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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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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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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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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164 views

Why did Martin Eden live at night with the gods in a colossal nightmare?

Re-reading Jack London's Martin Eden for my project, I've come across this passage: Martin had ascended from pitch to pitch of intellectual living, and here he was at a higher pitch than ever.  ...
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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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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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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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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 is Jack's crown?

The English nursing rhyme "Jack and Jill" has several verses. The first verse is: Jack and Jill went up the hill To fetch a pail of water. Jack fell down and broke his crown, And ...
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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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58 views

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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740 views

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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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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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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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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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 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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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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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 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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1answer
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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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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 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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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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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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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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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 ...