Questions tagged [meaning]

For questions regarding the meaning of certain terms of phrases used in a work of literature. If your question concerns the symbolic significance of something whose surface meaning is clear, use the [symbolism] tag instead.

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What does Mother Cornelius tub refer to?

In chapter II of The Unfortunate Traveller, Thomas Nashe describes an outbreak of the sweating sickness. The cause of this disease is apparently still unknown. Below is a relevant paragraph from that ...
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What does ketha mean?

At the end of chapter VIII of Thomas Deloney's Jack of Newbury, Jack has a discussion with his wife about a certain "gossip" (an archaic term for "familiar acquaintance"), that he does not want to see ...
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What is a Cawdle?

At the end of the first chapter of Thomas Deloney's Jack of Newbury, Jack's unnamed wife makes him a "Cawdle": In the morning his wife rose betime, and merrily made him a Cawdle, and bringing it up ...
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Which of these sources is right about “The Tempest”?

This is part of a quote by Ferdinand in the beginning of scene 1 of act 3 of "The Tempest": But these sweet thoughts do even refresh my labours, Most busy, least when I do it. According to ...
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“The Apple Tree” ending and the meaning behind it

I've recently been tasked with analysing "The Apple Tree" by John Galsworthy. I've had no major issues with understanding the text, but i really can't grasp the ending. Up on the top of the hill, ...
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Meaning of “abandoned his grin to them” in Ted Hughes' “The Contender”?

In "The Contender" (a poem in Ted Hughes' Crow collection), there's a group of lines with peculiar syntax. Here are the lines: He abandoned his grin to them his grimace In his face upwards body ...
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The oldest tradition stopped before it got back to him

The following passage is taken from The Call of the Wild. What do the boldfaced parts mean? This lost mine was steeped in tragedy and shrouded in mystery. No one knew of the first man. The oldest ...
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How are “sin and love and fear” “just sounds” in Faulkner's “As I Lay Dying”?

I lighted upon this quote from Faulkner's novel As I Lay Dying on WikiQuote: He did not know that he was dead, then. Sometimes I would lie by him in the dark, hearing the land that was now of my ...
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What did Charlotte Brontë mean by "you would not be without friends”?

I lighted on this quote on BookRiot: [Helen Burns] went on— “If all the world hated you and believed you wicked, while your own conscience approved you, and absolved you from guilt, you would not ...
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What does Forster mean by “Suspicion in the Oriental”?

I'm Asian and read p. 114 of Critical Terrains: French and British Orientalisms by Lisa Lowe, but I'm still baffled by this quote at ThoughtCo. It feels too broadly generalized (and a shade ...
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Why isn't “white” related to colour and ''God save the King" with a god?

I first stumbled on this quote at ThoughtCo: he did not realize that 'white' has no more to do with a colour than 'God save the King' with a god, and that it is the height of impropriety to ...
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How to interpret “body that leaned stiffly” in H. P. Lovecraft's “Azathoth”?

I've just finished reading Lovecraft's fragment "Azathoth" (in Italian translation) and I am astonished by the beauty of the story. Nevertheless I am a little bit confused about the end of it. In my ...
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What does Obama mean by “running strain of innocence” in “Dreams from My Father”?

The introduction to Barack Obama's memoir Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance (1995) contains the passage: And yet what strikes me most when I think about the story of my family ...
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Why “all should cry, Beware! Beware!” in Coleridge's “Kubla Khan”?

Samuel Taylor Coleridge's incomplete poem "Kubla Khan" ends with a vision of a poet in an ecstatic state with "flashing eyes" and "floating hair". He is beyond the realm of mere mortals for he has ...
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What is “the light by which she had read the book” in “Anna Karenina”?

What does the following sentence from Anna Karenina mean? And the light by which she had read the book filled with troubles, falsehoods, sorrow, and evil, flared up more brightly than ever before, ...
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Meaning of “rubber” as a verb in O. Henry

"I'm one of the Sole Sanhedrims and Ostensible Hooplas of the Inner Pulpit," says I. "The lame talk and the blind rubber whenever I make a pass at 'em. I am a medium, a coloratura hypnotist and a ...
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What did the author of Moby Dick mean by the “Pythagorean Maxim”?

From Herman Melville's Moby Dick. For as in this world, head winds are far more prevalent than winds from astern (that is, if you never violate the Pythagorean maxim), so for the most part the ...
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In Penelope Fitzgerald’s short story The Prescription, significance of “Knowledge is good, but what is the use of knowledge without honesty?”

In Penelope Fitzgerald’s short story The Prescription (1982), Dr. Mehmet Bey almost kills his 14-year-old apprentice, Alecco, by forcing him to drink a poisoned prescription after discovering the boy ...
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What does ahn in Maggie: A Girl of the Streets mean?

I would like to know what ahn in "Maggie: A Girl of the Streets" by Stephen Crane means. It can be read from this link: https://english.hku.hk/courses/engl1039/Crane.pdf Here are some lines with it: ...
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Protagonist's comments on his student's essay in 'The Professor' by Charlotte Brontë

The protagonist in Charlotte Brontë's 'The Professor', who is employed as a teacher of English in a Belgian school, is surprised upon reading an unusually well-written creative essay by one of his ...
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What does “wisdom that is so often loudly preached” mean in the Parable of the King and the Maiden?

In the first paragraph of "The Parable of the King and the Maiden": Suppose there was a king who loved a humble maiden and whose heart was unaffected by the wisdom that is so often loudly preached. ...
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Who is “Luna” in Byron's “To Mary, On Receiving Her Picture”?

Here are the fourth and fifth stanzas of "To Mary, On Receiving Her Picture" by Lord Byron: Here, I behold its beauteous hue;     But where's the beam so sweetly straying, Which gave a lustre ...
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What is the meaning of 'myopia' in literature studies?

Does the term myopia have a special meaning in the context of literature? Myopia is in its most direct meaning a healthcare condition: relating to, or exhibiting myopia : NEARSIGHTED Myopia or ...
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Can someone explain what “corrupt without being charming” means?

From Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray (emphasis added): those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is fault. Those who find beautiful meanings ...
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What is the meaning of a complex sentence from “The Hedgehog and the Fox”?

I'm new in English and I want to understand this sentence from Isaiah Berlin's The Hedgehog and the Fox: "Rousseau must have strengthened, if he did not actually originate, his growing tendency to ...
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What does Mark Twain mean by “keep hotel”?

The protagonist in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court uses this phrase: But that should be nothing to his discredit; the man that can do THIS kind of miracle knows enough to keep hotel. ...
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What was the “cyclops' smoky band” to which Ewan MacColl's father belonged?

Ewan MacColl's song "My Old Man" contains the lyrics: My old man was a good old man Skilled in the moulding trade In the stinking heat of the iron foundry My old man was made Down on his ...
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What did Twain mean by the “Creedmoor aim”?

In a letter to his friend William Dean Howells recounting the heroic exploits of John T. Lewis, Mark Twain wrote the following in 1877: Lewis, the prodigious … saw the frantic horse plunging down ...
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Ann Quin’s ambiguous prose

I am currently reading Berg by Ann Quin, a famous British experimental writer, and having a hard time understanding some of her prose. Although I realise that it is written in a vague, stream-of-...
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What is “the dark simple curtain” in Ted Hughes' “Criminal Ballad”?

In the poem "Criminal Ballad", Ted Hughes describes a chain of tragedies happening in parallel with a man's simple moments of life. One of these is the following: And when he ran and got his toy ...
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What is Mr Elliot's “early prepossession” in Jane Austen's “Persuasion”?

Excerpt from chapter 21 from Jane Austen's Persuasion: She felt a great deal of good-will towards him. In spite of the mischief of his attentions, she owed him gratitude and regard, perhaps ...
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What is the meaning of this sentence from “Polaris” by Lovecraft?

Below is a sentence from Lovecraft's "Polaris": I said to myself, "This is no dream, for by what means can I prove the greater reality of that other life in the house of stone and brick south of ...
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Meaning of a phrase “showed up on a white charger with a new moon”

There is a fragment of a short story by Louce Baker. Sladen Morris is the boy next door. The girls all think he’s fascinating and tend to deify him now that he’s touched six feet on the wall ...
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What exactly does Dickens mean to say here?

In the beginning of Stave 2, after Marley's ghost has disappeared, Scrooge wakes up believing he has overslept and that the time at which the first ghost was to appear has passed. To confirm this, he ...
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Understanding Shyam Saran's “How India sees the world”

I am reading Shyam Saran's How India sees the world. I came across this paragraph which talks about the "sense of being Indian": There is an immemorial and abiding sense of affinity drawn from a ...
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What did Alexander Pope mean by “Expletives their feeble Aid do join”?

Alexander Pope's 'An Essay on Criticism', lines 337–349: But most by Numbers judge a Poet's Song, And smooth or rough, with them, is right or wrong; In the bright Muse tho' thousand Charms ...
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What did Steven Pressfield mean by “give” in this context?

Resistance's goal is not to wound or disable. Resistance aims to kill. Its target is the epicenter of our being: our genius, our soul, the unique and priceless gift we were put on earth to give and ...
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What is the difference between emotions and feelings in Eliot's essay Tradition and the Individual Talent?

In his most famous essay, "Traditional and the Individual Talent", T. S. Eliot appears to make a distinction between emotions and feelings. Read especially the following passage (emphasis mine): ...
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What exactly do these words from “The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin” mean in this context?

I read the following in "The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, Volume I": A portrait from Mr. Carlyle's portfolio not regretted by any who loved the original, surely confers sufficient ...
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What does sentence mean from “Literary Composition” by Lovecraft?

This is from a part in the article that Lovecraft lists most common mistakes beginners make when writing. The parts I didn't get is in bold. Want of correspondence in number between noun and verb ...
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What does “it” mean in this passage of David Hume's “A Treatise of Human Nature”?

From David Hume's A Treatise of Human Nature, Book 3, Part 2, Section 7: It has been observed, in treating of the passions, that men are mightily governed by the imagination, and proportion their ...
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What does Benjamin Franklin mean here in his essay, “On True Happiness”?

There is no happiness, then, but in a virtuous and self-approving conduct. Unless our actions will bear the test of our sober judgments and reflections upon them, they are not the actions, and, ...
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Why does Caponsacchi count his fingers in “The Ring and the Book”?

In book VI of Robert Browning’s The Ring and the Book, Giuseppe Caponsacchi tries seducing two women of Arezzo with love-poetry, but he is disappointed with the results:                             ...
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What does Adam Smith mean here in The Wealth of Nations?

In a country which has neither foreign commerce nor any of the finer manufactures, a great proprietor, having nothing of which he can exchange the greater part of the produce of this lands which is ...
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Why did Mr. Elliot have to decide whose boots were thickest in “Persuasion”?

This is from chapter 19 of Jane Austen's Persuasion: The rain was a mere trifle, and Anne was most sincere in preferring a walk with Mr Elliot. But the rain was also a mere trifle to Mrs Clay; she ...
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Meaning of this line in Candida by Shaw

There is a speech by Lexy in the beginning of Act I when he is talking to Proserpine: LEXY. Ah, if you women only had the same clue to Man's strength that you have to his weakness, Miss Prossy, ...
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What does John Locke mean by “it” at the very end of this passage?

The only way whereby anyone divests himself of his natural liberty, and puts on the bond of civil society, is by agreeing with other men to join and unite into a community for their comfortable, safe, ...
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What is “Miss Maudie's goat” in “To Kill a Mockingbird”?

From chapter 5 of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: We saw Uncle Jack every Christmas, and every Christmas he yelled across the street for Miss Maudie to come marry him. Miss Maudie would yell ...
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What does it mean to peer from a dewball?

In Ted Hughes' "Crow and the Birds", the lines before the ending read: While the bullfinch plumped in the apple bud And the goldfinch bulbed in the sun And the wryneck crooked in the ...
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What does it mean to “meet the introduction halfway” in “The Call of the Wild”?

In chapter 1 of Jack London's The Call of the Wild, the dog Buck gets a beating: He was beaten (he knew that); but he was not broken. He saw, once for all, that he stood no chance against a man ...