Can someone explain what this means:

Lamp posts and trees reared up at him, splintering his shins

Source: The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson.

  • When a four-footed animal, such as a horse or lion, stands on it hind legs, its body not horizontal but closer to vertical, the animal is said to "rear up". So the person who is having his shins splintered by trees and lamp posts must be a giant?
    – TimR
    Commented Nov 20, 2016 at 10:47
  • Well he is supposed to be a normal-sized man.. i'm really puzzled by this..I just cannot imagine this situation in my head Commented Nov 20, 2016 at 13:47
  • Perhaps the author indulging in grotesque exaggeration to create a nightmarish scene.
    – TimR
    Commented Nov 20, 2016 at 14:25

2 Answers 2


It means that lamp posts and trees injured the lower front part of his legs:


  • To cause to split or break into sharp, slender pieces; form splinters.


  • the front part of your leg between your knee and your foot: She has a nasty bruise on her shin.

The Free Dictionary


Lamp posts and trees do not literally 'rear up.' They are rather fixed.

But someone running, possibly in great fright, might experience coming upon lamp posts and trees in a way that they SEEMED to be jumping up to attack.

This is a poem, after all, and poetic imagery is appropriate. The emotional stress of encountering these obstacles is being communicated.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .