the old Moon-mountains African!     Chief of the Pyramid and Crocodile!     We call thee fruitful, and that very while ...
Selfie- grofie's user avatar
2 votes
0 answers
61 views

In Ryonosuke's story "Cogwheels" (sometimes translated as "Spinning Gears") what does the yellow plaster signify?

Partway through the story, the protagonist is speaking with a friend. And he stops mid sentence: I broke off mid-sentence, as I studied the reflection of his back in the mirror. There was a yellow ...
blueberryfields's user avatar
6 votes
0 answers
81 views

What does this allusion to the French mean in Gogol's "The Overcoat"?

In Gogol's short story The Overcoat (or The Cloak) there is an allusion to the French people that I cannot understand. In the translation into English found in the book Short story classics (Foreign) -...
Charo's user avatar
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12 votes
1 answer
5k views

Why does changing one's name to 'Vladimir' indicate allegiance to Moscow?

From John Le Carré's Smiley's People: “Vladimir’s father was an Estonian and a passionate Bolshevik, Oliver,” he resumed in a calmer voice. “A professional man, a lawyer. Stalin rewarded his loyalty ...
Silent Sojourner's user avatar
3 votes
1 answer
69 views

Connotative meaning of poetic lines:- "And We went without meat and cursed the bread"

In the famous poem Richard Cory by E.A. Robinson, given below are the lines of my interest So on we worked, and waited for the LIGHT, And went without the MEAT, and cursed the BREAD capitalisation ...
Selfie- grofie's user avatar
5 votes
1 answer
119 views

What does "The thirties all over again" mean?

From John Le Carré's Smiley's People: Suddenly Lacon’s own face took on an appalled expression and his tone dropped to one of near despair. “You should hear them, George, our new masters! You should ...
Silent Sojourner's user avatar
5 votes
1 answer
138 views

Was Akutagawa's Shōgun ("The General") ever censored in Japan? If so, how?

I know books which criticize the military were censored in Japan during the interwar period. I'm wondering if this specific story was censored, and if so, roughly when/for how long? Also, what did the ...
blueberryfields's user avatar
4 votes
2 answers
123 views

"La guerra" by Goldoni: why was it about waiting for a war commissioner to become rich?

I've started reading Carlo Goldoni's play titled La guerra ('The War'). I haven't found any translation into English. One of the characters is Don Polidoro, the war commissioner. He praises war ...
Charo's user avatar
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1 vote
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Examples of “canonical questions” in different cultures [closed]

This question will be rather odd. I have been thinking about this topic for a while, and this is the type of question that really cannot be answered without hearing people from different backgrounds. ...
Haldot's user avatar
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3 votes
1 answer
107 views

Why were the soldiers betting with Australian pounds rather than American dollars in "The Naked and the Dead"

At the beginning of the The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer, a few soldiers, including Croft, Wilson, and Gallager, were playing a card game overnight in the hold before landing on the island. But ...
Ethan's user avatar
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8 votes
1 answer
1k views

How can Mrs Morel buy her son out of the army in D. H. Lawrence's "Sons and Lovers"?

It seems she could and she did it. But how? From chapter IX: Mrs. Morel had had a few pounds left to her by her father, and she decided to buy her son [Arthur] out of the army. He was wild with joy. ...
Ethan's user avatar
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5 votes
2 answers
504 views

Meaning (likelihood, credibility) of "but the only trouble was that I'd never seen you before" in Our Town by Thornton Wilder

From Our Town by Thornton Wilder, Act II: Dr. Gibbs: Well, Ma, the day has come. You're losin' one of your chicks. Mrs. Gibbs: Frank Gibbs, don't you say another word. I feel like crying every minute....
philphil's user avatar
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1 vote
1 answer
57 views

Second marriages in Victorian society shown in Tess of the d'Urbervilles

While reading the novel Tess of the d'Urbervilles, I noticed there are two incidents of marrying a second time. First, Angel is the son of his father's second wife. This is shown in a normal way. Is ...
Dia's user avatar
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6 votes
1 answer
546 views

What are "Himalaya Wines", in the "Last Chronicle of Barset"?

In Chapter 37, of Anthony Trollope's, The Last Chronicle of Barset https://www.gutenberg.org/files/3045/3045-h/3045-h.htm#c37 a sign in Hook Court advertises "Burton and Bangles, Himalaya Wines&...
mikado's user avatar
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10 votes
2 answers
2k views

Were Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bennet formally equal in rank?

Were any of the main characters in Pride and Prejudice (Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley, Lady Catherine de Bourgh) more than gentry? Did any of them belong to the peerage? Was there any formal difference in ...
Honza Zidek's user avatar
3 votes
1 answer
124 views

Context of Kipling poem Dane-Geld

Kipling's poem Dane-Geld is a warning about submitting to blackmail. It makes the point that if you pay blackmail then the blackmailer will come back and demand more. Therefore you should never pay. ...
Pete's user avatar
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3 votes
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Why does Percival Everett change the relationship of Carolyn Bryant and J W Milam in The Trees?

The character Granny C in Percival Everett's The Trees represents an aged Carolyn Bryant, the woman whose dubious claim that Emmett Till whistled at her led to his brutal murder. In real life, the men ...
verbose's user avatar
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3 votes
0 answers
49 views

Why does the Devil "glower" at Benedict Arnold's absence in "The Devil and Daniel Webster"?

The short story "The Devil and Daniel Webster" is filled with topical and historical references, and clearly has a moral opinion on colonial American history. Generally speaking, this moral ...
Adrian Petrescu's user avatar
9 votes
4 answers
3k views

What does "Catholic privilege" mean in Pym's Excellent Women?

The narrator of Barbara Pym's Excellent Women is Mildred Lathburn, a clergyman's daughter in 1950s London. Here, Mildred's Welsh cleaning lady, Mrs. Morris, is complaining half-humorously about the ...
verbose's user avatar
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9 votes
1 answer
719 views

Where can I take a deeper dive into Jane Austen's vocabulary?

I'm translating some Jane Austen into Latin, and I'm wondering whether there's a resource that would allow me to do a deeper dive into the nuances of the vocabulary she uses, especially the words that ...
Faustus's user avatar
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11 votes
1 answer
2k views

Customs at Calais in “The Mystery of the Blue Train”

In chapter 9 of Agatha Christie’s The Mystery of the Blue Train, which takes place in the late 1920s, one of the characters goes to a travel agency in London and asks for the best way to get to Nice. ...
Kevin Troy's user avatar
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3 votes
1 answer
85 views

Censorship reaction to Moravia's "La mascherata"

La mascherata is a novel by Alberto Moravia, published in 1941, during Italian fascist era. It is set in an imaginary dictatorship in Latin America. It is clearly a book against dictatorship. This ...
Charo's user avatar
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4 votes
0 answers
173 views

Is "Uncle Tom's Cabin" read in American high schools?

I have read that Harriet Beecher Stowe's work (published 1852) is not encouraged by the educational establishment in the US because of the stereotypes it presents of black people as ill-educated and ...
WS2's user avatar
  • 141
7 votes
1 answer
420 views

Why did the Pit and the Pendulum lack historical authenticity?

The Pit and the Pendulum is set in Toledo, Spain during the height of the Spanish Inquisition which began in 1478. In the story, Poe references the Jacobin club, which was an influential political ...
steelersquirrel's user avatar
6 votes
2 answers
439 views

Is Emma's preoccupation with class and station typical of the time period or an aspect of her character?

In Jane Austen's Emma, the titular character is shown to spend a lot of time and effort thinking about class, rank, and station in society. She's worried about mixing with the lower classes, and ...
Mithical's user avatar
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5 votes
1 answer
99 views

Why did Vladek get soup when he presented a clean shirt?

On page 94 of Maus II: A Survivor's Tale, Vladek trades some of his food for a lice-free shirt that he carefully cleans and wraps in paper. He later presents the clean shirt in order to get soup. Why ...
Stevoisiak's user avatar
7 votes
1 answer
143 views

In Wister's _The Virginian_, why is calling a white man white considered a compliment?

In the second chapter of Owen Wister's The Virginian, what appears to be a factual statement about the titular character's race is described by the narrator as a "high compliment": “Yes, ...
Konrad Schroder's user avatar
4 votes
1 answer
93 views

What superstitions about coroners is "Carbide" referring to?

In Carbide by Andriy Lyubka (set in Ukraine near the border of Hungary from the post-Soviet 1990s until at least 2012), many people were afraid of the coroner, who had a "horrible reputation"...
EJoshuaS - Stand with Ukraine's user avatar
4 votes
2 answers
80 views

Of what people, of what liquor-agency does Thoreau speak in this paragraph from "The Last Days of John Brown"?

In The Last Days of John Brown, Thoreau writes: All through the excitement occasioned by his remarkable attempt and subsequent behavior, the Massachusetts Legislature, not taking any steps for the ...
John Smith's user avatar
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4 votes
1 answer
108 views

What historical reference is Stevenson making with "shouting in the streets"?

In The Master of Ballantrae, in the section “The Master's Wanderings”, Stevenson writes: and I dare say these plaudits had their effect on Master Teach in the cabin, as we have seen of late days how ...
Peter Shor's user avatar
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2 votes
1 answer
147 views

Euripides - mystai or evidence of higher-ranked status?

Euripedes has quite an extensive catalog on the so-called mystery cults. In the wiki, it does state the tragedian had some involvement in a mystery cult: He served for a short time as both dancer and ...
Arash Howaida's user avatar
3 votes
1 answer
60 views

To what "attack on the Boston Court-House" does Thoreau allude in this paragraph from "Slavery in Massachusetts"?

In Slavery in Massachusetts, Thoreau writes: The events of the past month teach me to distrust Fame. I see that she does not finely discriminate, but coarsely hurrahs. She considers not the simple ...
John Smith's user avatar
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0 votes
1 answer
68 views

What does Thoreau mean by "pew hire" in this paragraph from "Slavery in Massachusetts"?

In Slavery in Massachusetts, Thoreau writes: Among measures to be adopted, I would suggest to make as earnest and vigorous an assault on the press as has already been made, and with effect, on the ...
John Smith's user avatar
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1 vote
1 answer
41 views

What prior "case of the murderer himself" does Thoreau have in mind in "Slavery in Massachusetts"?

In Slavery in Massachusetts, Thoreau writes: It is, to some extent, fatal to the courts, when the people are compelled to go behind them. I do not wish to believe that the courts were made for fair ...
John Smith's user avatar
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4 votes
1 answer
501 views

To what laws does Thoreau allude in "Slavery in Massachusetts"?

In Slavery in Massachusetts, Thoreau writes: I have read a recent law of this State, making it penal for any officer of the “Commonwealth” to “detain or aid in the … detention,” anywhere within its ...
John Smith's user avatar
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14 votes
4 answers
6k views

Were schoolteachers really paid substantially less than $45 per month in 1990s Ukraine?

Shortly after Tys graduated from university and started teaching in Carbide (by Andriy Lyubka), he'd periodically borrow money from his friend Icharus: By that time, Icarus had become a businessman (...
EJoshuaS - Stand with Ukraine's user avatar
2 votes
0 answers
49 views

How historically accurate is Koestler's The Gladiators?

The Third Servile War or War of Spartacus inspired several novels, including Arthur Koestler's The Gladiators, published in English in 1939. In the 1930s, Koestler worked mostly as a journalist, ...
Tsundoku's user avatar
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3 votes
2 answers
84 views

Why was the illegal tunnel in Carbide mostly used to smuggle illegal cigarettes?

Possibly related: What is "Galacian tobacco" and what is its significance? Carbide by Andriy Lyubka starts with the following news item: BRATISLAVA (Reuters) - A smuggling title the length ...
EJoshuaS - Stand with Ukraine's user avatar
2 votes
1 answer
78 views

What were the changes in the Spirit of the West at the end of first millennium?

From the first Chapter of The Undiscovered Self by Carl Jung What will the future bring? From time immemorial, this question has occupied men’s minds, though not always to the same degree. ...
Gowtam Chandrahasa's user avatar
5 votes
1 answer
238 views

Did Napoleon have a team of scientists named Pekinese dogs?

I was reading the book "The Code Book" by Simon Singh. An excerpt from the book is as follows The obsession began in 1800, when the French mathematician Jean-Baptiste Fourier, who had been ...
Imran's user avatar
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12 votes
2 answers
2k views

"Miss" as a form of address to a married teacher in Bethan Roberts' "My Policeman"

In Bethan Roberts' 2012 novel My Policeman, Marion Taylor begins working as a schoolteacher in 1957. She writes her name on the chalkboard for her students: A moment passed as I gathered myself, then ...
verbose's user avatar
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3 votes
1 answer
132 views

What kind of weapon destroyed Laila's home in A Thousand Splendid Suns?

In the novel, the author describes Laila's family home as having been struck by a rocket and was implied to have been mostly, if not completely, destroyed. What kind of weapon might this have been? ...
Code Inquisitor's user avatar
0 votes
1 answer
100 views

Primers in "Blood Meridian" — an unmentioned/overlooked detail?

This somewhat recapitulates my question about making gunpowder which was so brilliantly answered yesterday. Basically, my question is, given that the gang in Blood Meridian certainly had primers, ...
releseabe's user avatar
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4 votes
1 answer
3k views

Does "Blood Meridian" accurately describe gunpowder manufacture?

In Blood Meridian (1985), Cormac McCarthy has the gang of "Indian fighters" surrounded and out of powder, so one of them manages to make it from scratch, making charcoal from wood, saltpeter ...
releseabe's user avatar
  • 490
14 votes
3 answers
4k views

What is "Galacian tobacco" and what is its significance?

Chapter 7 of Sweet Darusya refers to "Galacian tobacco" being smuggled between Poland and Ukraine. What exactly was this, and what was the significance of it being specifically that kind of ...
EJoshuaS - Stand with Ukraine's user avatar
2 votes
0 answers
28 views

Why did Ivan and Darusya travel part of the way to town by horse-drawn carts?

Sweet Darusya periodically refers to horse-drawn carts being in contemporary use. For example, in one particular scene in the book, cars, bicycles, and horse-drawn carts were all in use at the same ...
EJoshuaS - Stand with Ukraine's user avatar
4 votes
1 answer
261 views

Why did the police officer complain about Ivan not having a passport?

In Sweet Darusya, a police officer brings Ivan to a party Director on a laundry list of complaints, one of which was that he was living in the village without a proper passport. I'm a little confused ...
EJoshuaS - Stand with Ukraine's user avatar
6 votes
1 answer
686 views

What does "gentleman of the bedchamber" mean in "War and Peace"?

Could anyone explain what it really means in War and Peace? Is it a position in the govenment? Part III, ch 1 With Pierre at hand in Moscow, Prince Vasily secured him an appointment as gentleman of ...
Ethan's user avatar
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