Questions tagged [meaning]

Questions regarding the meaning of certain terms or 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. Please add specific tags as well: for the author (if known), the language (if not English), and either the work itself (if long) or the [poetry] or [short-stories] tags for short works.

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What does "counteracting the sweets of poetical despondence" mean in "Persuasion"?

In Jane Austen's Persuasion, when Anne and company are walking over to Winthrop, we are given this description along the way: Winthrop, however, or its environs—for young men are sometimes to be met ...
8 votes
2 answers
146 views

Why is Gatsby's house described as "ancestral"?

In chapter 8 of The Great Gatsby, Nick explains says: His gorgeous pink rag of a suit made a bright spot of color against the white steps, and I thought of the night when I first came to his ...
5 votes
3 answers
8k views

What does Wordsworth mean by "A pagan suckled in a creed outworn"?

I have two questions regarding this sonnet by William Wordsworth, first published in 1807: The world is too much with us; late and soon, Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers: Little we ...
4 votes
2 answers
747 views

Meaning of "It is the ego, demanding its feed" in "Smiley's People"

From John Le Carré's Smiley's People: I need you, thought Smiley, watching him gyrate. I love you, I hate you, I need you. Such apocalyptic statements reminded him of Ann when she had run out of ...
1 vote
1 answer
73 views

Meaning of description of Jim waking in "The Gift of the Magi"

What is the meaning of these lines from O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi"? Out of his trance Jim seemed quickly to wake. He enfolded his Della. For ten seconds let us regard with discreet ...
3 votes
1 answer
382 views

Difficulty understanding the meaning of the word "attitude" in Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn"

O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede Of marble men and maidens overwrought I am having trouble understanding Keats's use of the word "attitude" in these lines, and the explanation given ...
5 votes
1 answer
38 views

Meaning of speech in Synge's "Deirdre of the Sorrows"

Near the beginning of J. M. Synge's play Deirdre of the Sorrows, Deirdre's nurse Lavarcham says: Who’d check her like was meant to have her pleasure only, the way if there were no warnings told about ...
6 votes
1 answer
408 views

Meaning of "bunching ground" in Josephine Humphrey's "Nowhere Else On Earth"

On page 4 the narrator refers to "the bunching ground." I searched the web and found no definitions but a Bunching Ground Road near Jackson, Alabama. I called the Clarke County Historical ...
6 votes
1 answer
436 views

Are there crossword puzzle clues in Roy Fuller's "News of the World"?

I've been reading some of Roy Fuller's poetry, and was very puzzled by his "News of the World": The seaweed-eating sheep of Ronaldsay; Don Giovanni set for wind octet; New Zealand hedgehogs ...
2 votes
1 answer
88 views

What does "the heathen" have to do with "horseback riding" here?

In I Am Homeless if This Is Not My Home by Lorrie Moore, Eliz narrates a conversation between her and Jack: “God has gone horseback riding,” I say, “and we are left behind to tend to one another.” “...
11 votes
2 answers
1k 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 votes
1 answer
507 views

Trouble understanding two lines from John Donne's poem "The Good Morrow"

I cannot work out how to parse these two lines from "The Good-Morrow": Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone, Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown Here's the whole stanza, ...
9 votes
1 answer
798 views

What is a "sixpenny hop" in D. H. Lawrence's "Sons and Lovers"?

From chapter XII of Sons and Lovers: There was a long pause. Mrs. Radford readjusted the bacon in the Dutch oven. His heart beat fast, for fear he had offended her. “Me!” she exclaimed at last. “No, ...
4 votes
1 answer
106 views

What is the "tin box" in D. H. Lawrence's "Sons and Lovers"?

In chapter VII of Sons and Lovers, the Morel family are about to go on holiday, and a tin box is mentioned: He [Paul Morel] was master of the party; his father was no good. And great tortures he ...
8 votes
1 answer
492 views

Meaning of a passage in Milton's Sonnet 21

I'm reading Milton's Sonnet 21 and a couple of lines are unintelligible to me. Here is the full poem. The emboldened lines 5 and 6 are the ones I'm having trouble with: Cyriack, whose Grandsire on ...
6 votes
2 answers
836 views

Francis Bacon's "The Advancement of Learning"

I'm trying to get a handle on a metaphor used by Francis Bacon in The Advancement of Learning, when expounding on the usefulness of Alchemy as a study. He writes: And yet surely to alchemy this right ...
2 votes
2 answers
145 views

What is the meaning of "They don't let you" in "The House At Pooh Corner"?

This is from The House At Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne: Then, suddenly again, Christopher Robin, who was Still looking at the world with his chin in his hands, called out “Pooh!” "Yes?" said ...
3 votes
1 answer
213 views

In Lord Byron's "Don Juan," what was the lead character "half-smother'd" by?

This would be the character's first adventure. Julia, a married woman, became his mistress. Her husband, Don Alfonso, was told that she was cheating on him and ran into the bedroom, accompanied by ...
7 votes
0 answers
127 views

Meaning of "Ephete" in Seamus Heaney's "The Stations of the West"

So far, the only definition I've managed to get is "a member of an ancient Athenian court that tried certain murder cases" (Merriam-Webster), but since the poem is about traveling to the ...
3 votes
4 answers
2k views

What does Heraclitus mean by "if you do not expect the unexpected"?

I lit upon this quote on p. 177 in National Geographic's photo book Sublime Nature, that I riffled through based on recent posts. Goodreads has it. I don't know any philosophy, and don't understand ...
1 vote
0 answers
57 views

In An Inspector Calls, is there any deeper meaning attached to the name Birling?

Several of the characters in J. B. Priestley's play An Inspector Calls have names of symbolic significance. Most notably, Inspector Goole plays on his potential supernatural aspects: "spectre&...
2 votes
1 answer
92 views

Meaning of "Fifth Form at St Dominic's"

In James Hilton's Lost Horizon (1933), Rutherford says: I don't care much for Wyland. I can't stand his type—all that primness and mountainous self-importance. And the complete head-prefectorial mind—...
2 votes
1 answer
63 views

Meaning of "makes the margin of our deeper rest" in "The Mill on the Floss"?

From chapter XIV of The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot: When Maggie was gone to sleep, Stephen, weary too with his unaccustomed amount of rowing, and with the intense inward life of the last ...
2 votes
1 answer
57 views

What does "the last act of baseness- the tasting of joys that were wrung from crushed hearts" mean?

From The Mill on the Floss: Day break came and the reddening eastern light, while her past life was grasping her in this way, with that tightening clutch which comes in the last moments of possible ...
7 votes
2 answers
2k views

What does it mean for a "bad eye" to "touch" something?

The poem Dance in Heytkah reads as follows, 12th September - Kurban Eid I saw the dance of Sama In the modern world Magic mirror on the wall My beloved hometown Kashgar From ancient history fill ...
4 votes
2 answers
2k views

What do "fünf Tage Dicken" and "fünf Tage Kahn" mean in All Quiet on the Western Front?

In Im Westen nichts Neues (All Quiet on the Western Front), Remarque uses the phrases "fünf Tage Dicken" and "fünf Tage Kahn." Can anyone explain those phrases?
3 votes
1 answer
91 views

In The Crying of Lot 49, why does Bortz feel he's "too young" to answer his son's questions?

Late on in Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49, Professor Bortz says the following to the protagonist, Oedipa, as they discuss a book related to the fictional Jacobean playwright Richard Wharfinger. "...
6 votes
2 answers
162 views

What does it mean to "wear my decoration" in the poem "Tomato & Lettuce"?

I can follow Monica Rico's poem "Tomato and Lettuce" (Internet Archive copy) until the last description/metaphor; the full sentence is: The bright split of my birth was to a woman who ...
6 votes
1 answer
968 views

What does "well may" mean in "Bleak House" by Charles Dickens?

Well may the court be dim, with wasting candles here and there; well may the fog hang heavy in it, as if it would never get out; well may the stained-glass windows lose their colour and admit no light ...
3 votes
0 answers
33 views

How to parse "the release of the want of the want of release"?

In Justin Torres' Blackouts, which won the 2023 National Book Award for Fiction, the central character, Juan Gay, twice refers to "the release of the want of the want of release." In the ...
10 votes
3 answers
8k views

Understanding the plotline of “The Smile” by Ted Hughes

I'm reading Ted Hughes' "The Smile" (text version), and I'm trying to understand its plotline. More specifically: what's the nature of the scenes wherein the poem's protagonist, the smile, ...
6 votes
3 answers
229 views

What is a “sawney tea” in Kingsley Amis’ “The Riverside Villas Murder”?

From The Riverside Villas Murder by Kingsley Amis: ‘Good.’ The colonel worked his bell-push. ‘Thank you for coming, Peter.' ‘Oh no, sir, thank you for a sawney tea. And the music.’ Kingsley Amis (...
4 votes
2 answers
242 views

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 ...
8 votes
2 answers
1k views

Are Don Juan and Haidée both Greek, as this line in the poem seems to suggest?

Canto II of Don Juan contains the following, which I found absolutely hilarious: They look upon each other, and their eyes Gleam in the moonlight; and her white arm clasps Round Juan’s head, and his ...
4 votes
1 answer
488 views

How does the study of 'schoolmen' help in improving our distinguishing skills?

I have been reading the short essay "Of Studies" by Sir Francis Bacon. I couldn't understand the meaning of this sentence: If his wit be not apt to distinguish or find differences, let him ...
9 votes
1 answer
1k views

What are the "dead Easter chicks" in "Just Before the War with the Eskimos?"

In J. D. Salinger's short story "Just Before the War with the Eskimos," a character reveals that: A few years before it had taken her three days to dispose of the Easter chick she had found ...
4 votes
0 answers
84 views

"And there was yet a greater difficulty. I had read somewhere an aphorism that everything may be false to itself save human nature."

(From The Wrecker by Robert Louis Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne, Chapter II, passage 36, published 1892) The house, by daylight, had proved to be six stories high, the same as ever. I could find, with ...
5 votes
0 answers
67 views

What is the meaning of "to go buy oil" in Manto's "Mummy"?

Toward the beginning of Saadat Hasan Manto's short story "मम्मी" (mammi / Mummy), the narrator and his wife find themselves abandoned to the tender mercies of a friend's slow-moving servant: ...
6 votes
0 answers
101 views

What is the meaning of the cabdriver's retort in Chandler's "The Long Goodbye"?

In Raymond Chandler's 1953 novel "The Long Goodbye" the following exchange occurs: I got into the taxi and we went the three-odd blocks to my parking lot and shifted to my car. I held out ...
7 votes
1 answer
224 views

Meaning of "Illimba", "mani" and "acuminus" in "The God of Small Things" by Arundhati Roy?

I'm reading The God of Small Things, a novel by Keralan author Arundhati Roy. She masterfully plays with words, sometimes transforming them, mimicking the way a seven year old would (the main ...
11 votes
1 answer
2k views

What could be the meaning of "doctor-testing of little girls" by Steinbeck?

I was reading East of Eden by John Steinbeck, where I came across the sentence: A man’s mind vagued up a little, for how can you remember the feel of pleasure or pain or choking emotion? You can ...
2 votes
4 answers
15k views

Summer Wine: what was the 'unfamiliar line' with which the girl reassured her lover?

The song "Summer Wine", written by Lee Hazlewood, describes a girl seducing a man with her 'summer wine'. At some point the man tells us "She reassured me with an unfamiliar line". What can it ...
8 votes
1 answer
1k views

What does "rob it of a few petrified spars" mean in "Pride and Prejudice"?

In Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, when the idea of visiting Derbyshire is first brought up to Elizabeth, she immediately thinks of Pemberley and Mr. Darcy, who lives there, and then makes a ...
5 votes
1 answer
3k views

What does "I believe they’re superior to grandmothers" mean?

This is from Jean Webster's Daddy-Long-Legs (1912): Anyway, there he was, sitting in the reception room very proper with his hat and stick and gloves beside him; and Julia and Sallie with seventh-...
2 votes
1 answer
130 views

What does "much too full of lines under the words to be made public" mean?

In Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, after the regiment leaves Meryton, Lydia heads off to Brighton, where she promises to keep in touch with her family: When Lydia went away, she promised to write ...
-1 votes
1 answer
90 views

English teacher may be misunderstanding a sentence from a commencement speech: "there's a good chance this began with your valedictorian also saying" [closed]

In Jason Reynolds's 2018 commencement speech, it has the sentence "In high school there's a good chance this began with your valedictorian also saying, We made it, then tearing into a borderline ...
0 votes
2 answers
372 views

Meaning of "her parish and her poultry" in "Pride and Prejudice"

From volume 2, chapter 5 of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: Elizabeth could safely say that it was a great happiness where that was the case, and with equal sincerity could add, that she firmly ...
2 votes
1 answer
78 views

What were the changes in the Spirit of the West at the end of first millennium?

From the first Chapter of The Undiscovered Self by Carl Jung What will the future bring? From time immemorial, this question has occupied men’s minds, though not always to the same degree. ...
0 votes
0 answers
42 views

What did Stefan Zweig mean when he said "becoming old is no longer being afraid of the past"?

In 24 hours in the life of a woman, Stefan Zweig writes "becoming old is no longer being afraid of the past". What did he mean by this?
1 vote
1 answer
72 views

What scene is "To the west the Park dripped wretchedly...about its affairs" describing?

The fog was like a saffron blanket soaked in ice-water. It had hung over London all day and at last was beginning to descend. the sky was yellow as a duster and the rest was a granular black, ...

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