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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In The Winters Tale what does “Nine changes of the Watery-Star” mean? Does it mean nine nights or nine months?

I have a question about the opening lines of the second scene in The Winter's Tale. From Act 1, scene 2: Pol. Nine Changes of the Watry-Starre hath been The Sheppards Note since we have left ...
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1answer
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Meaning of “What important truth…?” in “Zero to One”

At the beginning of Zero to One: Notes on Start Ups, or How to Build the Future, Peter Thiel writes: Whenever I interview someone for a job, I like to ask this question: "What important truth do ...
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1answer
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How can he be “so shabbily dressed” and “must have been a millionaire”?

In "The Song of the Flying Fish" by G. K. Chesterton, the author was describing a group of neighbours, a collector, a priest, a biologist, a bank manager and a traveller, that usually got together in ...
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Meaning of “Give me some credit” in “Anne of Green Gables”

In Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery, Marilla criticizes Anne for talking too much: "Well, I guess I'll light the lamp and get to work," said Marilla. "I see plainly that you don't want to ...
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1answer
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Meaning of «Ah! les Bazaine» in La chute / The Fall

In Albert Camus's novel La chute / The Fall, the main character talks about his life to an unnamed listener. In the second chapter, he makes the following statement while talking about friends and ...
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1answer
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How to interpret this “temptation”?

I’d like to ask about the sentence I’m not really sure how to interpret in The Boscombe Valley Mystery by Conan Doyle, preferably to someone who’s already read the story. “Well, it is not for me to ...
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1answer
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Meaning of “look about you: know you any here?” in “All's Well That Ends Well”

Shakespeare's All's Well That Ends Well, Act IV, Scene 3, contains the following line (Online Shakespeare, line 2390): so, look about you: know you any here? What is the meaning of these words?
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1answer
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In “Paradise Lost”, how can a fleet of ships “hang in the clouds”?

In book II of Paradise Lost, Milton makes an elaborate simile comparing Satan’s flight in Hell to the voyage of a fleet of ships in the Indian Ocean: Meanwhile the Adversary of God and Man, Satan ...
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1answer
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What does it mean to have teeth in the English style?

In Chapter VI of Maupassant's novel Bel-Ami, the journalist Robert de Varenne describes the Baroness de Livar as follows (emphasis added): Une grande sèche, soixante ans, frisons faux, dents à l'...
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1answer
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Meaning of “the throbbing air about him” in “The Fellowship of the Ring”?

This phrase is taken from The Fellowship of the Ring, book II, chapter 1 (page 261): At first the beauty of the melodies and of the interwoven words in elven-tongues, even though he understood them ...
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3answers
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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 ...
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1answer
179 views

Why did Bilbo tell himself “Wake up, indeed”?

This phrase is taken from The Fellowship of the Rings, Book II, Chapter 1 (page 258): Why, sitting and thinking. I do a lot of that nowadays, and this is the best place to do it in, as a rule. Wake ...
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1answer
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What does “other light” mean in “The Fellowship of the Ring”?

This phrase is taken from The Fellowship of the Ring, Book II, Chapter 1 "Many Meetings" (page 258): The doors were thrown open, and they went across a wide passage and through other doors, ...
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1answer
49 views

Does “think” mean “think about” or “think by” in “The Secret of Father Brown”?

In "The Secret of Father Brown" by G. K. Chesterton, Father Brown was saying that he prefers studying the murder from inside not outside: I don’t try to get outside the man. I try to get inside ...
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Why does Martin Luther King use the word “flesh” in his speech?

What is the significance and the intention of King using the word "flesh" halfway through his speech? and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together Is it related ...
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Meaning of “ethical fellowship” in “The Secret of Father Brown”?

In "The Secret of Father Brown" by G. K. Chesterton, Father Brown said: If you try to talk about a truth that’s merely moral, people always think it’s merely metaphorical. A real live man with two ...
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3answers
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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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2answers
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What is the difference between souteneur and proxénète in Maupassant's Bel-Ami?

In the first chapters of Guy de Maupassant's novel Bel-Ami, the main character, Georges Duroy, is trying to learn the craft of journalism. The end of the book's fourth chapter tells us that he meets ...
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What is the meaning of this sentence by H.G. Wells about a “liberal heathen deity”?

It's from "The Empire of Ants" by H.G. Wells. Here is the paragraph it's in: Captain Gerilleau, who was Holroyd's sole distraction from these physical distresses, developed into a formidable bore,...
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1answer
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What connects “dripping with gore” and Buddhism & Christianity in “The Dagger with Wings”?

In "The Dagger with Wings" by G. K. Chesterton, Father Brown was explaining some philosophical aspects of the murderer, saying: It was his whole game with me to be as idealistic as possible; and ...
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1answer
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What's meant by “all things return” in “The Dagger with Wings”?

In "The Dagger with Wings" by G. K. Chesterton, Mr Aylmer was talking to Father Brown, trying to convince him by mesmerism Don’t you feel in your heart that these contradictions do not really ...
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1answer
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What's meant by “in the symbol of windows and of doors” in “The Dagger with Wings”?

In "The Dagger with Wings" by G. K. Chesterton, the author was describing a situation where Father Brown was sitting in a central room with a staircase leading up from it on one side and a door ...
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1answer
571 views

What is “negative” and “positive whiteness” in “The Dagger with Wings”?

In "The Dagger with Wings" by G. K. Chesterton, the author was describing the falling of snow,that appeared through a barely opened door, saying: What he had seen shining through the crack was not ...
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2answers
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What does Hanns Heinz Ewers mean in this quote about Edgar Allan Poe?

There are men who radiate a special charm. They attract without wanting to, —one must believe in their personality, and then there is a certain quality which repels. One is not conscious what it ...
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What would Mr Aylmer resent in “The Dagger with Wings”?

In "The Dagger with Wings" by G. K. Chesterton, Father Brown went to someone, Mr Aylmer, who was asking for protection against another one who wants to kill him, but the priest wasn't sure ...
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What does the “with eyes so dark” line of Halsey's “Graveyard” mean?

In the song "Graveyard" by Halsey, there's one line that goes like this: You look at me With eyes so dark, don't know how you even see You push right through me The song overall is about ...
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1answer
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Does “the” only serve to preserve metre in “The Tyger”?

William Blake's poem “The Tyger” from Songs of Experience utilizes "the" in an interesting manner in two separate couplets of the 4th stanza, lines 9 and 11: What the hammer? what the chain, In ...
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1answer
49 views

Why does Belle mean in this part in “A Change in Me”

In the musical Beauty and the Beast (composed by the legend Alan Menken himself), Belle sings the song "A Change in Me" after she returns to her father when the Beast lets her go. She tells (or rather ...
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2answers
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Why both “noticed” and “thought noticeable” in “The Oracle of the Dog”?

In "The Oracle of the Dog" by G. K. Chesterton, Father Brown was talking about someone, saying: "To be found with a weapon, let alone a blood-stained weapon, would be fatal in the search that was ...
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1answer
264 views

How can a “desk” be considered a secret keeper?

I was reading Hamlet, Act II, scene 2, when I encountered the following lines: .....what might you, Or my dear majesty your queen here, think, If I had play'd the desk or table-book, Or given my ...
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1answer
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Meaning of “vision of the world’s desire” in “The Oracle of the Dog”

(Spoilers for the solution to "The Oracle of the Dog".) In "The Oracle of the Dog" by G. K. Chesterton, Father Brown was talking about Brown said (emphasis added), It is the megalomania of the ...
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Why does the Phantom call both Christina and himself “Angel of Music?”

In the 1986 musical The Phantom of the Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber, the Phantom seems to frequently refer to both himself and Christina as "Angel of Music". For example, in "The Mirror/Angel of Music ...
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1answer
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What does “after something had really happened” mean in this G. K. Chesterton story?

In "The Oracle of the Dog" by G. K. Chesterton, the author was talking about a secretary of a murdered colonel, who was very active and always doing everybody’s work, saying (emphasis added): "It ...
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1answer
56 views

What does the last line of Daniel Borzutzky's “Managed Diversity” mean?

I wonder if anybody could help me to understand the last line of the poem “Managed Diversity”, written by Daniel Borzutzky: The global economy brightens my room with the surveillance of my rotten ...
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1answer
60 views

What does “in the way of business” mean in “The Oracle of the Dog” by G. K. Chesterton?

In "The Oracle of the Dog" by G. K. Chesterton, the daughter of a murdered rich colonel was talking about her husband, a nobleman and skilled surgeon, who wanted to challenge the secretary to a duel, ...
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1answer
33 views

“By the lives of all who’d come to console and assist the stricken” What does it mean?

I was reading the poem "The Miracle at Sea" by Shmuel HaNagid (translated from Hebrew by Peter Cole), and I came across a passage that really confused me. This is the second stanza of the poem: By ...
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1answer
117 views

Bewilderment at “not the smallest atom stirs …” in “Moby-Dick”

In Chapter 70 (The Sphynx) of Moby-Dick, Ahab states: "O Nature, and O soul of man! how far beyond all utterance are your linked analogies; not the smallest atom stirs or lives on matter, but has ...
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1answer
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What is the meaning of the word “incident” in “She brought colour and incident into my life”?

This sentence is part of a paragraph of a book titled The Almost Perfect Murder by Hulbert Footner. Here is the complete paragraph (emphasis mine): My employer, Madame Storey, who knows everybody ...
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What does it mean for a person to be “up” themselves?

I've just come across the short story "Do You Love Me?" by Peter Carey via a story-ID over at SFF. The basic premise of the story is that when something isn't loved, it disappears. Upon reading ...
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2answers
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Meaning of “spelt backwards” in “The Oracle of the Dog”

The story "The Oracle of the Dog" by G. K. Chesterton begins like this: “YES,” said Father Brown, “I always like a dog, so long as he isn’t spelt backwards.” What is meant by "so long as he isn’t ...
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What does this passage mean about third-class passengers in the Madras-Bangalore Express?

The following quote is from the story "Fellow-Feeling" in R. K. Narayan's short story collection Malgudi Days (I've been reading it online, and this story is only 5 pages long). Emphasis ...
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Meaning of “glimpses of the moon” in “Hamlet”

I read this in Hamlet act I scene IV:                                 What may this mean, That thou, dead corpse, again in complete steel Revisit'st thus the glimpses of the moon... I'm unable ...
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1answer
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Meaning of “beauty stands in the admiration only of weak minds led captive” in “Paradise Regained”

Here are lines 205–224 of book II of "Paradise Regained" by John Milton: But he whom we attempt is wiser far Then Solomon, of more exalted mind, Made and set wholly on the accomplishment Of ...
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1answer
40 views

“On Heroes, Hero Worship, and the Heroic in Society” by Thomas Carlyle

I was trying to read the following excerpt from On Heroes, Hero Worship, and the Heroic in Society by Thomas Carlyle, and I had a few questions. (The emboldening is mine; bolded phrases or words in a ...
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In what way would windows appease or calm us?

Alain Bashung's song Sur un trapèze, with lyrics by Gaëtan Roussel (see the Wikipedia article about the album Bleu pétrole, released in 2008), begins with the following lines (emphasis and links ...
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What does this passage from Aleister Crowley's “Moonchild” mean?

So I'm currently reading an obscure novel by English occultist, poet, self-appointed religious prophet, and all-round nut job Aleister Crowley called Moonchild. It's actually surprisingly good so far ...
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1answer
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Context and meaning of “in the Lady Bracknell understanding of the word”

Here is a paragraph from The Running Hare: The Secret Life of Farmland (2016) by John Lewis-Stempel. Quite aside from the de-naturing of contemporary childhood, more about collecting apps for Apple ...
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3answers
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Meaning of “the matrons are very Sabines” in Fitzstephen's description of London

William Fitzstephen wrote a biography of Thomas Becket in the 1170s, which included a description of London: The citizens of London are everywhere noted above all others, for the polish of their ...
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1answer
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“That’s because you’ve already made your wish.” What does it mean?

Haruki Murakami's short story "Birthday Girl", available to read online, is about a girl working part-time as a waiter who gets to make a special wish on her twentieth birthday. In the frame story, ...
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1answer
148 views

What is meant by the word “cumfarting” in the 1742 English novel “Joseph Andrews”?

Yes I know it sounds like a superslang portmanteau of modern obscenities (and indeed it is), which is why I was surprised to see it in a 1742 book, and why I'm asking. Toward the beginning of Book 4, ...

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