What does "the whole picture" mean? Thanks.

A, an assistant of B, director in a publishing house.

A: You've got mail. I'm gonna go back to work now.

B: No, stay. This is going to be a real treat for you.

A: It's for me?

B: God, no, it's for me. But you get to be the first to see it. It's Judith Leiber, made to order. Just cobra and stingray with antiqued gold hardware. Hematite, Austrian crystal, and onyx stone inlay.

A: It's gorgeous.

B: I just wish men appreciated bags as much as women.

A: Men are visual. They respond to the whole picture, even if they don't know why. I'm telling you, men are gonna love that purse without even realizing they saw it.

  • It's a bit surprise for me that you seem to understand the whole dialogue but have a problem with the whole picture. I believe that you already know the word whole, and probably have already looked it up in dictionaries. It'll be helpful if you tell us more about your attempts and your current guess (what "the whole picture" means). In case you haven't looked up the word whole, its meaning is roughly the same as "entire". Does that help? May 18, 2015 at 10:26
  • @ Damkerng , hi, I did look up the dictionary before posting here that its mean is "the most important facts about a situation and the effects of that situation on other things" from freedictionary.com which I felt it didn't match and I couldn't find it from others. I thought it was an idiom. Thanks.
    – puputeh24
    May 18, 2015 at 12:17
  • @ Damkerng, I found an answer by searching "the whole picture" only. Yes, "the whole picture" is a common idiom. Imagine you are looking at a car that you are thinking of buying. You look at the car, and you think it looks very good, so you buy it. After you pay for it, you try to start the motor, but it will not start. Now you own a good looking car that does not run. You made a mistake because you did not consider all of the facts involved before you made a decision. You didn't look at the whole picture. Sometimes, we say "look at the big picture." This means the same thing.
    – puputeh24
    May 18, 2015 at 12:25
  • 2
    Big picture and whole picture have different meanings.
    – TimR
    May 18, 2015 at 12:28

2 Answers 2


"Whole" here is used literally: the entire thing, the undivided unit. The "whole picture" means "everything you can see".

I presume the characters here are women. One has bought a new bag, and she is saying that carrying this bag will make her look more attractive to men, even though a man would be unlikely to say, "wow, that's a very pretty bag". Men "respond to the whole picture, even if they don't know why". That is, a man will see a woman with all the facets that go into her appearance -- her shape, her hair style, her clothes, and, yes, her bag -- and make a judgment about how pretty she is, without thinking of the individual components.

One could debate if that's true, but this is a forum about grammar and not dating advice.

  • @ Jay, I love your answer but I'm not asking dating advice. To be honest with you, I'm seriously learning English from an American drama, younger, S1EP3. Here's the dialogue. Thanks.
    – puputeh24
    May 19, 2015 at 13:00
  • @puputeh24 Jay isn't saying you are asking about dating advice :) He or she is saying that the view expressed by A may not be a realistic view, but that he or she isn't going to talk about whether it is or not, because you are asking about the grammar and not for dating advice. May 19, 2015 at 14:37
  • @Jay , oops sorry for misunderstanding you. I apologize for my bad English.
    – puputeh24
    May 19, 2015 at 14:39
  • @starsplusplus thanks for pointing out my mistake. I love learning from mistake.
    – puputeh24
    May 19, 2015 at 14:40
  • @puputeh24 No problem, it's great to see a keen learner! May 19, 2015 at 14:42

The whole picture here is synonymous with the German loan-word gestalt. It refers to a mode of perception where the scene or image or situation is "taken in" all at once, as distinct from reaching an understanding of it through analysis of the discrete components or elements that comprise it.

  • 2
    @ TRomano, I'm so sorry. it seems too complicated for me...
    – puputeh24
    May 18, 2015 at 12:34
  • Perhaps a two-language dictionary (your native language <-> English) and look up the word gestalt. If it's not there, a dictionary with your native language and German.
    – TimR
    May 18, 2015 at 12:58

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