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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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3 votes
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53 views

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, ...
4 votes
2 answers
81 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 ...
5 votes
1 answer
239 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 ...
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 ...
8 votes
1 answer
406 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 ...
8 votes
3 answers
361 views

What are we to understand by "panther" in this Old English poem?

"The Panther" is an Old English poem, preserved in the Exeter Book, and translated in full by Aaron Hostetter. It's a poem about a panther, but what would the ancient Germanic peoples of ...
4 votes
2 answers
124 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 ...
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 ...
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) -...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
1 vote
0 answers
44 views

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. ...
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. ...
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. ...
3 votes
1 answer
108 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 ...
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....
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 ...
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&...
9 votes
1 answer
1k views

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 ...
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, ...
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 ...
30 votes
0 answers
1k views

How did real historical Igbo society differ from its portrayal in Things Fall Apart?

I recently read Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, and found its detailed portrayal of historical Igbo (aka Ibo) culture very interesting. My understanding is that it's a reasonably close ...
3 votes
1 answer
126 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. ...
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. ...
3 votes
0 answers
44 views

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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
2 votes
1 answer
116 views

Did 'A Doll's House' spark controversy over its dismissal of social classes?

I know the play caused drama over feminist ideas and all, but what about the social structure, such as in the end when Nora ignores Torvald's statement "You don’t understand the society you live in" ...
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 ...
6 votes
1 answer
5k views

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 ...
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"...
3 votes
1 answer
86 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 ...
9 votes
3 answers
586 views

Does this edit in The Magician's Nephew (from "had her bathe" to "had her bath") fundamentally change the meaning of the sentence?

Later editions of C.S. Lewis 'The Magician's Nephew' have been edited, presumably to reflect modern usage. Polly went down and had her bathe; at least she said that was what she'd been doing, but we ...
4 votes
0 answers
175 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 ...
6 votes
2 answers
442 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 ...
6 votes
1 answer
187 views

What is Paul's character based on in "Code Name Verity"?

One of the major supporting characters in Code Name Verity is Paul, leader of the Damask resistance circuit. A superb organizer, he takes pride in how he'd never lost anyone in his circuit (before ...
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 ...
9 votes
2 answers
2k views

What was "standard shift" in the 1920's?

I am reading The Great Gatsby, and encountered these sentences: "Shall we all go in my car?" suggested Gatsby. He felt the hot, green leather of the seat. "I ought to have left it in ...
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 ...
7 votes
1 answer
144 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, ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
4 votes
1 answer
255 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 ...
1 vote
0 answers
49 views

What was this dubious medical facility by the salt lakes?

When Herman and Olga were trying to straighten out the paperwork for the gas station, they realized they need to track down a director of an oil depot for some help with some paperwork. However, they ...

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