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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126 views

“The impostor magician Smerdis” from Borges

In the Jorge Luis Borges short story Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius the only historical name the narrator and Bioy recognize from the cyclopaedia entry on Uqbar is that of the impostor magician Smerdis,...
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253 views

Why did Johnson scoff those “who toil at the lower employments of life” in the preface to his dictionary?

Brooks Landon M.A. Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin. Building Great Sentences: How to Write the Kinds of Sentences You Love to Read (Great Courses) (2013).     In a fitting close to ...
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175 views

What is “the fabled obelisk” alluding to in The Boy at Mugby?

In this fragment from The Boy at Mugby within paragraph 60: The swelling tumult was arrested in its rise. Sniff, bore away by his servile disposition, had drored up his leg with a higher and a ...
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The House Was Quiet And The World Was Calm by Wallace Stevens quote interpretation

I'll give the whole poem for context, but I'm having trouble making complete sense of a line in the poem. What exactly does Stevens mean by the phrase "wanted much most to be / The scholar to whom ...
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What does Lorca mean by ‘the oppressed reds’ and ‘garnet violence’ in his poem ‘The King of Harlem’?

I've already asked one question on this poem and I did think to include this question along with it but decided against it as the poem is quite long, though of course not as long as some ancient epics ...
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262 views

What did Lorca mean by ‘crocodiles’ in his poem ‘The King of Harlem’?

The poet Federico García Lorca, when he was studying at Colombia University visited Harlem with a friend of his, Nella Larsen, a black novelist. It made a tremendous impression upon him and its ...
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224 views

Meaning of lines explaining Hrothgar's ruling in Heorot

I'm reading Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf and when the poet talks about Heorot Hall (lines 71 through 73) he says it would be his throne-room and there he would dispense his God-given ...
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186 views

What do these lines mean in 'The Importance of Being Earnest'?

Miss Prism: (Recoiling in indignant astonishment) Mr Worthing! I am unmarried! Jack: Unmarried! I do not deny that is a serious blow. But after all, who has the right to cast a stone against one ...
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87 views

Meaning of Lady Bracknell's phrasing in The Importance of Being Ernest

Lady Bracknell (to Cecily): Pretty child! your dress is sadly simple, your hair seems almost as Nature might have left it. But we can soon alter all that. A thoroughly experienced French maid produces ...
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544 views

Meaning and implication of these lines in The Importance of Being Ernest

Lady Bracknell: There are distinct social possibilities in your profile. The two weak points in our age are its want of principle and its want of profile. The chin a little higher, dear. Style largely ...
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Meaning of “moralize over every morning visit” in Pride and Prejudice

In the final chapter of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen writes Mary was the only daughter who remained at home; and she was necessarily drawn from the pursuit of accomplishments by Mrs. Bennet's ...
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Obscure phrases in “Studies in Classic American Literature” by D. H. Lawrence

By suggestion, I was transferred here from english.stackexchange.com. I have some trouble understanding several unusual constructions D. H. Lawrence used in his Studies in Classic American Literature....
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What does the raven say to Ged when he first enters the school at Roke?

In the Wizard of Earthsea when Ged first enters the school at Roke, he meets with the Archmage Nemmerle, and a "raven of Osskil" wanders towards the Archmage (his familiar, maybe?) and when the ...
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What is Baldwin referring to by the “magnificent twenties”?

In his Many Thousands Gone, James Baldwin wrote We cannot, to begin with, divorce this book from the specific social climate of that time; it was one of the last of all through the thirties, ...
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190 views

What do these lines mean in Tennyson's poem “Northern Farmer - Old Style”?

What does But summun ’ull come ater meä mayhap wi’ ’is kittle o’ steam Huzzin’ an’ maäzin’ the blessed feälds wi’ the Divil’s oaän teäm. mean in modern English?
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What does the line “Excellent, i' faith, of the chameleon's dish. I eat the air, promise-crammed. You cannot feed capons so.” mean, from Hamlet?

“Excellent, i' faith, of the chameleon's dish. I eat the air, promise-crammed. You cannot feed capons so.” Hamlet, act 3, scene 2 What does this sentence mean? What are the chameleon, air and ...
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143 views

What is the humour behind these lines in 'The Importance Of Being Earnest'?

In Act II of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, Algernon and Cecily have this exchange: Cecily: I can't understand how you are here at all. Uncle Jack won't be back till Monday ...
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83 views

What's the meaning of “my censures” as in Coleridge's “Biographia Literaria”

In Chapter Four: This fact of itself would have made me diffident in my censures, had not a still stronger ground been furnished by the strange contrast of the heat and long continuance of the ...
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What is “the well known story of the picture” in Coleridge's “Biographia Literaria”?

From Chapter 4 of Biographia Literaria by Samuel Taylor Coleridge: I am indeed convinced in my own mind, that could the same experiment have been tried with these volumes, as was made in the well ...
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In the given line, what is the relation between ‘short-sighted’ and ‘education’? What does it mean by strict views on education?

In Act II of The Importance of Being Earnest, Gwendolen says this in a conversation with Cecily: Gwendolen: [...] And certainly once a man begins to neglect his domestic duties he becomes painfully ...
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What is “ache-and-pain-a-me back-o-hardness” in “We the Women”?

I need an explanation for what Grace Nichols is trying to say in the following stanzas from her poem "We the Women": We the women who cut clear fetch dig sing We the women making something ...
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What does “the cause” refer to in Coleridge's “Biographia Literaria”?

From Chapter 4 of Biographia Literaria by Samuel Taylor Coleridge: At present it will be sufficient for my purpose, if I have proved, that Mr. Southey’s writings no more than my own furnished the ...
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234 views

What is “the sin which ruined our first parents” in The Count of Monte Cristo?

The opening of Chapter 12 of The Count of Monte Cristo describes a meeting between Villefort and his father Noirtier, on which a servant apparently attempted to eavesdrop. The passage (translation ...
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What's the meaning of “preceding” as in Coleridge's Biographia Literaria

From Chapter 13 in Coleridge's Biographia Literaria (italics added): I could add to these arguments one derived from pecuniary motives, and particularly from the probable effects on the sale of ...
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428 views

In the Sonnet 29 by Shakespeare, does the speaker pity himself over lack of skill as an artist or contentment?

Here is the "Sonnet 29" by Shakespeare. When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state, And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries, And look upon ...
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What does “rushy bed” mean in this context?

The poem 'The Song of the Reed' by Rumi includes the lines: Hearken to this Reed forlorn, Breathing, even since 'twas torn From its rushy bed, a strain Of impassioned love and pain. (From ...
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How does Dee Raain use the Mirrors to highlight negative human traits in the poem “Mirror of Truth”?

The poem "Mirror of Truth" by Dee Raain is as follows: What is seen in the mirror is nothing more than a person with lies and hate. With sadness and traits Of discrimination and disgrace. ...
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What is the meaning of these lines about love from “Desiderata”?

What is the message being delivered through these lines in "Desiderata" by the poet Max Ehrmann? Especially do not feign affection Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity ...
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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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Is “for eating” a joke?

Matthew and Maggie came with their two children and a sackful of chickens. Maggie emptied the sack into the yard and three red banty chickens clucked and scattered. "They are for you," she ...
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What does Aldous Huxley mean by 'death control is achieved very easily'?

In chapter I of Brave New World Revisited, Aldous Huxley writes: […] there are nowhere any religious traditions in favor of unrestricted death, whereas religious and social traditions in favor ...
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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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197 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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What is the meaning of “funny sort” in Jerome K. Jerome's “Passing Of The Third Floor Back”?

In "Passing Of The Third Floor Back" a short story by Jerome K. Jerome (available on Project Gutenberg) we have the following dialogue, without further explanation: Mrs. Pennycherry pondered. “He’s ...
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154 views

What did John Betjeman mean by “You kiddies have crumpled the serviettes/And I must have things daintily served”?

From Fox, Kate: Watching the English (2014 ed). p. 499 Bottom. The Self-deprecating Insult Rule Speaking of privileged schoolchildren and the English art of indirectness, here is a quote I ...
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What does this Boris Spassky quote mean?

This is a quote by Boris Spassky: A man who is willing to commit suicide has the initiative. Is this something that is just related to chess or is it a wider statement about people?
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What is the meaning of “Not even Jonah’s wife would swallow that story” in Marquez's “Love in the Time of Cholera”?

In the book of the Colombian novelist García Márquez Love in the Time of Cholera there is the following phrase: She said: “Not even Jonah’s wife would swallow that story.” I tried to find some ...
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What does “rather vaguely conceived sweetness and light” mean in this context?

I would like to know what "rather vaguely conceived sweetness and light" means in the following sentences: The other girls in her dormitory marveled at the slightness of her body when they saw ...
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1answer
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What does “Am I sick?” mean in this context?

I would like to know what "Am I sick?" means in the following sentences: “I mustn't! I mustn't! I'm nervous this afternoon. Am I sick? . . . Good Lord, I hope it isn't that! Not now! How people ...
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What does this line mean, about Anna Karenina amounting to false papers?

What does Kundera mean by this line, towards the end of chapter 2 in The Unbearable Lightness of Being? The copy of Anna Karenina under her arm amounted to false papers; it had given Tomas the ...
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401 views

What does “snow in the crevices of a boggy bank” mean here?

I would like to know what "snow in the crevices of a boggy bank" means in the following sentences: Her cheek near his sleeve, she studied a dozen village pictures. They were streaky; she saw only ...
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In what way is Dussel an unflattering nickname?

From 16 November 1942 onwards, Anne Frank had to share her room with the dentist Fritz Pfeffer, who had a number of habits that Anne couldn't stand. In the German biography Anne Frank (Reinbek bei ...
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What does “advertisements in mother-of-pearl letters upon the glass-covered back” mean here?

I would like to know what "advertisements in mother-of-pearl letters upon the glass-covered back" means in the following sentences: She glanced through the fly-specked windows of the most ...
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1answer
154 views

What does “mannered whimsy” mean?

What does "mannered whimsy" mean in the following passage taken from Eucharist and the Poetic Imagination in Early Modern England by Sophie Read? Marvell does, it is true, come off better from this ...
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What does this passage of 1984 mean?

There were also memories of another kind. They stood out in his mind disconnectedly, like pictures with blackness all round them. He was in a cell which might have been either dark or light, ...
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Meaning of “may I be twice damned for a bank-clerk or store hand” in “I hight Don Quixote”, a poem by Jack Parsons

From I Hight Don Quixote by Jack Parsons: They said I was crazy, ambiguous, lazy, disgusting, fantastic, obscene; So I hied for my sagebrush and cactus and corn mush, To see if the air was ...
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535 views

Meaning of “And do not drop in for an after-loss” in Shakespeare's sonnet 90

Sonnet 90 by Shakespeare: Then hate me when thou wilt; if ever, now; Now, while the world is bent my deeds to cross, Join with the spite of fortune, make me bow, And do not drop in for an ...
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What does the dedication “To The Other Three” mean?

The book Beast and Man in India by John Lockwood Kipling (father of the more famous Rudyard Kipling), which is freely available on Project Gutenberg, has the following cryptic dedication: TO THE ...
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Are the words 'putter' and 'chop' some kind of mimetic words or what in this context?

I've come accross the expressions 'putter, putter!' and 'chop, chop' in the novel 'The Arrangement' by Elia Kazan. I need interpretation. Here is the paragraph: He'd continue his joking, fixing me ...
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Meaning of this line from “Birches”

I was reading "Birches" by Robert Frost. I am having difficulty in understanding the meaning of a line. Please refer to this link for the full poem: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44260/...