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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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In what way is Dussel an unflattering nickname?

From 16 November 1942 onwards, Anne Frank had to share her room with the dentist Fritz Pfeffer, who had a number of habits that Anne couldn't stand. In the German biography Anne Frank (Reinbek bei ...
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What does “advertisements in mother-of-pearl letters upon the glass-covered back” mean here?

I would like to know what "advertisements in mother-of-pearl letters upon the glass-covered back" means in the following sentences: She glanced through the fly-specked windows of the most ...
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81 views

What does “mannered whimsy” mean?

What does "mannered whimsy" mean in the following passage taken from Eucharist and the Poetic Imagination in Early Modern England by Sophie Read? Marvell does, it is true, come off better from this ...
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What does this passage of 1984 mean? [on hold]

There were also memories of another kind. They stood out in his mind disconnectedly, like pictures with blackness all round them. He was in a cell which might have been either dark or light, ...
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Meaning of “may I be twice damned for a bank-clerk or store hand” in “I hight Don Quixote”, a poem by Jack Parsons

From I Hight Don Quixote by Jack Parsons: They said I was crazy, ambiguous, lazy, disgusting, fantastic, obscene; So I hied for my sagebrush and cactus and corn mush, To see if the air was ...
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Meaning of “And do not drop in for an after-loss” in Shakespeare's sonnet 90

Sonnet 90 by Shakespeare: Then hate me when thou wilt; if ever, now; Now, while the world is bent my deeds to cross, Join with the spite of fortune, make me bow, And do not drop in for an ...
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What does the dedication “To The Other Three” mean?

The book Beast and Man in India by John Lockwood Kipling (father of the more famous Rudyard Kipling), which is freely available on Project Gutenberg, has the following cryptic dedication: TO THE ...
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Are the words 'putter' and 'chop' some kind of mimetic words or what in this context?

I've come accross the expressions 'putter, putter!' and 'chop, chop' in the novel 'The Arrangement' by Elia Kazan. I need interpretation. Here is the paragraph: He'd continue his joking, fixing me ...
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Meaning of this line from “Birches”

I was reading "Birches" by Robert Frost. I am having difficulty in understanding the meaning of a line. Please refer to this link for the full poem: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44260/...
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Meaning of “How can one admire a girl…so young she doesn't know how to bite her fingers”

In a book of short stories by Maasthi Venkatesa Iyengar, translated from Kannada to English, there is a story set in colonial India in which two male characters are discussing marriage. One character ...
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What does “getting soaked” mean in this text?

What does "getting soaked" mean in the following excerpt from Valeria Luiselli's novel The Story of My Teeth? I get off the bus not far from the gates, at a lovely median strip with life-size ...
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What is the literal meaning of this line in “Birches”

I was reading "Birches" by Robert Frost. I am having difficulty in understanding the meaning of a part of a line. Please refer to this link for the full poem: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/...
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1answer
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Does Auden contradict himself in “children might well appear to be more rational than adults, for a child is not, by nature, more anything”?

I first saw this quote here: Philip Johnson-Laird BA PhD Psychology (UCL), Stuart Professor of Psychology Emeritus at Princeton. How We Reason (1st edn 2008). p. 245. I emboldened. “Walter de la ...
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1answer
39 views

What is the meaning of these lines in Albee's Three Tall Women?

Can anyone please let me know the meaning of the following lines taken from Edward Albee's play Three Tall Women. The lines are spoken by character A, an elderly woman, expressing her view of the "...
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What does “the surface tension held” mean?

Consider the following passage from Six Wakes, a science fiction novel by Mur Lafferty: She and a good quantity of the synth-amneo fluid floated out of her vat, only to collide gently with the orb ...
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What is the function of comedy for Frye?

I have come across this quote from Northrop Frye: the social judgment against the absurd is closer to the comic norm than the moral judgment against the wicked. What is meant by it? Can anyone ...
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Meaning of “We make the wise distinction still, soever made in vain” in a poem by Dickinson

A poem by Emily Dickinson: We send the Wave to find the Wave— An Errand so divine, The Messenger enamored too, Forgetting to return, We make the wise distinction still, Soever made in ...
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How can readers ascertain that they have identified the author's intent?

We currently have several questions about auhorial-intent, for example, How much weight is given to authors' intentions in literary analysis? and How much weight should we give authors' declarations ...
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Why did Emerson choose 'hobgoblin' in his quote 'A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds'?

Source: Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive (2009). p. 80. According to Oscar Wilde, “Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.” A similarly disdainful Ralph Waldo ...
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98 views

Explain “If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you”

In Kipling's poem IF, there is this line: If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you To achieve that, it seems you would have to be so closed off, insulated, and emotionally barricaded that ...
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Meaning of “I'm almost three-score” in “The Idiot Boy” by Wordsworth

From Wordsworth's The Idiot Boy: And now she's high upon the down, And she can see a mile of road, "Oh cruel! I'm almost three-score; Such night as this was ne'er before, There's not a ...
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Meaning of “dim blue match” in “The Female Vagrant” by Wordsworth

From "The Female Vagrant": But ill they suited me; those journeys dark O'er moor and mountain, midnight theft to hatch! To charm the surly House-dog's faithful bark, Or hang on tip-toe at ...
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Meaning and significance of “vaultlike door” and “contract around the object in a single yawn of appetite” in Egan's A Visit From The Goon Squad?

What is a vaultlike door? Is this a common adjective for a door? What does yawn of appetite mean? Would you please paraphrase/rephrase these sentences and explain their relevance? From Chapter 1, "...
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In Anne Frank's Diary, what does this quote mean? “Who besides me will ever read these letters? From whom but myself shall I get comfort?…”

Full quote: Who besides me will ever read these letters? From whom but myself shall I get comfort? As I need comforting often, I frequently feel weak, and dissatisfied with myself; my ...
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What's the meaning of the line “9 Parts of Desire” in this song?

There is a partially Hindi (there is only a couple of lines in Hindi; rest is in English) song titled as "9 Parts of Desire". Here is the YouTube link to that song. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=...
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Explanation of a line from the poem “I do not love you ” by Pablo Neruda

I loved her like certain dark things are to be loved, in between shadow and soul. Can someone explain this? What dark things are being talked about? Full text in Spanish and English Alternate ...
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Equestrian statues and wooden logs, what's the connection?

Here's a quote from Tomas de Quincey's "Confessions of an English Opium-Eater": Turkish opium-eaters, it seems, are absurd enough to sit, like so many equestrian statues, on logs of wood as stupid ...
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What did Pope intend to say by “Whatever is, is right”?

Source: The Well-Educated Mind (2 edn 2016), p. 86 Middle.   Related to this is one final question: What is fiction meant to do? Why are you reading a novel at all? Are you expecting to find ...
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What does this sentence about a cliché bouncing back like a boomerang mean?

What does this sentence mean in chapter 01 of Peel My Love Like an Onion by Ana Castillo? But you must be really in love for the cliché to bounce back like a boomerang smack dab between the eyes ...
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A real meaning of a Bramarbas or a Holofernes?

Before long the madness of intoxication broke out; they attacked one another with fists and knives, and it looked as if they would do murder. Suddenly the Saltmaster’s son, who had stood looking on, ...
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Meaning of some phrases and lines in “Quality” by John Galsworthy

I am reading "Quality" by John Galsworthy and there are some phrases and lines which I could not grasp. I thought that this site would be the perfect place to ask this question. Below are some lines ...
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Had fasting anything to do with golden trout in Middle Ages?

When I read a short story by Ambrose Bierce, 'Monk and the Hangman's daughter', I found a strange expression as below: At length we reached the bank of a stream whose silvery waters presented a ...
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What does “pull down the blinds” mean in Yeats's poem “The Mountain Tomb”?

Pour wine and dance, if manhood still have pride, Bring roses, if the rose be yet in bloom; The cataract smokes on the mountain side. Our Father Rosicross is in his tomb. Pull down ...
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What does “our identity with this country” mean here?

Reading The Great Gatsby, I encountered these sentences and came to be curious as to what "our identity with this country" means in this context: When we pulled out into the winter night and the ...
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What does “the protecting canvas unrolled from Gatsby’s grave” mean?

I am reading The Great Gatsby, and came to be curious as to what "the protecting canvas unrolled from Gatsby’s grave" means in the following sentences: As we started through the gate into the ...
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59 views

What does “The none too savory ramifications by which” mean here?

I am reading The Great Gatsby, and came to be curious as to the meaning of "ramifications" and "by which" in these sentences: Cody was fifty years old then, a product of the Nevada silver fields, ...
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What does “the service of a vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty” mean here?

I am reading The Great Gatsby, and came to be curious as to what "the service of a vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty" means in the following sentences: His parents were shiftless and ...
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174 views

What does “that most limited of all specialists” mean here?

I am reading The Great Gatsby, and encountered these sentences: There was so much to read, for one thing, and so much fine health to be pulled down out of the young breath-giving air. I bought a ...
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Does D'Hubert rape the maid at the beginning of Joseph Conrad's 'The Duel'?

Towards the beginning of Joseph Conrad's novella The Duel, the character D'Hubert visits the house of the hussar Feraud, where he tries to obtain information about Feraud's whereabouts from his maid. ...
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What does this passage about the atmosphere blowing in Cyprus and the Galilee mean in “Jude the Obscure” mean?

When Jude is in the church, when he was following Sue, we see this line: ...was like the dew of the Hermon, and he remained throughout the service in a sustaining atmosphere of ecstasy. Though he ...
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2answers
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What does “the facts about themselves” mean here?

Could you please let me know what "the facts about themselves" means in the following sentences: I was in no great pains to keep in touch with England. I followed local advice for my itinerary ...
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What exactly are masques and bergamasques?

In Verlaines's "Claire de Lune" he speaks of: Que vont charmant masques et bergamasques They play musical instruments, so one assumes them to be musical artists, but what exactly are masques and ...
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What does “snapped out, made accidental, isolated, like ghosts” mean here?

I am reading The Great Gatsby, and encountered these sentences: The voice begged again to go. "Please, Tom! I can't stand this any more." Her frightened eyes told that whatever intentions, ...
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What does “if we had room for him” mean here?

I am reading The Great Gatsby, and would like to know what "if we had room for him" means in the following sentences: "Biloxi?" He concentrated with an effort. "I didn't know him. He was a friend ...
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1answer
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How did the oil tank look like in Wilson's garage?

I am reading The Great Gatsby, and came to wonder how the oil tank looked like in Wilson's garage. With an effort Wilson left the shade and support of the doorway and, breathing hard, unscrewed ...
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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 the shade." ...
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196 views

What does “the master's body” mean here?

I am reading The Great Gatsby, and finding it difficult to grasp what "The master's body" means in the following sentences: ...Through the hall of Buchanans' house blew a faint wind, carrying the ...
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What does “an affront to the common store of life” mean here?

I am reading The Great Gatsby, and would very much like to know what "an affront to the common store of life" means in the following sentences: He set down the receiver and came toward us, ...
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2answers
154 views

What does “which comes at the two changes of the year” mean here?

I am reading The Great Gatsby, and finding it difficult to grasp the meaning of "which comes at the two changes of the year" in the following sentences: ...One autumn night, five years before, they ...
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What does “made notes for a little thesis” mean here?

I would like to know what "made notes for a little thesis" means in the following sentences: Collins made notes for a little thesis pointing out the inferiority of the original mosaics to their ...