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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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 ...
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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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2 answers
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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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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
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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
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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
114 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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2 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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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
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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
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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
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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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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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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 ...
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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
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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
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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
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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
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1 answer
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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
2 votes
1 answer
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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
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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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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
58 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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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
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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
497 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
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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
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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
2 votes
1 answer
164 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
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"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
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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
92 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
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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
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14 votes
3 answers
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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
260 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
5 votes
1 answer
618 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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6 votes
1 answer
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What evidence is there that Vladimir Nabokov was abused as a child?

If you read around the works of Nabokov, it's quite common to find people stating as a fact that he was abused as a child by his uncle and that the family were aware and covered it up. I found one ...
Matt Thrower's user avatar
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5 votes
1 answer
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Role of Duke of Bedford in Shakespeare's "King Henry VI, Part I"?

In Shakespeare's play King Henry VI, Part I, the Duke of Bedford(or Bedford) is given the following role: Duke of BEDFORD, the king’s uncle, and Regent of France In other words, Bedford is the "...
codexistent's user avatar
9 votes
2 answers
349 views

In Dickens' "The Chimes", why do bells have godparents and mugs?

Not long into The Chimes: A Goblin Story, one of Dickens' lesser-known Christmas stories, there's this paragraph about bells: They were old Chimes, trust me. Centuries ago, these Bells had been ...
Matt Thrower's user avatar
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9 votes
1 answer
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What are the "dead Easter chicks" in "Just Before the War with the Eskimos?"

In J. D. Salinger's short story "Just Before the War with the Eskimos," a character reveals that: A few years before it had taken her three days to dispose of the Easter chick she had found ...
nuggethead's user avatar
5 votes
1 answer
297 views

How did Dante know so much about geography and astronomy in his Purgatorio?

This answer on the History of Science & Maths SE says that Dante's Purgatorio contains a lot of what would now be considered "worldbuilding" which seems fairly advanced for the time: ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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3 votes
1 answer
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Where did Mrs Waterby get the money in George Ade's "The Set of Poe"?

I’m reading “The Set of Poe”, a 1903 short story by George Ade. The context: Mr. Waterby wanted to buy a set of Poe, but his wife didn’t like that idea and advised him not to buy. He were upset and ...
Sour Tofu's user avatar
4 votes
1 answer
246 views

Historical background of Dickinson's 'The Sun and Fog contested-'

The Sun and Fog contested The Government of Day— The Sun took down his Yellow Whip And drove the Fog away— I assume 'Yellow Whip' refers to the Whig Party, as yellow was one of the colours of the ...
A. Goodier's user avatar
4 votes
1 answer
557 views

Did the Friends of Narnia die at Harrow and Wealdstone?

In The Last Battle, all of the Friends of Narnia (except Susan - the people from our world who had been to Narnia over the course of the seven books) die in a horrific train accident and end up going ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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0 votes
1 answer
71 views

Why would selling a thousand copies of a book get a bestseller rating?

Zaza's first published book sold a grand total of 400 copies. He was informed by his editor that books need to sell at least 1000 copies to get a bestseller rating. Why was that enough sales to be ...
EJoshuaS - Stand with Ukraine's user avatar
1 vote
1 answer
114 views

Did it really cost $800 to fly from Kyiv to Rome in 1996?

At one point, the Chief needed to flee the country. He sent Viktor to retrieve his plane ticket, which cost "$750 at exchange rate or $800 in cash". His exact itinerary was Kyiv-Larnaca-Rome....
EJoshuaS - Stand with Ukraine's user avatar
1 vote
0 answers
28 views

Why does "Your Ad Could Go Here" state that the Orange Revolution lasted for three weeks?

The Orange Revolution protests were called for on November 21, 2004 in response to election fraud in their 2004 Presidential election. Eventually, the Supreme Court ordered a re-vote on December 26, ...
EJoshuaS - Stand with Ukraine's user avatar

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