Questions tagged [meaning]

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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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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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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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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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
66 views

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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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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573 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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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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108 views

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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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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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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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
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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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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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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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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
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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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“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
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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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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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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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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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“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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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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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
154 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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Understanding two lines from “The Wound-Dresser” by Walt Whitman

Among the hospital poems, "The Wound-Dresser" by Walt Whitman is one of the best and finest. I wonder if anybody here can help me to understand two lines of this piece. But in silence, in dreams’ ...
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What is the libellous meaning of ‘daffy-down-dilly’?

In Dorothy L. Sayers’ novel Unnatural Death, the barrister Mr Towkington advises Lord Peter Wimsey to be careful to avoid libel: ‘You are too easily surprised,’ said Mr Towkington. ‘Many words have ...
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What does this verse said by Portia in Julius Caesar mean?

In Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar when Brutus had planned everything and the night before the assassination he was in his room he had a little conversation with his wife Portia. During the ...
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What does these 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 ...
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Meaning of a Trollope quotation about the “best dressed gentleman”

In the self-help manual Pushing to the Front (1911) by Orison Swett Marden, at the start of Chapter XV ("What a good appearance will do"), I find this quotation: I hold that gentleman to be the ...
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1answer
186 views

Meaning of “the morning will speed you upon your way” in “The Fellowship of the Ring”

From book 1, Chapter 8, of The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien: "There you'll find an old inn that is called The Prancing Pony. Barliman Butterbur is the worthy keeper. There you can ...
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What is the reference to Kennedy in “Tomorrow Wendy” by Concrete Blonde meant for?

From the song "Tomorrow Wendy" by Concrete Blonde (link to full lyrics): Underneath the chilly gray November sky We can make believe that Kennedy is still alive And we're shooting for the moon ...
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1answer
148 views

What does George Orwell mean with “vague reverence”?

In Chapter 2 of Part 2 of Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell writes this: Sometimes it stopped for a few seconds, spread out and resettled its wings, then swelled its speckled breast and again burst into ...
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Why is Aurora Leigh proud of “colonising beehives” in the poem by Elizabeth Browning?

In book 2 of Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora’s cousin Romney doubts there is any value in women writing poetry:                                               ‘Who has time, An ...
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In Maya Angelou's “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”, what is the meaning of “His shadow shouts on a nightmare scream”?

Here is the stanza: But a caged Bird stands on the grave of dreams His shadow shouts on a nightmare scream His wings are clipped and his feet are tied So he opens his throat to sing What is ...
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1answer
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What game are they playing in Elizabeth Moody’s ‘The Temptation’?

Here’s an extract from ‘The Temptation; or, Satan in the Country’ by Elizabeth Moody: The verdant table Satan spy’d, And took his seat by Lydia’s side; Soon as he hovers o’er her hand, Lydia ...
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170 views

What's the meaning of 'Spring' in “The Fellowship of the Ring”?

From book 1, Chapter 6, of The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien: Then another clear voice, as young and as ancient as Spring, like the song of glad water flowing down into the night from ...
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What is the children's Ark?

But the central object in the whole of this chamber of horrors was the engine known as the Iron Virgin, which stood near the centre of the room. It was a rudely-shaped figure of a woman, ...
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Meaning of 'bar a scrap' in “Squaw” by Bram Stoker

"Wall!" he said, "I guess I've not had enjoyment like this since I left Noo York. Bar a scrap with a French sailor at Wapping-an' that warn't much of a picnic neither-I've not had a show fur ...
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Can someone explain this excerpt of The Book of Lost Things of John Connolly?

I have some difficulties in understanding the meaning of this excerpt from The Book of Lost Things: David was aware of a change in the room as soon as he began to fill the empty spaces on the ...

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