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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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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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The sparrowfall natural economy of the dark simple curatin

In "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 the main metaphore in Eragon/Inheritance Cycle? [closed]

Is there a dominant metaphore or a moral in the book series Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini (mainly, I'm interested in Eragon, as the original story)?
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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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3answers
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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 ...
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What does “laconic atmosphere” mean here?

It's from "The Case for Classicism" by Lovecraft. The first thing one remarks on reading his frigid “Engineering English” is its laconic atmosphere of aloofness from vivid feeling and from love of ...
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Why did Dr Buford stay poor (and Jack rich) in “To Kill A Mockingbird”?

From chapter 5 of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: Miss Maudie had known Uncle Jack Finch, Atticus’s brother, since they were children. Nearly the same age, they had grown up together at Finch’...
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Why does Laxness mention “second sight” in “Independent People”?

From Independent People by Halldór Laxness (translated from Icelandic by J. A. Thompson): Others believe that she lives much in the lake in the form of some kind of serpent or water-monster; and ...
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What does Browning's cloistered soliloquist mean by ‘Hy, Zy, Hine’?

Here’s the last stanza of Robert Browning’s ‘Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister’, first published in Dramatic Lyrics (1842): Or, there’s Satan!—one might venture     Pledge one’s soul to him, yet ...
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What is meant by “came to practice” in John Manningham's description of Twelfth Night?

In the earliest mention of Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night"; John Manningham's Diary: A good practice in it [was] to make the Steward believe his Lady . . . in love with him, by counterfeiting a ...
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What does “as hot as the hinges of hell” mean in “The Green Mile”?

From chapter 2 of The Green Mile by Stephen King: It was still as hot as the hinges of hell, October or not. The door to the exercise yard opened, letting in a flood of brilliant light and the ...
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Doubts concerning Chapter 15 of “Persuasion” by Jane Austen

I am having trouble understanding a passage in Chapter 15 of Jane Austen's Persuasion. This chapter describes Mr. Elliot's renewal of acquaintance with his family, from whom he was previously somewhat ...
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What is a ‘tongue-leaved eye-figured Eden tree’?

In book III of Robert Browning’s The Ring and the Book, Violante adopts an unwanted new-born child and passes her off to her husband Pietro as their daughter Pompilia: Well, having gained Pompilia, ...
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Meaning of a passage in “Persuasion” by Jane Austen

Please refer to this extract from chapter 14 of Jane Austen's Persuasion: Elizabeth’s last letter had communicated a piece of news of some interest. Mr Elliot was in Bath. He had called in Camden ...
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Why does Browning need to be ‘manned by Manning’?

In Robert Browning’s The Ring and the Book (1868), the narrator buys an ‘old yellow book’ at a street market in Florence, containing documents from a seventeenth-century murder trial at Rome. He ...
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What's the meaning of 'English studies of empirical studies' to be antihumanist?

Prof. Brooks Landon, U. Iowa, Ph.D. U. Texas at Austin. Building Great Sentences: How to Write the Kinds of Sentences You Love to Read (Great Courses) (2013). pp. 245-246.       &...
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What does Machiavelli mean on page 29 of The Prince?

What does Machiavelli mean when he says the following in The Prince? he must be a very true friend, or a thoroughly determined enemy of the prince, to keep faith with you. It's on page 29 of this ...
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What did Francis Christensen mean by 'the end is to enhance life'?

Prof. Brooks Landon, U. Iowa, Ph.D. U. Texas at Austin. Building Great Sentences: How to Write the Kinds of Sentences You Love to Read (Great Courses) (2013). pp 55-56. Francis Christensen: Father ...
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What did Conrad mean by teaching to see is everything?

Prof. Brooks Landon, U. Iowa, Ph.D. U. Texas at Austin. Building Great Sentences: How to Write the Kinds of Sentences You Love to Read (Great Courses) (2013). pp 16-17.     When I say ...
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What is the meaning of the poem “Praxis” by Wendy Xu?

This poem caught my eye a few days ago. I was strangely unable to find a single analysis piece, however. What is the meaning of Praxis by Wendy Xu?
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In “Passing by” by Robert Herrick, how does Cupid “range her country” and change the narrator's heart?

I'm looking for an explanation of the first two lines of the third verse (see below) of the poem "Passing by" by Robert Herrick. I assume that "Cupid is winged" means that Cupid has wings, but what ...
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What does Hippolyta mean by “More witnesseth than fancy’s images”?

What does Hippolyta mean in this speech from Act V Scene I of A Midsummer Night's Dream? But all the story of the night told over, And all their minds transfigured so together, More witnesseth ...
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Explain “field size” and “bushel of potatoes” in ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’

From chapter 3 of To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee: [Walter Cunningham] ‘Reason I can’t pass the first grade, Mr Finch, is I’ve had to stay over ever’ spring an’ help Papa with the choppin’, but ...
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What does “entailment” mean in “To Kill a Mockingbird”?

From chapter 2 of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: Jem’s nose wrinkled. ‘Are we as poor as the Cunninghams?’ ‘Not exactly. The Cunninghams are country folks, farmers, and the crash hit ...
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What does Dante mean here?

When touring Limbo with Virgil, Virgil tells Dante that he and the rest of the virtuous pagans are condemned in Limbo to live eternally without hope. Dante asks his guide, […] "Dear sir, my master,"...
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What does “toby” mean, in London slang of Orwell's time?

In the George Orwell poem "A Dressed Man and a Naked Man", two men are haggling for the clothes of one of them (the other is naked). After a little research into the pounds/shillings/pence system for ...
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What does Beatty mean by “Life becomes one big pratfall, Montag; everything bang; boff, and wow!” in Fahrenheit 451

What does Beatty mean in the following quote from Fahrenheit 451: “Life becomes one big pratfall, Montag; everything bang; boff, and wow!” Does this quote imply that Beatty himself realizes that ...
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What is the meaning of this sentence: …for there was nearly half as much of the entertaining as of the contemptible about the man

It is a line of one of Edgar Allan Poe's short stories, and it says: We gave him a hearty welcome; for there was nearly half as much of the entertaining as of the contemptible about the man... I ...
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What does Camus mean by this sentence?

I read 'A happy death' by 'Albert Camus' . In this book , Mersault once said: Believe me, there is no such thing as great suffering, great regret, great memory . . . Everything is forgotten, ...
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Meaning in Margaret Atwood's “My mother dwindles”

The second stanza of Margaret Atwood's "My mother dwindles", in which there is a boat metaphor, has gotten me a bit confused as I analyze this poem. If she were a boat, you’d say the moon shines ...
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What does Camus mean by “the disastrous fact that love and desire must be expressed in the same way”?

Here is a set of lines from the book A Happy Death by Albert Camus: In the past, whenever Mersault had spent any time with one woman, he made the first gestures of commitment, he was conscious of ...
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A quote from the introduction of Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Women

Here is a sentence from her introduction. I earnestly wish to point out in what true dignity and human happiness consists - I wish to persuade women to endeavour to acquire strength, both of mind ...