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 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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1answer
32 views

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 ...
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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'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 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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“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, ...