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Questions tagged [literature]

Questions related to English vocabulary, forms, phrases, and syntax that is now more commonly seen in written literature than in everyday speech. Also used for questions citing excerpts from works of literature.

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on a daily line

I'm having trouble understanding the meaning of these words at the end of the second chapter of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. The narrator reflects on what Tom Sawyer has learned in manipulating all ...
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Am I reading this wrong? Or is my understanding anachronical?

I started reading this short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, What to Do About It, published in 1933. And the story starts with a character trying to free a wheel from a tirelock: [...] he continued ...
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Meaning of Cobwebbed in context

...Rain, yet so fine it could scarcely fall but rather floated. It clung to everything it touched; the rushes in the deep choked ditches of the sea-marsh were bowed down with it, the small black ...
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Paraphrase of “all of life has been a farce”, etc [closed]

In her collection of short stories, “Homesick for Another World,” a little girl is convinced that a hole will open up in the earth and take her straight to paradise, if only she murders the right ...
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Paraphase of “the power to conjure reality through writing”

It was like an enactment of the world inhabited by the protagonist of Moshfegh’s forthcoming novel, “My Year of Rest and Relaxation,” who works at a gallery in Chelsea, amid objects like a quarter-...
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The meaning of “a little Moor and how much it is”

The Duke of Falvertoon was one of those human hors d'oeuvres that stimulate the public appetite for sensation without giving it much to feed on. As a mere child he had been precociously brilliant; ...
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What is the meaning of “and it’s you are” in the poem I carry your heart with me?

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in] BY E. E. CUMMINGS i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart)i am never without it(anywhere i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done by only me is ...
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Modern British English novels suitable for learning English [closed]

I am learning English and for that purpose (among other things) I want to read a few novels. I have made a list of novels selected by personal taste, but since I am still learning, I am afraid that ...
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Dialogue consisting of questions and answers?

Is there a specific word for a dialogue between two characters in a play or novel, where that dialogue only consists of questions and answers?
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The meaning of “half woman, half girl”

"It was the same mirror I'd gazed into as a child, then as a girl, then as a youth, half woman, half girl." Educated by Tara Westover What does "half woman" mean? (For example: A ...
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2answers
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Why is there no definite article in front of the word “wind” in the phrase “little eddies of wind”?

Why is the article "the" missing from the noun "wind" in the following excerpt? Outside, even through the shut window-pane, the world looked cold. Down in the street little eddies of wind were ...
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Should I capitalize Satan in my paper? [closed]

I am writing an essay on Paradise Lost, and the character satan comes up frequently. I know in the bible God or LORD is always capitalized, but should the same be done for satan? Isn't it kind of ...
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A word to say I'm “full of expectations and impatient to see it”?

When I watch series and I just "can't wait" until the next episode, is it OK to say "I'm stretched how it's going to end"? A simple translation from google gives me tight and uptight.
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Similar phrases to a “situation close to life”?

In Czech, when we talk about a scene in a book/movie that reminds us of our own lives, we say it is very "from life" (ze života). What are the ways to express such feeling in English?
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GRE - Primary purpose of the passage about The Life of Charlotte Bronte

Source In The Life of Charlotte Bronte (1857), the first and the most celebrated biography of novelist Charlotte Bronte, Elizabeth Gaskell promoted the long-persisting romantic view of Bronte as ...
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A controversial GRE reading question(Buell’ study of village sketches…)

Source Buell’s study of village sketches (a type of fiction popular in the United States in the 1830s and 1840s) provides a valuable summary of sketches that portray the community as homogeneous ...
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Can't parse “He never went ..THAT he did not glance…” from John Williams

I'm reading Stoner by John Williams and there is the following sentence: He never went into that room that he did not glance at the seat he had once occupied, and he was always slightly surprised ...
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Oscar Wilde's story telling technique

Night after night have I sung of him, though I knew him not: night after night have I told his story to the stars, and now I see him. His hair is as dark as the hyacinth-blossom, and his lips are red ...
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Is “you” here used as generalized “you”?

Percy Weasley stuck his head through the door, looking disapproving. He had clearly gotten halfway through unwrapping his presents as he, too, carried a lumpy sweater over his arm, which Fred seized.  ...
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Is 'to gleam above char' an idiom? [closed]

There is a phrase in Almayer's Folly by Joseph Conrad which seems to me an idiom, but I can't find it is. Here is an excerpt from the story with the phrase in question in bold: Lingard, a rich ...
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1answer
108 views

Great Expectations, paragraph disection

"Whether common ones as to callings and earnings," pursued Joe, reflectively, "mightn't be the better of continuing for to keep company with common ones, instead of going out to play with oncommon ...
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783 views

Meaning of “looking about” and “smart without a name”? [closed]

Im reading great expectations by charles dickens. "stood near the door looking about me," "so bitter were my feelings, and so sharp was the smart without a name, that needed counteraction."
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Confusion about the use of the present simple in a story

I am reading a plot summary of "Wuthering Heights", a story written by Emily Brontë. One day Mr Earnshaw, father of Catherine and Hindley, goes to Liverpool on business. When he returns, he brings ...
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To “favor someone's side of the house”

I just read the sci-fi short story "And all the earth a grave", and I don't get the punch line. To summarize the story: A company starts an aggressive marketing effort on selling coffins, which ...
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Single quotes/italics — what quotation should I use to express thought?

'Everything's going to be all right.', I kept telling myself. "Everything's going to be all right.", I kept telling myself. Here, I didn't say "everything's going to be all right" out loud. What ...
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What does “Stands the wind in that quarter” mean?

I'm reading Mark Twain's The Prince and The Pauper and have come across this sentence in Chapter 23, after the woman has told the court that her pig is worth eight pence and is about to leave when an ...
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3answers
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“they say she had a pretty hand” - What does it mean?

This is from Rewards and Fairies by Rudyard Kipling. (E-texts.) 'Did her ministers ever open Queen Elizabeth's letters ?' said Una. 'Faith, yes! But she'd have done as much for theirs, any day. ...
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246 views

What is the meaning of “But no last trump” in following sentence?

Bang, thud, and clank. Grim sounds to preface an evening’s amusement. But no last trump could have so galvanized the weary attendants on Thespis and Terpsichore standing in patient column of four ...
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Why is “be” used instead of “is” in this sentence “Be he alive, or be he dead”?

He was a big one, to be sure. At his belt he had three calves strung up by the heels, and he unhooked them and threw them down on the table and said: 'Here, wife, broil me a couple of these for ...
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“Far hamlets to the east will know his antics”

He will pass beyond it through those desolate plains, and over the hills beyond them, beyond Bapaume. Far hamlets to the east will know his antics. And one day surely, in old familiar garb, ...
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441 views

Why is “advanced english class” not capitalized in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”?

In the following passage from The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Cbhosky, "english" isn't capitalized: There is this one girl in my advanced english class named Susan. In middle school, ...
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3answers
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Using 'directly' in a sense 'just a moment' or 'right away'

Short version of my question: Can we use a word 'directly' when want to say 'just a moment' or 'I'll be ready right away'? And, if yes, do native speakers often do it? Long version: I've been ...
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What Figure of Speech is used in phrases like “sugar mugar”?

There are combinations like sugar mugar that people use in their speech while the second word has no meaning and only adds a rhythm. What is this called in English?
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What “Squalor” Esmé means [closed]

In "For Esmé - with Love and Squalor", Esme seems to use "squalor" without knowing what the word means. Assuming she mistakes it for another word, what would the other word be? Good answers provide ...
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2answers
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Using literary present when there's a sequence of events

I heard that when describing a piece of literature in writing, we should always use the literary present tense. I am encountering a special situation, where an event takes place after a different ...
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Away they went over stock and stone - What is stock and stone?

That statement is from Grimm's fairy tales. What is the meaning of the phrase "stock and stone"? Where else can I use it?
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What's the meaning of phrase “Never let it be said…”?

I've met it in China Mieville's book "Perdido Street Station". Never let it be said I don't collect the best And I still can't figure is he collecting the best or not?
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1answer
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What are water sleeves? (“For a few seconds their ankles glittered in rippling sleeves of retreating water.”)

A wave, pushed by one behind it, slid so far up the slant of sand, their feet were delicately shocked and soaked. For a few seconds their ankles glittered in rippling sleeves of retreating water. ...
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meaning of “pared bone” in “”Her singing voice […] a bright soprano, clean and pure as pared bone"

I'm reading The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett and the following sentence is describing one of the characters' voice: "Her singing voice - she was training at the conservatoire in Vienna when she ...
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1answer
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Meaning of “to undertake the siege of someone's virtue” in “He wished now that he had never undertaken the siege of Miss Wilkinson's virtue” (Maugham)

Of course it was much easier for Frenchmen to do these things; the language was such an aid; Philip could never help feeling that to say passionate things in English sounded a little absurd. He ...
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4answers
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Is learning English with the Bible a good idea for ESL people?

I have a KJV Bible and considering to use it to improve my English vocabulary, reading and writing skills. But, I'm not a Christian and also not so familiar with Western culture. I'm afraid that there ...
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365 views

What does “to make pale” mean?

And then the Milliner — and the Man Of the Appalling Trade — To take the measure of the House — There'll be that Dark Parade — Meaning: What you might not know—but Dickinson probably did—is ...
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“As if the house were his / And he owned all the mourners now / and little boys besides”

"There's been a Death in the Opposite House", by Emily Dickinson The minister goes stiffly in As if the house were his And he owned all the mourners now And little boys besides Some ...
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2answers
362 views

Are there classifications for English literature (useful for English learners)?

I wonder if there is a classification of English literature that can tell whether a book is easy to read/understand (good for beginners) or difficult to read/understand (experts)? I know there is ...
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2k views

meaning of the term “its being received”

IT WAS the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, ...
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Why is it acceptable to use the present tense when speaking about text?

When speaking of something included in text, what rules make it acceptable to say "it says", rather than "it said" regardless of conditions such as age of text, or the existence of subsequent ...
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Is “of opening” used here in the sense “from the start, in the beginning”?

From Hardy's Far from the madding crowd: Almost before he had ceased speaking, Oak was seized with a misgiving as to whose ear was the recipient of his answer. Nobody appeared, and he heard the ...
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“looked to the brass eyelet-holes”: why “to” and not “at”? What is the meaning?

From Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd: He thoroughly cleaned his silver watch-chain with whiting, put new lacing straps to his boots, looked to the brass eyelet-holes, went to the inmost ...
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What's the meaning of “to dog his heels”

I've come across Elia's Peattie, The Shape of Fear but I can't figure out the meaning of the following sentence. Is it an idiom or phrase? "Purity seemed to dog his heels, no matter how violently ...
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Why is the present tense used here?

Bacon has warned us that selfishness should be checked, in the context of a prince-servant relationship. Of course he is dead but here "has" is used. Why? He warned us right? He warned us in the ...