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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1answer
80 views

Can authors use past tense in fiction works to refer to an unreal situations without using "if"?

This passage is from The Children's Bach by Helen Garner She stood at the tramstop opposite the long railed side of the cemetery. Someone had written in black texta on the lamp-post DARREN WAR LOURD. ...
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Meaning of "Its surfaces were dull with the absence of meaning."

This passage is from The Children's Bach by Helen Garner The sisters glanced at each other over Dexter’s head. Elizabeth laid one hand over her heart and raised the other in a gesture of tremendous ...
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1answer
84 views

What does 'por bida man guid' mean?

In Nick Joaquin's story "The Order of Melchizedek", Sid and Mrs. Borja are trying to retrieve a card that Sid had pushed down an edge of the upholstery in a taxi. The girl who has washed the ...
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81 views

What is the 'tiger' in 'The Long Song'?

One of the fictional accounts of July's birth in The Long Song (historical novel, set in 1830s Jamaica, when slavery was coming to an end), describes a 'tiger', without the usual appearance belonging ...
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Meaning of "put in all the salt and pepper"

From Chapter 48 of Charles Dickens's Great Expectations: “Mr. Jaggers was for her [Molly, Mr. Jaggers's maidservant],” pursued Wemmick, with a look full of meaning, “and worked the case in a way ...
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What is the meaning of "melt wives into sealing wax" in Dick's "The Man in the High Castle"?

“…we can deplore,” the radio, the voice of the little yellow-bellies from Tokyo was saying. God, Frink thought; and we called them monkeys, these civilized bandy-legged shrimps who would no more set ...
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143 views

What did Edmund Gosse mean by “servers of pillows to all armholes”?

In a 1907 letter to Walt Whitman’s biographer Bliss Perry, Edmund Gosse wrote: I came across your really delightful volume on Walt Whitman,† and read it with such pleasure that I had to review it ...
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How to understand “a dumb or a talking brute” in The Ransom of Red Chief?

But I glanced at Bill, and hesitated. He had the most appealing look in his eyes I ever saw on the face of a dumb or a talking brute. The Ransom of Red Chief by O. Henry The word “brute” has several ...
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Who is the “close bosom-friend of the maturing sun”?

John Keats, in his ode "To Autumn", writes Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun. Who is the close bosom-friend of the maturing sun?
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How to understand the meaning of "Columbine types" and "sniper material"?

The following is an excerpt from "Wifey Redux" by Kevin Barry: "He wasn’t her usual type, so immediately I was worried. The usual type – so far as it had been established – was black-...
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What does "To be clever in the afternoon argues that one is dining nowhere in the evening" mean?

In the short story, Reginald on the Academy, Saki writes: “To be clever in the afternoon argues that one is dining nowhere in the evening.” What does this mean? (EDIT: Some additional context is ...
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What does, "‘Much of that!’ said he, glancing about him over the cold wet flat. ‘I wish I was a frog. Or a eel!'" mean?

It says in Great Expectations, ‘Much of that!’ said he, glancing about him over the cold wet flat. ‘I wish I was a frog. Or a eel!’ What does this mean/imply?
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Why is it that Hohenzollerns "can't help taking life seriously"?

In Reginald on Tariffs, Saki writes: [Reginald]: And I think there should be a sort of bounty-fed export (is that the right expression?) of the people who impress on you that you ought to take life ...
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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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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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What does "a sort of Hercules in strength and weakness" mean?

It says in Great Expectations, Joe was a fair man, with curls of flaxen hair on each side of his smooth face, and with eyes of such a very undecided blue that they seemed to have somehow got mixed ...
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Can anyone explain this quote by Oscar Wilde: 'Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming...that is all' [duplicate]

Full quote: Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault. Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these ...
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What is the significance of a raised black flag?

In The Lost Sanjak, Saki Writes: and, in the midst of a string of questions on indifferent topics, the examining counsel asked me with a diabolical suddenness if I could tell the Court the ...
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"Forever unfulfillable, yet him fulfilling who hears it, utterly"

This is from the play Amadeus by Peter Shaffer: "What?! What is this? Tell me, Signore! What is this pain? What is this need in the sound? Forever unfulfillable, yet him fulfilling who hears it, ...
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What is a Daniel?

In Chapter Three of The Scarlet Letter we find the following as a response to a question of who the father of Hester’s child is: Of a truth, friend, that matter remaineth a riddle; and the Daniel who ...
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What did Hemingway mean by "the setting of the sun is a difficult time for all fish"?

In Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, the Old Man has hooked a huge marlin, which is pulling his boat out to sea. Meanwhile, using another line, he has caught a "dolphin" (meaning a ...
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Meaning of “So can you name your demon? Understanding its scheming”

Poets of the Fall have this wonderful song named “Illusion and dreams” and in the last verse they sing So can you name your demon? Understanding its scheming I raise my glass and say “Here’s to you” ...
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What is the meaning of "I was living my own metaphor"?

I just started reading the book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. In the foreword, the author is talking about how no one was buying his book. He writes, But I never lost faith in the book or ever ...
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What does Shelley mean by "if we could scorn fear" in "To a Skylark"?

Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “To a Skylark” discusses human nature as compared to the “blithe spirit”. Shelley all throughout the poem is sure that Skylark was in joy, he was not in dilemma as Wordsworth ...
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Meaning of "curving afternoons" and "the idea of destination meant almost as little to him as..."

This passage is from The Children's Bach by Helen Garner He would have liked to move around her house and examine all its icons, or to hang over the front windowsill with her and make remarks about ...
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1answer
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What are the "unknown land" and "eye of faith" in "Our Casuarina Tree"?

In the poem "Our Casuarina Tree" by Toru Dutt, between stanzas 3 & 4, there are the following 2 lines: That haply to the unknown land may reach. Unknown, yet well-known to the eye of ...
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What did Fitzgerald mean by "making a great mystery about pulling rusty wires"?

In F. Scott Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise, chapter 1 it is written: Children adored him because he was like a child; youth revelled in his company because he was still a youth, and couldn't be ...
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What is "the Saar" in The Last Lesson?

In The Last Lesson, written by Alphonse Daudet, there is this paragraph: My last French lesson! Why, I hardly knew how to write! I should never learn any more! I must stop there, then! Oh, how sorry ...
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Brideshead Revisited: Prince Rupert’s Horse

Hooper, in Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited, was no romantic. He had not as a child ridden with Rupert's horse or sat among the camp fires at Xanthus-side; at the age when my eyes were dry to all ...
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What does "mirror in my bathroom" mean?

In the following passage from Lonely Man Full of Love by Mauro Mevlud Martino, what does "mirror in my bathroom" mean? A: ‘’Are you quieter and lonelier than me, Rachel?’’ B: ‘’Perhaps, ...
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What does it mean for Venus to 'read my case' in Drummond of Hawthornden's madrigal?

I came across a madrigal by William Drummond of Hawthornden (laird of the same) yesterday. It's an astonishingly beautiful poem, but I'm having trouble making sense of some of the phrases and ...
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What did Pope intend to say by "Whatever is, is right"?

What did Pope intend to say by "Whatever is, is right"? Source: The Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer (2nd edition, 2016), p. 86, middle.   Related to this is one final question: What ...
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1answer
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Meaning of "drew the lower jaw in" from "To Build A Fire"

In the story "To Build a Fire" by Jack London, there is a line which I find too complex to interpret. After some manipulation he managed to get the bunch between the heels of his mittened ...
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527 views

Use of 'city' in Byron's poem "Darkness"

In his poem "Darkness", Lord Byron writes: [...] The crowd was famish'd by degrees; but two Of an enormous city did survive, And they were enemies: they met beside [...] Is Byron employing ...
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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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1answer
276 views

John Agard's "In Times of Peace"

As for eyes, are eyes ready for the soft dance of a butterfly's bootless invasion? From "In times of peace" by John Agard. What could this mean? I have been thinking that it could reflect ...
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1answer
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What is Azrael's quote at the end of "Reaper Man" supposed to mean?

Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett, part of the Discworld universe, leaves off like this: Picture a tall, dark figure, surrounded by cornfields... NO, YOU CAN'T RIDE A CAT. WHO EVER HEARD OF THE DEATH OF ...
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Clarifying a line from “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”

I’m having a lot of trouble comprehending one particular line from The Shadow Over Innsmouth: But at last I am going to defy the ban on speech about this thing. Results, I am certain, are so thorough ...
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Meaning of "It was a place that waited, It was a place of reason and courtesy"

This passage is from The Children's Bach by Helen Garner ‘Once upon a time,’ said Philip. ‘There was a wonderful cafe. It opened very early in the morning. No. It stayed open twenty-four hours. It ...
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353 views

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 ...
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Meaning of 'Yawl write, hear?'

I am currently reading To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. In chapter 6 there is a sentence by Dill. Before leaving, he says 'Yawl write, hear? What does this sentence mean? Does it mean that they ...
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1answer
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Nietzsche: It is improbable that you are not mistaken: double negative

In Beyond Good and Evil, chapter 1, #16, Nietzsche is criticizing idealism, and he says: He who ventures to answer these metaphysical questions at once by an appeal to a sort of intuitive perception, ...
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What's the source of this E.M. Forster quote, and what did he mean by a “chance word”?

I was reading a book on advanced English Grammar and among the various quotes this one caught my eye: A chance word or sigh are just as much evidence as a speech or a murder. — E.M. Forster What ...
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What did Jefferson intend to say by Plato's "whimsies into the body of artificial Christianity"?

Source: The Well-Educated Mind (2 edn 2016), p. 49 Middle.   If you don't have a reading partner who can meet with you face to face, you can conduct discussions by letter (or email, as long as ...
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Explain "If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you"

In Kipling's poem IF, there is this line: If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you To achieve that, it seems you would have to be so closed off, insulated, and emotionally barricaded that ...
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Meaning of "She impressed me neither favorably nor the reverse."

I'm reading "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches" by Arthur Conan Doyle. I came across this sentence by the character Violet Hunter: Mrs. Rucastle seemed to me to be colorless in mind as ...
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Romeo and Juliet: Why is honey loathsome in its deliciousness?

Romeo and Juliet Act 2 Scene 6: ...The sweetest honey Is loathsome in its own deliciousness. And in the taste confounds the appetite Most interpretations online seem to suggest that honey is bad for ...
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1answer
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What's meant here by "[the heresies] are actually unconscious?

In "The Crime of The Communist" by G. K. Chesterton, there is a conversation between many persons about the communism: ‘Well, you’re all very down on Communism, of course,’ said the Master, ...
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What's meant here by "Don't mention it"?

In "The Quick One" by G. K. Chesterton, Father Brown was talking to his friend, saying: Didn’t you see how that old man, with the heart of a lion, stood up and forgave his enemy as only ...
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Does "entertain about" mean "distract about" or "entertain because"?

In "The Quick One" by G. K. Chesterton, Father Brown was talking to his friend about a murder that happened in the hotel lounge after a very serious altercation between two men because of ...

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