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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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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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51 views

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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42 views

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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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 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 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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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 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 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 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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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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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 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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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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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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1answer
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Meaning of “Produced her Don more heirs at love than law”

From Don Juan: This heathenish cross restored the breed again, Ruin'd its blood, but much improved its flesh; For from a root the ugliest in Old Spain Sprung up a branch as ...
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Meaning of “which some months the same still is” in Byron's 'Don Juan'

From Byron's Don Juan: By Jove! he was a noble fellow, Johnson, And though his name, than Ajax or Achilles, Sounds less harmonious, underneath the sun soon We shall not see his ...
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Meaning of “The ear becomes more Irish, and less nice” in Byron's Don Juan

From Byron's Don Juan: It has a strange quick jar upon the ear, That cocking of a pistol, when you know A moment more will bring the sight to bear Upon your person, twelve yards off,...
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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 “Of which the first ne'er knows the second cause” in Byron's Don Juan

From Byron's Don Juan: Their poet, a sad trimmer, but no less In company a very pleasant fellow, Had been the favourite of full many a mess Of men, and made them speeches when half ...
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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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1answer
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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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1answer
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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'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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1answer
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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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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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1answer
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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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Why does Susan say her “eyes are hard” when suffering an emotional breakdown in the Waves (Virginia Woolf)?

"I love," said Susan, "and I hate. I desire one thing only. My eyes are hard. Jinny's eyes break into a thousand lights. Rhoda's are like those pale flowers to which moths come in the evening. [...
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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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What's the meaning of the text in the scroll that the Prince of Arragon finds in the silver casket in Act 2, Scene 9 of The Merchant of Venice?

This is the exact text (The Merchant of Venice, Act 2 Scene 9): Arragon: The fire seven times tried this, Seven times tried that judgment is, That did never choose amiss. Some ...
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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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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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297 views

What is the author trying to convey in this passage from “Gates of Fire” by Steven Pressfield?

I am reading Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield. I encountered this passage, to which, I cannot wrap my head around the context that author is trying to convey. We had reached the river now. We ...
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2answers
102 views

What is “Protean Ubiquity” in Proust's “Swann's Way”?

I have started reading Proust's Swann's way. On page 66 the narrator, after providing a very vivid description of aunt Leonie's house and its atmosphere, describes her state. She has gradually left ...
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184 views

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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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 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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What is “ache-and-pain-a-me back-o-hardness” in “We the Women”?

I need an explanation for what Grace Nichols is trying to say in the following stanzas from her poem "We the Women": We the women who cut clear fetch dig sing We the women making something ...
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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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In The Wall Jumper, what is the meaning of the very last line about walls still standing?

In The Wall Jumper by Peter Schneider the very last line is: The city outside, with its fire walls, garden walls, border walls - those walls will still be standing when no one is left to move ...
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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 are the “dark Satanic mills” in Blake's Jerusalem?

The short poem Jerusalem by William Blake - not to be confused with his much longer epic poem of the same title; I'm talking about the "did those feet in ancient times" one - contains the following ...
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What does the phrase “the silent imputation of parsimony” mean in The Gift of the Magi by O.Henry?

What does the phrase "the silent imputation of parsimony" mean? It appears in the first paragraph of "The Gift of the Magi," which I've quoted below. One dollar and eighty-seven cents.That was all. ...
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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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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 ...