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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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33
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7answers
7k views

The author of a literary work disagrees with critics about meaning—who's right?

I've just come up with a conjecture on what a piece of literature means, but the author has said that they didn't mean for their work to suggest that. For example, Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is ...
31
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5answers
5k views

Meaning/translation of title “The Light Fantastic” by Terry Pratchett

I have read The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett in English and always interpreted the title as "The Fantastic (adjective) light (noun)". Mostly because I do not see "Fantastic" as noun. To my ...
19
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3answers
2k views

What does it mean to laugh like the letter k?

In Abuelito Who by Sandra Cisneros, the symbolic meaning of one line is quite confusing. The narrator is referring to her grandfather (abuelo), and she says he: who used to laugh like the letter k ...
17
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1answer
2k views

What do these espionage tradecraft phrases from Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy mean?

When Ricky Tarr is recounting his story to George Smiley, he speculates that Boris -- a Russian spy working undercover as a trade delegate -- was "waiting for a connect, working a letterbox, maybe, or ...
17
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1answer
3k views

What are the “old euphemisms” in The Great Gatsby?

In chapter 6 of The Great Gatsby, Nick describes Daisy's reaction to the people of West Egg: But the rest offended her—and inarguably, because it wasn’t a gesture but an emotion. She was appalled ...
14
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2answers
962 views

What does “halter” mean here?

The following sentence occurs in Mark Twain's sketch Private History of a Campaign that Failed: The drenching we were getting was misery enough, but a deeper misery still was the reflection that ...
14
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4answers
2k views

Explanation of the line 'But you don't really care for music, do you' in “Hallelujah”

In the first verse of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah", there are these lines: Now, I've heard there was a secret chord That David played and it pleased the Lord But you don't really care for music,...
13
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2answers
9k views

The meaning of “The rest is silence” in “Hamlet”

Hamlet's very last words are The rest is silence. What do they actually mean? This being Shakespeare, I reckon the significance of these words cannot be only the banal comparison between death and ...
13
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3answers
240 views

What is a bootless oath?

In Book X (10) of The Illiad Hector (edition: Britannica Great Books of the Western World (The Illiad and The Odessey together), rendered into English prose by Samuel Butler) swears the following oath ...
13
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2answers
1k views

Is Deeper Magic something more than God (the Emperor beyond the Sea) in Narnia?

When Aslan is asked why he has to die in the The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, he answers something in the sense that there is a "deeper magic" that he has to obey. What exactly is this "deeper ...
13
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2answers
623 views

What does it mean to greet a guest with an unsheathed sword?

In A Game of Thrones, Chapter 24, when Tyrion Lannister visits Winterfell on the way back from the Wall: “Any man of the Night’s Watch is welcome here at Winterfell for as long as he wishes to ...
12
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2answers
1k views

Meaning of “d-n” in “'T is strange—the Hebrew noun which means 'I am,' the English always used to govern d—n”

From Byron's Don Juan: She liked the English and the Hebrew tongue, And said there was analogy between 'em; She proved it somehow out of sacred song, But I must leave the proofs ...
12
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1answer
2k views

Meaning of this William Faulkner quote

In a specific scene of Requiem for a Nun by William Faulkner, Temple Drake states that Temple Drake is dead. In response, Gavin, Nancy's lawyer, responds: The past is never dead. It's not ...
12
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1answer
188 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.  ...
11
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4answers
4k views

What does “Until a man is nothing, God can make nothing out of him” mean?

I came across the following passage in Dan Brown’s fiction, “Inferno”: [...] their physical being and cosmic importance shrinking to the size of a mere speck in the face of God … an atom in the ...
11
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3answers
15k views

In To Kill a Mockingbird, what does “let the dead bury the dead” mean?

In the ending chapter of "To Kill a Mockingbird", Atticus and Mr Heck Tate (the Sheriff) are deciding who is responsible for the death of Mr Ewell. Atticus thinks Jem killed Mr Ewell but Heck knows it ...
11
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1answer
776 views

In “The Importance of Being Earnest”, what does 'Or they come in the evening, at any rate' mean?

In The Importance of Being Earnest, when Lady Bracknell asks Jack about his politics, he answers "Liberal Unionist". Here's the exchange: Lady Bracknell: What are your politics? Jack: Well, I ...
11
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1answer
205 views

Who are the Mephistophelians?

In Mark Dunn's "progressively lipogrammatic epistolary fable" Ella Minnow Pea, the populace of a small island are forbidden the use of certain letters of the English alphabet in speech and writing as ...
11
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1answer
8k views

Why did the stars throw down their spears?

William Blake's poem “The Tyger” from Songs of Experience contains one couplet whose meaning has always puzzled me, lines 17–18, the first two lines of the fifth stanza: When the stars threw ...
11
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1answer
256 views

What does “kettle at the heel” mean in this Yeats poem, “The Tower”?

What shall I do with this absurdity — O heart, O troubled heart — this caricature, Decrepit age that has been tied to me As to a dog's tail? Never had I more Excited, passionate, ...
11
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1answer
284 views

Why is Rousseau saying that “[…] Russia was civilized too soon”?

In The Social Contract, Jean-Jacques Rousseau says [...] Russia will never be really civilized, because it was civilized too soon What is he referring to, when saying it was civilized too soon, ...
11
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1answer
98 views

What is “vulgar white of personal aims”? Why is it “white”?

From Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning: 'I have not stood long on the strand of life, And these salt waters have had scarcely time To creep so high up as to wet my feet. I cannot ...
10
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4answers
515 views

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 ...
10
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1answer
305 views

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 ...
10
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2answers
2k views

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 ...
10
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2answers
517 views

Meaning of this line in “On seeing the Elgin Marbles”

And each imagined pinnacle and steep Of godlike hardship tells me I must die The "pinnacle and steep" represent the pillars of the Parthenon if I'm not mistaken. But the next line doesn't make ...
9
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2answers
795 views

Why is 'beer' used in ''a parson much bemus'd in beer"?

In 1735, Alexander Pope wrote Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot. There is a line "a parson much bemus'd in beer." What has beer to do with it? I came across this in Merriam-Webster: In 1735, British poet ...
9
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2answers
5k views

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 ...
9
votes
1answer
419 views

What's the “Tower of Darkness” in the Rubaiyat referring to?

Stanza 26: (from the English version by FitzGerald) A Muezzin from the Tower of Darkness cries "Fools! Your reward is neither Here nor There!" What's the "Tower of Darkness" referred to? I'm ...
9
votes
1answer
325 views

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 ...
9
votes
1answer
145 views

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 ...
9
votes
1answer
116 views

What specifically is being described as stupid and old-fashioned in this passage on arranged marriage?

I'm trying to rhetorically analyze a passage in Amy Tan's novel titled The Joy Luck Club, where a character, Lindo Jong, describes her experience with the arranged marriage process. I've included the ...
8
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1answer
766 views

What is the meaning of this paragraph from “And Then There Were None”?

I was reading this paragraph from this mystery of Agatha Christie And Then There Were None, this small paragraph is there which has no previous resemblance. By Jove, he'd sailed pretty near the ...
8
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2answers
243 views

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. ...
8
votes
1answer
1k views

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 ...
8
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1answer
584 views

What's the meaning of “give someone the lie” in Macbeth?

As I have noticed there are multiple interpretations of the following lines from William Shakespeare 's Macbeth. For example, "drink gave thee the lie" has been interpreted as diversely as "deceived ...
8
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2answers
2k views

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 ...
8
votes
1answer
258 views

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 ...
8
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1answer
82 views

What does the narrator really mean by the following quote from the novel Cranford?

In the novel Cranford, there's a particular line that I'm having trouble understanding: If a married couple come to settle in town, somehow the gentleman disappears. I thought about it, and I came ...
8
votes
1answer
373 views

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 ...
8
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1answer
114 views

What could be the possible reason behind “live in fear” and “move at liberty” in the fourth stanza of “A German Requiem”?

The fourth stanza of the poem "A German Requiem" indicates that the widow lived in fear and the young man could not move at liberty between the armchairs. I cannot figure out why. What does the widow ...
8
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0answers
64 views

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 ...
7
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3answers
7k views

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 ...
7
votes
2answers
93 views

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 ...
7
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2answers
72 views

The meaning of “Lovers' Food”

This question is regarding a dialogue of Hermia in Scene 1 of Act 1 of 'The Midsummer Night's Dream' by William Shakespeare where she mentions, "From lovers' food till morrow deep midnight." Please ...
7
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1answer
394 views

Krazy language in Krazy Kat, 25 July 1936

The eponymous hero (or heroine) of George Herriman's Krazy Kat cartoons uses a very peculiar language. Most of the time, it's simply phonetical and is easy to understand, but in the strip that ...
7
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3answers
549 views

Alternate meaning of “still” in 'Ode to a Nightingale'

This resource on 'Ode to a Nightingale' by Keats says that the word "still" in stanza 6 ("Still wouldst thou sing") might have more than one meaning. However, I can't see it meaning anything beyond '...
7
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3answers
110 views

What does Father Gur mean by “And then you'll be given back!”?

During the dinner at the king's palace, Rumata has a conversation with Father Gur, the poet. Rumata offers him a copy of the poets work, in exchange for a promise to write something new: “Very well ...
7
votes
1answer
217 views

Do the poisons in “Ode on Melancholy” have deeper meaning?

In "Ode on Melancholy", Keats uses the images of three poisons in the first stanza: Wolf's bane, nightshade, and yew-berries. Are these poisons simply meant to connote death/suicide, or might they ...
7
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2answers
124 views

Why does Linus say “I think you finished it” to Sally in this Sunday strip?

So in December 22nd, 1985, Charles Schulz made this following Christmas themed Sunday panel featuring Linus and Sally. Linus is reading Sally the second chapter of the Book of Luke (from the Bible), ...