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100
votes
4answers
23k views

Why was 1984 set in 1984?

Was there any special meaning to the year he chose? I originally thought that he just selected a date in the future but now I am not so sure. Has George Orwell or his editor ever commented on the ...
81
votes
1answer
11k views

How do we know Humpty Dumpty was an egg?

As depicted in 1870 by James William Elliott's National Nursery Rhymes and Nursery Songs, the nursery rhyme "Humpty Dumpty" goes as follows: Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great ...
77
votes
1answer
5k views

Snoopy can balance on an edge atop his doghouse. Is any reason given for this?

In Peanuts, Snoopy sleeps and does other activities on top of his doghouse. Since the doghouse has a pointy roof, shouldn't he fall down? Why doesn't the below happen every time? Is there a reason ...
62
votes
4answers
9k views

What is Hobbes?

In the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson, Calvin is a boy. He has a tiger friend, who's... a little ambiguous. Is he a doll or a real tiger or a figment of his imagination? To Calvin he ...
57
votes
7answers
11k views

Has copy protection ever been used in physical books?

"Digital rights management", DRM, is almost a standard in the e-book industry. Have copyright holders ever tried to protect physical books from scanning, for example in a way how banknotes are ...
57
votes
2answers
19k views

Did Arthur Conan Doyle code Holmes and Watson as a gay couple?

Given the Victorian era, a writer couldn't deliberately create an openly (or even quietly) gay couple for public literary consumption. But gay people existed, and had romances. Arthur Conan Doyle knew ...
51
votes
2answers
8k views

Where did the idea of a “true name” come from?

There's a common trope in Western fantasy that, up until now, I've sort of taken for granted: the "true name." This is the idea that all things have true names that are somehow more closely linked to ...
48
votes
3answers
17k views

Why is The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy referred to as H2G2?

I've often heard The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy referred to as H2G2 but never really understood why. I wondered whether anyone actually knew or whether it was just adopted unquestioningly.
47
votes
2answers
11k views

Why was The Call of the Wild banned?

I periodically see Jack London's The Call of the Wild on banned book lists, but I'm not sure why it would be – it doesn't seem that controversial. I found ALA's page cataloguing the reasons given for ...
46
votes
7answers
8k views

What is Tom Bombadil's importance in The Lord of the Rings?

Tom Bombadil is definitely one of the weirdest characters in all of The Lord of the Rings, he just comes out of nowhere, stumbling upon Frodo and Sam while singing. His actions are just incredibly ...
46
votes
2answers
10k views

Does Dr. Manhattan have free will?

In Alan Moore's Watchmen, Doctor Manhattan is a superhero with godlike powers, including the ability to view his past, present, and future simultaneously. Manhattan believes that everything that ...
45
votes
5answers
8k views

How did Wonka's Golden Ticket sweepstakes ensure that children would win?

In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Wonka says I don't want a grown-up person at all. A grownup won't listen to me; he won't learn. He will try to do things his own way and not mine. So I had to ...
44
votes
1answer
6k views

Why is there so much technical detail of whaling included in Moby-Dick?

One of the peculiarities of Moby-Dick is that it includes large quantities of information about the science of whales and the practice of whaling. Whole chapters are dedicated to describing the ...
44
votes
1answer
952 views

History of Spoilers

I live in the USA, where people react poorly if you spoil a move or a book for them. However, the question What is the benefit in the Prologue "spoiling" the play in Romeo + Juliet? raises ...
43
votes
1answer
6k views

What message is Bradbury trying to convey in Fahrenheit 451?

Fahrenheit 451 is one of Ray Bradbury's most famous works and possibly one of the most famous books in modern times. In my experience most people who read the book believe that Bradbury was warning ...
39
votes
2answers
10k views

Was the title “The Lord of the Rings” picked on purpose to be ambiguous?

In one sense, it might refer to "the lord of" the rings, as in the person or entity currently in possession of The One ring. In another way, it could (IMO) mean that The One ring is "...
38
votes
2answers
12k views

Why does “Watchmen” use the 9-panel grid?

Watchmen, the 1986 comic written by Alan Moore and drawn/lettered by Dave Gibbons, is recogniseable (among other features) for the schematic of its comic pages - they all use the 9-panel grid: Image ...
36
votes
7answers
7k views

The author of a literary work disagrees with critics about meaning—who's right?

I've just come up with a conjecture on what a piece of literature means, but the author has said that they didn't mean for their work to suggest that. For example, Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is ...
35
votes
10answers
18k views

Should I read The Silmarillion before or after reading The Lord of the Rings?

I spent an extensive amount of time as an undergrad writing about and researching The Hobbit, especially in terms of Tolkien's famous essay on Beowulf. Getting a sense of what inspired Tolkien greatly ...
35
votes
3answers
12k views

Does Snape talk in code?

In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Snape asks Harry many questions during his first Potions class. The first thing Snape asks Harry is “Potter! What would I get if I added powdered ...
35
votes
3answers
39k views

Why is a raven like a writing desk?

"Mad Hatter: 'Why is a raven like a writing-desk?' ... 'Have you guessed the riddle yet?' the Hatter said, turning to Alice again. 'No, I give it up,' Alice replied: 'What’s the answer?' 'I ...
34
votes
1answer
3k views

Did Shakespeare write his own stage directions?

It's well known that Shakespeare had no part in publishing the text of his own plays - indeed, many of them were only published posthumously. I've read that a significant proportion of his plays came ...
34
votes
1answer
959 views

Is there anything that definitely confirms that Svidrigailov actually committed murder in “Crime and Punishment?”

Is there any proof that Svidrigailov actually committed murder in Crime and Punishment, of either Philip (his servant) or Marfa Petrovna (his wife)? By proof, I mean either a nuanced passage I might ...
33
votes
5answers
6k views

Meaning/translation of title “The Light Fantastic” by Terry Pratchett

I have read The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett in English and always interpreted the title as "The Fantastic (adjective) light (noun)". Mostly because I do not see "Fantastic" as noun. To my ...
33
votes
2answers
3k views

In 1984, why did O'Brien wait so long?

In Orwell's 1984, O'Brien knows well that Julia and Winston are enemies of the Party when they come to his house to pledge their allegiance to the Brotherhood. Why doesn't he immediately arrest them ...
33
votes
1answer
8k views

Why has Bill Watterson ('Calvin and Hobbes') been retired for so long?

Calvin and Hobbes had a 10-year run (from November 18, 1985 to December 31, 1995). Bill Watterson was born July 5, 1958, meaning that he was 28 when the strip started, 38 when it concluded, and is now ...
33
votes
1answer
11k views

Was there a reason Victor Hugo chose 24601 as the number for Jean Valjean?

24601 has developed into being an iconic part of both the Les Miserables book and musical. Was that number special to him, or was it simply a random number he chose (I doubt it)?
33
votes
1answer
19k views

George Orwell's 1984 banned for contradictory reasons?

The book 1984, being about suppression of information itself, was banned in the USSR for being anti-communist, but it also was banned in the USA for being pro-communist. Is there any analysis where ...
33
votes
2answers
1k views

Is Judaism represented in the Narnia books?

In C.S. Lewis's Narnia books, it's very clear that the Narnians are meant to represent Christianity, with Aslan symbolising Jesus (in fact, Aslan is literally Jesus in-universe), while the Calormenes ...
32
votes
5answers
11k views

Why is Aragorn so weird to Pippin when they make their final farewell before going back to the Shire?

But the Palantir of Orthanc the King will keep, to see what is passing in his realm, and what his servants are doing. For do not forget, Peregrin Took, that you are a knight of Gondor, and I do not ...
31
votes
1answer
878 views

How many of Poe's stories are interconnected?

I'm currently (slowly!) working through the complete works of Edgar Allan Poe. Three of his stories are detective tales featuring Dupin, a possible inspiration for the more famous fictional detective ...
30
votes
3answers
8k views

Why do many Korean folk tales start with “back when tigers smoked”?

I've read in a few sources that the Korean equivalent of the "once upon a time ..." which often begins English folk stories is something like "back when tigers smoked ..." or "...
29
votes
2answers
1k views

Has the phrase “Elementary, my dear Watson” ever truly appeared in a Sherlock Holmes book?

A famous phrase attributed to Sherlock Holmes is "Elementary, my dear Watson" or "Elementary, dear Watson" Has this phrase ever occurred in a Sherlock Holmes book? If yes, in which novel or story ...
29
votes
2answers
3k views

Did Lenore merely leave or is she dead?

Edgar Allen Poe's poem The Raven has the narrator mourning the loss of his love Lenore. But it's actually not entirely clear to me if Lenore merely left the narrator (for whatever relationship-related ...
28
votes
1answer
10k views

Why is Snape so fond of Malfoy?

In the end of Harry Potter, we learn that This however, does not account for why Snape shows favoritism to Draco before the Dark Lord resurrects (after which it is relatively obvious why). I am ...
28
votes
1answer
3k views

What is the pun in Kipling's poem “The Three-Decker”?

In the poem The Three-Decker, by Rudyard Kipling, there is one line where the meter is slightly different from all the other lines. I Googled that line, not expecting to find anything, and Google ...
28
votes
1answer
16k views

Is there any textual evidence to support that Dumbledore was gay?

JK Rowling announced in 2007 to an audience at Carnegie Hall that Albus Dumbledore was in fact, gay and always had been... Q: Did Dumbledore, who believed in the prevailing power of love, ever fall ...
28
votes
1answer
798 views

Are there any recorded discrepancies between The Odyssey as oral tradition and The Odyssey as Homer transcribed it?

The Odyssey began as oral tradition, and was later transcribed by someone we now call "Homer." Disregarding the Homeric Question concerning the identity of the person who transcribed these works, it ...
27
votes
1answer
5k views

Why did Sir Arthur Conan Doyle decide to kill off this character?

In the short story "The Final Problem", Sir Arthur Conan Doyle made the decision to kill off Sherlock Holmes (although he did bring him back again in the story of "The Empty House"). This was met with ...
27
votes
1answer
7k views

Why does Mr. Poe cough so much?

In the recent adaptation of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, the character Arthur Poe is portrayed with a consistent cough. This is never touched on in the Netflix series, but is it ...
26
votes
1answer
3k views

Why are haiku usually of 17 syllables?

One of the characteristics of Haiku is that the poems are usually of 17 syllables (5-7-5). Exceptions exist, of course, but 17 is the norm. Why 17? How did the originators of Haiku come to settle on ...
26
votes
1answer
6k views

English short story where a wife makes an investigation officer eat the murder weapon

I remember reading this English short story during my school days; it was part of our English curriculum 18-19 years ago. Plot: It starts with a wife killing her husband with turkey or chicken or ...
26
votes
2answers
3k views

Is Sherlock Holmes religious?

In this question, it is established that Sherlock Holmes, from the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was asexual and in explaining that it is stated that he showed very little emotion in general. This ...
26
votes
1answer
3k views

What does Mark Twain mean by “cheers and a tiger”?

I know about the big stripey cat, but what is "a tiger" in this context: ...finishing up with cheers and a tiger for "Hadleyburg purity and our eighteen immortal representatives of it." (from "The ...
26
votes
0answers
608 views

How did real historical Igbo society differ from its portrayal in Things Fall Apart?

I recently read Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, and found its detailed portrayal of historical Igbo (aka Ibo) culture very interesting. My understanding is that it's a reasonably close ...
25
votes
3answers
7k views

Isn't Gríma Wormtongue a very revealing name?

Something which strikes me both while reading the book and watching the movie is the very striking name "Wormtongue". He might as well be named "Evil Dude". He seems over-the-top ...
25
votes
3answers
6k views

What is the symbolism of Atticus killing the mad dog?

So in To Kill A Mockingbird, Atticus kills a mad dog. He does it with one shot. Is there some more symbolism to this or is it just an event?
25
votes
2answers
10k views

What's it called when a short quote appears at the beginning of a chapter?

I've read several novels (Cornelia Funke's Inkheart trilogy springs to mind, for example) in which each chapter is associated with a quote from some other piece of literature, which is usually somehow ...
25
votes
1answer
11k views

Are quote marks used selectively in “The Handmaid's Tale” or do I have a bad scan of the book?

I've just begun reading The Handmaid's Tale and I'm a bit distracted by the usage (or non-usage) of quote marks in the version I have (ebook). In the second chapter, the handmaid is describing her ...
25
votes
2answers
1k views

Did Poe plagiarise someone else's work when writing “The Raven”?

I've read that Poe's been accused of lifting significant elements from many authors including Elizabeth Barrett, Charles Dickens, Leo Penzoni, and Thomas Holley Chivers (and "unknown," of course). ...

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