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.

Filter by
Sorted by
Tagged with
2 votes
1 answer
113 views

Why does "It is better to incur a mild rebuke than to perform an onerous task" sound hilarious to Henry Sugar's friends?

In the book of The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar by Roald Dahl, Henry Sugar was a rich man, whose wealth was inherited from his dad. He never worked, nor did his wealthy friends. There is a piece of ...
user avatar
2 votes
1 answer
42 views

What is the "South Wind of lie"?

One of the poems in John P. Portelli's poetry collection "In Between: Malta and Canada" (freely available online from the author's website, page 91) is the short poem "The Past and the ...
user avatar
  • 63.1k
2 votes
1 answer
72 views

What does "beak first" mean in "An Ode to America"?

From "An Ode to America" (The Atlantic's Jan/Feb 2022 issue): “Pretty good nose you got there! You do much fighting with that nose?” New Orleans, 1989. I’m standing on a balcony south of ...
user avatar
  • 7,243
5 votes
1 answer
491 views

What is "the Throne of Mammon grey" in William Blake's "I Rose Up at the Dawn of Day"?

The poem is fairly self explanatory, but I can not place the "grey" hanging off of "This is the Throne of Mammon": I rose up at the dawn of day— 'Get thee away! get thee away! ...
user avatar
  • 53
13 votes
1 answer
2k views

What is "the line children draw to represent a bird in flight"?

The expression on her face, then, had been the one he'd seen, hours later, on her sleeping face in a port side coffin, her upper lip like the line children draw to represent a bird in flight. I'm ...
user avatar
4 votes
1 answer
113 views

Does "sleeves without a sign of cuff or shirt" imply social class?

Quote from "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle": His rusty black frock-coat was buttoned right up in front, with the collar turned up, and his lank wrists protruded from his sleeves ...
user avatar
9 votes
1 answer
1k views

"Sly frantic wretch, that holp'st to make me great" what is the meaning of "holp'st"?

The Twitter bot Willy Shakes tweeted these lines earlier today: Sly frantic wretch, that holp'st to make me great, In hope thyself should govern Rome and me. [Enter AEMILIUS] — Titus Andronicus I ...
user avatar
3 votes
1 answer
110 views

In Mary Tighe's Psyche, what is the gemstone referred to by allusion?

In Mary Tighe's "Psyche", Canto 1, lines 413 - 414 (see the text), a gemstone is referred to by allusion to an episode in mythology. To quote, And there the gem which bears his luckless ...
user avatar
  • 33
1 vote
1 answer
161 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 "...
user avatar
1 vote
0 answers
28 views

What does "solidification" mean in "his departure or farewell was a kind of solidification"?

But I had to give up on that idea or hope, I had to wrench it out of my head and heart, or out of my cunt, as the women say back in Torre del Greco, and although I never completely gave up, somehow I ...
user avatar
  • 111
4 votes
1 answer
327 views

What are "jigging veins of rhyming mother wits"?

The prologue of Tamburlaine the Great by Christopher Marlowe begins: From jigging veins of rhyming mother wits, And such conceits as clownage keeps in pay, We'll lead you to the stately tent of war, ...
user avatar
  • 143
2 votes
1 answer
308 views

What does "his name is my name too" mean in "John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt"?

"John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt" is a kid's song that goes like this: John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt His name is my name, too Whenever we go out The people always shout There goes John ...
user avatar
  • 19.2k
4 votes
1 answer
76 views

What does "worried stone" mean in this poem from "Tumor"?

In "Tumor", by Anna Leahy, the author wrote a poem about her mother's cancer death, with the title "Gravity 2", after she had written a poem about her father's death, with the ...
user avatar
5 votes
2 answers
842 views

What does "royalty in nature" in Macbeth mean?

In Macbeth (Act 3, Scene 1), Macbeth says about Banquo: in his royalty of nature Reigns that which would be feared. What does "royalty of nature" mean here? Surely, Banquo is no "king ...
user avatar
7 votes
1 answer
890 views

What does "One fancied things sometimes—fancied a fellow was looking at you queerly" mean from And Then There Were None?

From And Then There Were None: Well, he’d enjoy a chat about old times. He’d had a fancy lately that fellows were rather fighting shy of him. All owing to that damned rumour! By God, it was pretty ...
user avatar
6 votes
2 answers
604 views

Does "football" mean "rugby" in Winter Holiday by Arthur Ransome?

In the book Winter Holiday by Arthur Ransome (1933) it says: "It's lucky it's not the football term," said John. "A month might make just the difference about getting into the fifteen&...
user avatar
  • 1,790
1 vote
0 answers
60 views

Meaning of "with no why to how it keeps its mystery"

What is the meaning of the following quote from Rumi? I was reading his The Book of Love: Poems of Ecstasy and Longing and came across this quote: Love is an open secret, the most obvious thing in ...
user avatar
9 votes
2 answers
3k views

Meaning of 'white mask on my otherwise tan face'

I nearly always saw them at the beach, where it’s difficult to get a good look at anyone. Particularly so in my case, because I’m nearsighted and would rather see everything through a haze than return ...
user avatar
  • 111
1 vote
0 answers
38 views

Meaning of "Her face, a revolving door, swings open and shut, open and shut"

First her ears hear; they open. Then her eyes can see; they open. Her face, a revolving door, swings open and shut, open and shut. She no longer sleeps at night; it’s too hard to breathe after four ...
user avatar
  • 111
2 votes
0 answers
34 views

Catcher in the Rye - Chapter 1 "If I get a chance to remember that kind of stuff..."

In Catcher in the Rye, the narrator failed his school so he had to leave. Before leaving, he thought to say good-by to his history teacher. Then, he brought up his memory of playing football with his ...
user avatar
  • 21
4 votes
1 answer
113 views

What does "in Twos and Threes" mean in this Robert Bly poem?

I'm reading Bly's book of poems Stealing Sugar from the Castle. I cannot understand the title of "Love Poem in Twos and Threes". Does "in Twos and Threes" mean small groups of ...
user avatar
1 vote
1 answer
133 views

Meaning of this Graham Greene quote: "A story has no beginning or end ..."

A story has no beginning or end; arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead. ~ The End of the Affair, by Graham Greene What does the author ...
user avatar
1 vote
1 answer
109 views

What does William Hazlitt mean about competitors in this letter to his son?

From William Hazlitt's letter to his son: Remember always that you are but one among others, and you can hardly mistake your place in society. In your father's house, you might do as you pleased: in ...
user avatar
8 votes
2 answers
1k views

What do the letters G and D mean in "The Trout" by Sean O'Faolain?

In the story "The Trout", there are two letters that I want to know what they mean. One of the first places Julia always ran to when they arrived in G--- was The Dark Walk. It is a laurel ...
user avatar
  • 183
6 votes
1 answer
437 views

Meaning of B.A., S.A.. B.O. in "Love in a Cold Climate"

In Nancy Mitford's Love in a Cold Climate, Lady Montdore bemoans her daughter Polly's lack of interest in getting married, or even landing a boyfriend. She says to her friend Lady Patricia: "...
user avatar
2 votes
1 answer
75 views

In Great Expectations, why were thieves happy when Mr. Jaggers spoke?

In Great Expectations, when Pip, the protagonist, and Wemmick, his acquaintance, see Mr. Jaggers, a very strong lawyer, in court, Pip remarks that Thieves and thieftakers hung in dread rapture on his ...
user avatar
2 votes
1 answer
48 views

What do Mohawks and scaffolding mean in this line from Annie Dillard’s Holy the Firm?

What does this line mean from Annie Dillard’s Holy the Firm? In the high churches they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a strand of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their ...
user avatar
3 votes
1 answer
40 views

What does "only more" mean in Tumor?

In Tumor, a book by Anna Leahy, the author discusses the nouns "tumor" and "cancer": The word tumor comes from the Latin for swelling. Indeed, a tumor is an overgrowth, a mass of ...
user avatar
  • 3,697
4 votes
1 answer
95 views

Meaning of "Fifty years ago, and his father had been dead for thirty years"

In the story Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck there is this sentence He woke suddenly and completely. It was four o'clock, the hour at which his father had always called him to get up ...
user avatar
  • 183
4 votes
1 answer
158 views

What does Sri Aurobindo mean by "sweet madness"?

This is from book X, canto III of Savitri: A Legend and a Symbol by Sri Aurobindo: All our earth starts from mud and ends in sky, And Love that was once an animal's desire, Then a sweet madness in ...
user avatar
3 votes
2 answers
63 views

The meaning of "to his love and tendance / All sorts of hearts" in Timon of Athens

In Shakespeare's Timon of Athens, I found a difficult passage in 1.1.57-60: (Their services to Lord Timon): his large fortune, Upon his good and gracious nature hanging, Subdues and properties to his ...
user avatar
  • 147
2 votes
0 answers
48 views

Does Rousseau say that men are slaves of governments and laws?

Jean-Jaques Rousseau wrote Discours sur les sciences et les arts. In the very first part, the third paragraph says the following: Original (French) L'esprit a ses besoins, ainsi que le corps. Ceux-ci ...
user avatar
2 votes
0 answers
18 views

What happened to Mohini?

In Premchand's short story "The Desired Destination" (first published in 1911, available here in its original Urdu), the narrator is in love with a girl named Mohini and opens by saying that ...
user avatar
  • 63.1k
6 votes
2 answers
770 views

Edmund Spenser's sonnet "My Love is like to ice, and I to fire"

Here is Sonnet XXX from the sonnet cycle Amoretti by Edmund Spenser: My Love is like to ice, and I to fire: How comes it then that this her cold so great Is not dissolved through my so hot desire, ...
user avatar
2 votes
2 answers
750 views

Why does "less than" mean "not" in "A little more than kin, and less than kind"?

In Act 1, Scene 2, Line 65, Hamlet [Aside] "A little more than kin, and less than kind" does less than mean not? If so, what semantic notions underlie less than and not? How did less than ...
user avatar
  • 131
7 votes
2 answers
432 views

Does this edit in The Magician's Nephew (from "had her bathe" to "had her bath") fundamentally change the meaning of the sentence?

Later editions of C.S. Lewis 'The Magician's Nephew' have been edited, presumably to reflect modern usage. Polly went down and had her bathe; at least she said that was what she'd been doing, but we ...
user avatar
  • 4,340
6 votes
3 answers
315 views

What is meant by "traffic" in this list of men's activities?

In the introduction (proem) to the Decameron, the author spends some paragraphs writing about lovesick women and how he hopes his stories may give them some solace as their situation means they're ...
user avatar
  • 63.1k
1 vote
1 answer
66 views

Meaning of "seemed of their own will" and "man were whole"

In the short story "The Enemy" by Pearl S. Buck, there are two phrases that I'm not quite certain whether I have correctly understood. Here are the short passages which contain the phrases: ...
user avatar
  • 53
2 votes
1 answer
319 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 ...
user avatar
  • 53
1 vote
1 answer
127 views

What's the meaning of "Hassan milled about the periphery of my life"?

From The Kite Runner: Hassan milled about the periphery of my life after that. I made sure our paths crossed as little as possible, planned my day that way. Because when he was around, the oxygen ...
user avatar
  • 11
4 votes
1 answer
152 views

What is meant by "descent of their last end"?

What does "the descent of their last end" mean in James Joyce's The Dead? His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the ...
user avatar
  • 143
9 votes
2 answers
2k views

What does "FACIT" mean in D. J. Enright's "The Typewriter Revolution"?

D. J. Enright's poem "The Typewriter Revolution" (1971) is a text in which a typewriter appears to revolt against its owner (?), resulting in the distortion of texts and literary allusions. ...
user avatar
4 votes
2 answers
680 views

What does Browning's patriot mean by "Paid by the world, what dost thou owe"?

In the sixth stanza of the poem "The Patriot" by Robert Browning, what do the last three lines mean? “Paid by the world, what dost thou owe “Me?”—God might question; now instead, ‘Tis God ...
user avatar
4 votes
1 answer
337 views

Who are the “men of the west” who eat clay in “Aurora Leigh”?

In Aurora Leigh (1856) by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora's cousin Romney Leigh complains about the character of the times: We’re too materialistic,—eating clay, (Like men of the west) instead of ...
user avatar
  • 39.1k
0 votes
1 answer
166 views

What does this passage mean from Burroughs' "Naked Lunch"?

In the opening chapter of Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs, the first-person narrator is telling a story to an "advertising exec type fruit" on the New York subway, and in the middle of ...
user avatar
3 votes
2 answers
109 views

Why is Romney’s pattern “on his nail” in “Aurora Leigh”?

In Aurora Leigh (1856) by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the character Romney Leigh has a “pattern on his nail”: To think,—I have a pattern on my nail, And I will carve the world new after it, And solve ...
user avatar
  • 39.1k
4 votes
1 answer
92 views

Meaning of H. L. Mencken quote "One horse-laugh is worth ten thousand syllogisms"

H. L. Mencken quoted One horse-laugh is worth ten thousand syllogisms. The other half of it is It is not only more effective; it is also vastly more intelligent." Is that an idiom? What does ...
user avatar
  • 141
3 votes
1 answer
143 views

What does Regan mean by "square of sense" in King Lear?

The exact meaning of the following phrase in bold is not clear to me. In the first scene of King Lear, Regan utters these words to her father with flattery. I'm not sure but I think I read somewhere ...
user avatar
  • 207
5 votes
2 answers
367 views

What does the word "seem" mean in these lines of Shakespeare?

In Shakespeare's Othello 3.1.26, the Clown answers Cassio: She is stirring, sir; if she will stir hither, I shall seem to notify unto her. where the verb "seem" makes me confused. The ...
user avatar
  • 147
7 votes
1 answer
2k views

What does "Some people do the same by their religion" mean?

It says in Great Expectations Mrs. Joe was a very clean housekeeper, but had an exquisite art of making her cleanliness more uncomfortable and unacceptable than dirt itself. Cleanliness is next to ...
user avatar

1
2
3 4 5
22