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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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 ...
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4 votes
6 answers
2k views

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 a fault. Those who find beautiful meanings ...
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15 votes
4 answers
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What does this quote from The Great Gatsby mean?

Here's the quote: My commutation ticket came back to me with a dark stain from his hand. That any one should care in this heat whose flushed lips he kissed, whose head made damp the pajama ...
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12 votes
3 answers
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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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5 votes
1 answer
792 views

What does "a cloud pass across her gaze" mean?

From the novel The Spirit of the Place by Samuel Shem: Selma stared at him. He saw a cloud pass across her gaze. She sighed. "Orville-doll, there's nothing else but this." What does "...
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8 votes
1 answer
1k 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 ...
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8 votes
3 answers
6k views

What are the "mind-forged manacles"?

From "London", a short poem in William Blake's Songs of Experience collection (free to read online): In every cry of every man, In every infant’s cry of fear, In every voice, in every ban, ...
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11 votes
1 answer
19k 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 ...
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9 votes
1 answer
532 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 ...
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6 votes
2 answers
470 views

What do these two segments mean in Milton's "On Shakespeare"?

I find two amphibolous segments in Milton's poem "On Shakespeare" when translating into Chinese, and thus need some help. In first stanza What needs my Shakespeare for his honored bones, ...
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4 votes
2 answers
464 views

Meaning of "and light shows between his tightly buttoned torso and his father’s leg."

It is a photo of a family. The wind puffs out the huge stiff curved sleeve of the woman’s dress, and brushes back off his forehead the long hair of the father’s boy who is turned towards the drama of ...
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3 votes
1 answer
534 views

What do the fourth tempter's words mean, from “Murder in the Cathedral”?

In the play Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot, the fourth tempter comes to Thomas Becket and after some conversation between them the fourth tempter says You know and do not know, what is it to ...
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2 votes
1 answer
318 views

Meaning of "take trains like the Twentieth Century"

In the short story 'The Third Level' By Jack Finney, there is a sentence given as such: I turned into Grand Central from Vanderbilt Avenue, and went down the steps to the first level, where you take ...
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2 votes
2 answers
186 views

What's the significance of "at least" here?

In "In the Midst of Alarms" (1894) by Robert Barr, Yates is flirting with a rural Canadian girl in her kitchen. “No such motive drew me into the kitchen. But I will tell you. You shall have ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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What does "I was paralysed by possibility, caught between the vertigo of fulfilment and the abyss of uncertainty." mean here?

I would like to know what "I was paralysed by possibility, caught between the vertigo of fulfilment and the abyss of uncertainty." means in the following sentences: ‘Goodnight,’ you said ...
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0 votes
1 answer
307 views

What does "cheek" mean in the following phrase below in "The Fellowship of the Ring"?

This is taken from The Fellowship of the Ring, book II, chapter 1, page 266: If he had the cheek to make verses about Eärendil in the house of Elrond, it was my affair.
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13 votes
1 answer
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"My father declared he should invent a slip button"

From Lady Saba Holland's memoir of her father the Rev. Sydney Smith, published circa 1855: The reigning bore at this time in Edinburgh was ——; his favourite subject, the North Pole. It mattered not ...
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13 votes
3 answers
325 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 ...
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10 votes
1 answer
255 views

What does "minds her helium like a lady" mean in "The Terrible Voyage of the Toad"?

I have the following passage from 'The Terrible Voyage of the Toad' (1878) by Edward Page Mitchell: "Without intendin' to disperidge," continued the deacon, "her bottom's more putty'n timber." ...
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8 votes
3 answers
2k views

"Too too sullied flesh" in Hamlet. Why twice?

Oh, that this too too sullied flesh would melt, Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew (Hamlet, Act I, Scene II) Why does "too" occur twice? It is one in a series of repetitions which occur ...
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8 votes
2 answers
921 views

Who are these crescent saints?

In the Decameron Day 2 Story 7, the protagonist is a princess of "Babylon" who has numerous sexual misadventures after getting shipwrecked on the way to be married. She is, I believe, ...
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7 votes
2 answers
1k views

What does "precious rascals" mean in "The Blue Scarab"?

In "The Blue Scarab" in Dr. Thorndyke's Case-Book by R. Austin Freeman, Mr. Blowgrave, whose deed-box was stolen, was talking to Dr. Thorndyke: "The story concerns my great-grandfather ...
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  • 3,697
7 votes
1 answer
258 views

The second line of "God's Grandeur"

The second line of Gerard Manley Hopkins's sonnet God's Grandeur is: It will flame out, like shining from shook foil. What I found on the Internet regarding the analysis of this line was rather ...
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6 votes
3 answers
20k views

The meaning of the line "and from your lips she drew the Hallelujah" in "Hallelujah"

"Hallelujah" contains a mix of Biblical themes. The first stanza mentions (King) David by name, and the first three lines of the second seem to refer to one of King David's stories (II Samuel 11). The ...
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  • 5,556
5 votes
1 answer
642 views

What does "...they had all been born on their backs with their hands in their trousers-pockets..." from mean?

It says in Great Expectations, To five little stone lozenges, each about a foot and a half long, which were arranged in a neat row beside their grave, and were sacred to the memory of five little ...
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5 votes
1 answer
254 views

In Anne Frank's Diary, what does this quote mean? "Who besides me will ever read these letters? From whom but myself shall I get comfort?..."

What does this quote from Anne Frank's Diary mean? Who besides me will ever read these letters? From whom but myself shall I get comfort? As I need comforting often, I frequently feel weak, and ...
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5 votes
1 answer
13k views

Meaning of "cloudless at dawn" and connection with Shakespeare's head?

I was reading one of the master-pieces by Stephen Spender, "An Elementary School Classroom in a Slum". Following are the starting lines of the second of four octaves: Our sour cream walls, ...
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5 votes
2 answers
1k views

What is the meaning of this sentence from A Retrieved Reformation?

This is a line from O. Henry's A Retrieved Reformation. The detective Ben Price is confident that Jimmy, now out on parole, has been to crack safes and: He'll do his bit next time without any ...
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4 votes
1 answer
462 views

Is the man about to die in "Meditation on the A30"?

John Betjeman's poem "Meditation on the A30" is about a man driving his car and fuming about his unloving wife. In the final verse, he finally turns to action: "You're barmy or plastered, I'll pass ...
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4 votes
1 answer
127 views

Understanding the second section of first part of Burnt Norton by T.S. Eliot

The first section of first part of Burnt Norton seems to be focused on "time", although it is too abstract and as I say "beyond my perceptible sense" but in the least we understand ...
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4 votes
3 answers
479 views

Two Interpretations of Robert Herrick's "To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time"

In his "To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time", Robert Herrick concluded his carpe diem plea with: For having lost but once your prime, You may forever tarry. There seems to be two ways to ...
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4 votes
1 answer
475 views

What does "I'll be D.D. before I have done!" mean?

I was reading Jude the Obscure, and I came across this line in Part First, VI: "...I must save money, and I will; and one of those colleges shall open its doors to me—shall welcome whom now ...
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4 votes
1 answer
179 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 ...
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3 votes
2 answers
114 views

What is a Pippin at Michaelmas?

In chapter X of Thomas Deloney's novel Jack of Newbury, a few characters want to take revenge on a "Mistresse Franke" (italics from the original, bold by me): Now certaine of the maidens of the ...
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3 votes
1 answer
147 views

What does "Hoo's fully resolved t' sew up meawth an' eend" mean in "Mary Barton"?

I would like to know what "Hoo's fully resolved t' sew up meawth an' eend" means in the following stanza: Eawr Marget declares had hoo cloo'as to put on, Hoo'd goo up to Lunnon an' talk to ...
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  • 1,649
3 votes
1 answer
85 views

What does it mean to declare "on a weak red suit"?

In Reginald on Tariffs, Saki writes: [Reginald]: I should like, for instance, a really prohibitive duty put upon the partner who declares on a weak red suit and hopes for the best. What does it ...
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  • 1,117
2 votes
0 answers
1k views

What is the difference between emotions and feelings in Wordsworth's Preface to Lyrical Ballads?

In the Preface to the second edition of Lyrical Ballads (1800), Wordsworth famously wrote that all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: (...). He later adds (my emphasis): ...
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2 votes
1 answer
165 views

What did Goethe mean by "each situation, each moment, is of infinite worth"?

Each situation, each moment, is of infinite worth; for each represents a whole eternity. ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. I lit upon this on p. 395 of National Geographic Stunning Photographs. I can't ...
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2 votes
1 answer
170 views

Meaning and historical reference in "Ind Aff"

In Fay Weldon's short story "Ind Aff or Out of Love in Sarajevo" I found the following passage: “The Hungro-Austrarian Empire,” said Peter to me, “didn't so much collapse as fail to exist ...
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2 votes
1 answer
52 views

What does "raised waves in my mind" mean in Tagore's "At the End of the Day"?

In Rabindranath Tagore's "At the End of the Day", there's one stanza that goes like this: To you I only pray – Before I go let me know Looking at the sky Why mother earth so green Gave me a ...
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2 votes
1 answer
70 views

What is the hidden meaning of "Bad News" known to Egbert and Lady Anne?

In The Reticence of Lady Anne, Saki writes: Both Egbert and Lady Anne would have preferred something from The Yeomen of the Guard, which was their favourite opera. In matters artistic they had a ...
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  • 1,117
1 vote
1 answer
160 views

What does, "The period of exaggerated reaction consequent on all public wrongdoing..." mean?

It says in Great Expectations, The period of exaggerated reaction consequent on all public wrongdoing—and which is always its heaviest and longest punishment—was still far off. What is this "...
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