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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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What do the first two lines of this rap by Public Enemy mean?

The rap group "Public Enemy", in their first album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (released in 1988), had a track titled Don't Believe the Hype. Its first stanza is: Back Caught ...
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Opening lines of Gwendolyn Brooks' poem “Riot”

Please explain the following opening lines of Gwendolyn Brooks's poem "Riot": John Cabot, out of Wilma, once a Wycliffe, all whitebluerose below his golden hair, wrapped richly in right linen ...
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Is there any other definition or sub-meaning of the term 'marines'?

I've come across the term 'marines' in the book 'The Arrangement by Elia Kazan' twice; however I couldn't get what it may refer. I know it is like 'nautical' or something but it seemed different to me ...
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What does the number 9 mean in Maurice Druon's “Tistu - A Boy With Green Fingers”? [closed]

The number 9 appears every now and then in the book. What does it mean?
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What's polybdenum?

In The Dharma Bums, Ray buys "a polybdenum bottle, with screw top" at the Berkeley Ski Shop (chapter 14), saying he plans to use it "to carry honey up to the moutains" but that he mostly "used it as a ...
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Meaning of “I'm sorry for blaming you for everything I couldn't do”

From Christina Aguilera - "Hurt": I'm sorry for blaming you for everything I couldn't do. What does it mean? I'm sorry for blaming you and I'm also sorry for everything I couldn't do or I'...
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Meaning of sentence from “A Tale of Two Cities”

Reins and whip and coachman and guard, however, in combination, had read that article of war which forbade a purpose otherwise strongly in favour of the argument, that some brute animals are endued ...
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What's going on in Charlotte Riddell's Old House in Vauxhall Walk? [closed]

Maybe I'm looking too hard for meanings that aren't there, but can someone explain to me what's going on in Charlotte Riddell's Old House in Vauxhall Walk? How was the second burglar caught? What was ...
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What is “Protean Ubiquity” in Proust's “Swann's Way”?

I have started reading Proust's Swann's way. On page 66, after providing a very vivid description of aunt Leonie's house and its atmosphere, describes her state. She has gradually left the outside ...
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“The impostor magician Smerdis” from Borges

In the Jorge Luis Borges short story Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius the only historical name the narrator and Bioy recognize from the cyclopaedia entry on Uqbar is that of the impostor magician Smerdis,...
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Why did Johnson scoff those “who toil at the lower employments of life” in the preface to his dictionary?

Brooks Landon M.A. Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin. Building Great Sentences: How to Write the Kinds of Sentences You Love to Read (Great Courses) (2013).     In a fitting close to ...
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What is “the fabled obelisk” alluding to in The Boy at Mugby?

In this fragment from The Boy at Mugby within paragraph 60: The swelling tumult was arrested in its rise. Sniff, bore away by his servile disposition, had drored up his leg with a higher and a ...
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The House Was Quiet And The World Was Calm by Wallace Stevens quote interpretation

I'll give the whole poem for context, but I'm having trouble making complete sense of a line in the poem. What exactly does Stevens mean by the phrase "wanted much most to be / The scholar to whom ...
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What does Lorca mean by ‘the oppressed reds’ and ‘garnet violence’ in his poem ‘The King of Harlem’?

I've already asked one question on this poem and I did think to include this question along with it but decided against it as the poem is quite long, though of course not as long as some ancient epics ...
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What did Lorca mean by ‘crocodiles’ in his poem ‘The King of Harlem’?

The poet Federico García Lorca, when he was studying at Colombia University visited Harlem with a friend of his, Nella Larsen, a black novelist. It made a tremendous impression upon him and its ...
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Meaning of lines explaining Hrothgar's ruling in Heorot

I'm reading Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf and when the poet talks about Heorot Hall (lines 71 through 73) he says it would be his throne-room and there he would dispense his God-given ...
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What do these lines mean in 'The Importance of Being Earnest'?

Miss Prism: (Recoiling in indignant astonishment) Mr Worthing! I am unmarried! Jack: Unmarried! I do not deny that is a serious blow. But after all, who has the right to cast a stone against one ...
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Meaning of Lady Bracknell's phrasing in The Importance of Being Ernest

Lady Bracknell (to Cecily): Pretty child! your dress is sadly simple, your hair seems almost as Nature might have left it. But we can soon alter all that. A thoroughly experienced French maid produces ...
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Meaning and implication of these lines in The Importance of Being Ernest

Lady Bracknell: There are distinct social possibilities in your profile. The two weak points in our age are its want of principle and its want of profile. The chin a little higher, dear. Style largely ...
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Meaning of “moralize over every morning visit” in Pride and Prejudice

In the final chapter of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen writes Mary was the only daughter who remained at home; and she was necessarily drawn from the pursuit of accomplishments by Mrs. Bennet's ...
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Obscure phrases in “Studies in Classic American Literature” by D. H. Lawrence

By suggestion, I was transferred here from english.stackexchange.com. I have some trouble understanding several unusual constructions D. H. Lawrence used in his Studies in Classic American Literature....
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What does the raven say to Ged when he first enters the school at Roke?

In the Wizard of Earthsea when Ged first enters the school at Roke, he meets with the Archmage Nemmerle, and a "raven of Osskil" wanders towards the Archmage (his familiar, maybe?) and when the ...
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What is Baldwin referring to by the “magnificent twenties”?

In his Many Thousands Gone, James Baldwin wrote We cannot, to begin with, divorce this book from the specific social climate of that time; it was one of the last of all through the thirties, ...
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What do these lines mean in Tennyson's poem “Northern Farmer - Old Style”?

What does But summun ’ull come ater meä mayhap wi’ ’is kittle o’ steam Huzzin’ an’ maäzin’ the blessed feälds wi’ the Divil’s oaän teäm. mean in modern English?
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What does the line “Excellent, i' faith, of the chameleon's dish. I eat the air, promise-crammed. You cannot feed capons so.” mean, from Hamlet?

“Excellent, i' faith, of the chameleon's dish. I eat the air, promise-crammed. You cannot feed capons so.” Hamlet, act 3, scene 2 What does this sentence mean? What are the chameleon, air and ...
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What is the humour behind these lines in 'The Importance Of Being Earnest'?

In Act II of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, Algernon and Cecily have this exchange: Cecily: I can't understand how you are here at all. Uncle Jack won't be back till Monday ...
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What's the meaning of “my censures” as in Coleridge's “Biographia Literaria”

In Chapter Four: This fact of itself would have made me diffident in my censures, had not a still stronger ground been furnished by the strange contrast of the heat and long continuance of the ...
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What is “the well known story of the picture” in Coleridge's “Biographia Literaria”?

From Chapter 4 of Biographia Literaria by Samuel Taylor Coleridge: I am indeed convinced in my own mind, that could the same experiment have been tried with these volumes, as was made in the well ...
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In the given line, what is the relation between ‘short-sighted’ and ‘education’? What does it mean by strict views on education?

In Act II of The Importance of Being Earnest, Gwendolen says this in a conversation with Cecily: Gwendolen: [...] And certainly once a man begins to neglect his domestic duties he becomes painfully ...
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What do these lines mean in the poem “We The Women” By Grace Nichols?

I need an explanation for what Grace Nichols is trying to say in the following lines from her poem "We the Women": We the women who cut clear fetch dig sing We the women making something from ...
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What does “the cause” refer to in Coleridge's “Biographia Literaria”?

From Chapter 4 of Biographia Literaria by Samuel Taylor Coleridge: At present it will be sufficient for my purpose, if I have proved, that Mr. Southey’s writings no more than my own furnished the ...
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What is “the sin which ruined our first parents” in The Count of Monte Cristo?

The opening of Chapter 12 of The Count of Monte Cristo describes a meeting between Villefort and his father Noirtier, on which a servant apparently attempted to eavesdrop. The passage (translation ...
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What's the meaning of “preceding” as in Coleridge's Biographia Literaria

From Chapter 13 in Coleridge's Biographia Literaria (italics added): I could add to these arguments one derived from pecuniary motives, and particularly from the probable effects on the sale of ...
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In the Sonnet 29 by Shakespeare, does the speaker pity himself over lack of skill as an artist or contentment?

Here is the "Sonnet 29" by Shakespeare. When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state, And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries, And look upon ...
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What does “rushy bed” mean in this context?

The poem 'The Song of the Reed' by Rumi includes the lines: Hearken to this Reed forlorn, Breathing, even since 'twas torn From its rushy bed, a strain Of impassioned love and pain. (From ...
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How does Dee Raain use the Mirrors to highlight negative human traits in the poem “Mirror of Truth”?

The poem "Mirror of Truth" by Dee Raain is as follows: What is seen in the mirror is nothing more than a person with lies and hate. With sadness and traits Of discrimination and disgrace. ...
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What is the meaning of these lines about love from “Desiderata”?

What is the message being delivered through these lines in "Desiderata" by the poet Max Ehrmann? Especially do not feign affection Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity ...
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What is the difference between emotions and feelings in Wordsworth's Preface to Lyrical Ballads?

In the Preface to the second edition of Lyrical Ballads (1800), Wordsworth famously wrote that all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: (...). He later adds (my emphasis): ...
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Is “for eating” a joke?

Matthew and Maggie came with their two children and a sackful of chickens. Maggie emptied the sack into the yard and three red banty chickens clucked and scattered. "They are for you," she ...
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What does Aldous Huxley mean by 'death control is achieved very easily'?

In chapter I of Brave New World Revisited, Aldous Huxley writes: […] there are nowhere any religious traditions in favor of unrestricted death, whereas religious and social traditions in favor ...
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Interpretation of “The Catcher in the Rye” by J. D. Salinger

In "The Catcher in the Rye" by J. D. Salinger, there are two topics that, in my opinion, are metaphors. The first topic is the one of the ducks in the pond and where they go in winter. Looking on the ...
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Is the man about to die in “Meditation on the A30”?

John Betjeman's poem "Meditation on the A30" is about a man driving his car and fuming about his unloving wife. In the final verse, he finally turns to action: "You're barmy or plastered, I'll pass ...
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What is the meaning of “funny sort” in Jerome K. Jerome's “Passing Of The Third Floor Back”?

In "Passing Of The Third Floor Back" a short story by Jerome K. Jerome (available on Project Gutenberg) we have the following dialogue, without further explanation: Mrs. Pennycherry pondered. “He’s ...
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What did John Betjeman mean by “You kiddies have crumpled the serviettes/And I must have things daintily served”?

From Fox, Kate: Watching the English (2014 ed). p. 499 Bottom. The Self-deprecating Insult Rule Speaking of privileged schoolchildren and the English art of indirectness, here is a quote I ...
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What does this Boris Spassky quote mean?

This is a quote by Boris Spassky: A man who is willing to commit suicide has the initiative. Is this something that is just related to chess or is it a wider statement about people?
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What is the meaning of “Not even Jonah’s wife would swallow that story” in Marquez's “Love in the Time of Cholera”?

In the book of the Colombian novelist García Márquez Love in the Time of Cholera there is the following phrase: She said: “Not even Jonah’s wife would swallow that story.” I tried to find some ...
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What does “rather vaguely conceived sweetness and light” mean in this context?

I would like to know what "rather vaguely conceived sweetness and light" means in the following sentences: The other girls in her dormitory marveled at the slightness of her body when they saw ...
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What does “Am I sick?” mean in this context?

I would like to know what "Am I sick?" means in the following sentences: “I mustn't! I mustn't! I'm nervous this afternoon. Am I sick? . . . Good Lord, I hope it isn't that! Not now! How people ...
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What does this line mean, about Anna Karenina amounting to false papers?

What does Kundera mean by this line, towards the end of chapter 2 in The Unbearable Lightness of Being? The copy of Anna Karenina under her arm amounted to false papers; it had given Tomas the ...
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What does “snow in the crevices of a boggy bank” mean here?

I would like to know what "snow in the crevices of a boggy bank" means in the following sentences: Her cheek near his sleeve, she studied a dozen village pictures. They were streaky; she saw only ...