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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What does "the firmament of the body" mean?

Many dictionaries define "the firmament" as the sky. OK But I don't understand the word "the firmament of the body" at all. What does it mean..?
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What does the ‘thank you very much’ mean in “they were perfectly normal, thank you very much”?

I have started reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I was way too excited for my first English book reading. But after I started reading it, I got stuck and can’t go onward. The question ...
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Correct usage of 'would have'

In Lord of the Rings The Two Towers king Theoden says the following line: Saruman's arm would have grown long indeed if he hopes to reach us here. As a non native speaker I would have said it like ...
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What does this mean?: "So monstrous was I then ready to pronounce it that the child should be under an interdict."

I'm reading The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, and I've found it difficult to understand the meaning of the sentence pasted below. I suppose it can be roughly paraphrased to "I was monstrous, ...
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what does hiding an uneasy conscience with a judicial air mean

What does hiding an uneasy conscience with a judicial air mean? I've quoted it from Pygmalion, a play by George Bernard Shaw.
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Meaning of "the possibility of a shared relation to music"

Nobody in this book is a musical genius. Garner takes her title from a textbook Athena keeps on her piano. Elizabeth mocks it: “God, listen to this—how pompous. ‘Bach is never simple, but that is one ...
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Meaning of "When the sentences are as finely tuned as Garner’s, music as much as character is fate"

What “communicates” with the “creature” inside these characters is music more than speech. This book is short the way Wittgenstein’s “Tractatus” is short—it passes over in silence what language could ...
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Meaning of "fiction of roundness"

About the people in this book, we will often be suddenly not so sure. A book about, among other things, families and “the rough sexual world that lies outside of families,” “The Children’s Bach” is an ...
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What's the meaning of "What is A but B?"

I don't quite get this sentence: What is the son but an extension of the father? (from Dune by Frank Herbert) Does it mean "Can the son be anything else but an extension of the father?"
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The meaning of "regular triplet"

Behind the mare was plainly audible the cadence of a swiftly trotting horse. “D’you hear anything?” said Guj. “No—nothing but the regular triplet,” said Hordene; and he lied when he answered. This is ...
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"from out there" - can it mean a different world or something like that?

I have been reading a lot of lovecraftian stories and in some of them, there is often a phrase such as "something from out there". There is e.g. a story by August Derleth that is called just ...
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are Martha Sarah and Marther Sarer the same names in "The Distracted Preacher" by Thomas Hardy?

In beginning of The Distracted Preacher a maid is introduced in Newberry estate. It seems that both names refer to the same person and different spelling deals with different pronunciation. Quote: A ...
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What does "puffs" mean in this context?

And a Centre of Advanced Technology isn't going to be allowed to regard literature as a technology, even though it is. Look at the authors already out of print and likely to remain so. The levelling's ...
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Meaning of sentences from an introduction to "The House of the Dead"

From Julius Bramont's introduction to a 1911 edition of The House of the Dead by "Fedor Dostoïeffsky", from Project Gutenberg: Hence his rage with the calmer men, more gracious interpreters ...
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Translate this sentence. Rewrite it in your own words. Why does Conroy reference all of these works of literature in this paragraph? [closed]

I have read like a man on fire my whole life because the genius of English teachers touched me with the dazzling beauty of language.-Pat Conroy This is from "A Letter to the Editor of the ...
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Meaning of "are they worth it? It was a secret showing of badges, of scars" [closed]

This passage is from The Children's Bach by Helen Garner They sat in the high seats at the back of the bus, and Poppy sank into her book. Up at the front sat a European woman in her forties, dressed ...
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Meaning of "eventlets"

What was the thing? They pointed out these eventlets to each other. They did not discuss or pass judgment, but defined themselves against the attitudes revealed by the unwitting characters in these ...
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Meaning of "something fancy and successful about her"

Doctor Fox looked at Elizabeth as he chewed, and nodded and smiled. She must be nearly forty now, like Dex. Thank God they were never foolish enough to marry, though no doubt Dexter had poked her when ...
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Meaning of "self-conscience"

‘I might go out,’ said Vicki. ‘People’s parents never like me.’ ‘My parents do,’ said Arthur. ‘Older parents, I meant,’ said Vicki. ‘They might wonder exactly what you’re doing here,’ said Arthur. ‘In ...
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Meaning of "He was in its moral universe"

He sat at the ravaged table and watched the girl dry herself with efficient strokes, sawing between her toes and twisting her shoulders to reach the backs of her thighs. This was modern life, then, ...
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Can the verb "to impress someone with something" be used in a negative way?

I am quoting from the Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, The Greek Interpreter by Arthur Conan Doyle: His visitor, on entering his rooms, had drawn a life-preserver from his sleeve, and had so impressed him ...
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What does "abrading" mean in "my heart is racing and cool traces of sweat are abrading my neck"?

In the novel Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow, there's the following passage: Three a.m. When I awake my heart is racing and cool traces of sweat are abrading my neck, so that in the idiocy of sleep ...
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What is the meaning of this sentence from Thomas Hardy's book?

There is a paragraph in beginning of Thomas Hardy's "The Distracted Preacher": But when those of the inhabitants who styled themselves of his connection became acquainted with him, they ...
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Meaning of "two empty sets of garments hung opposite each other in a cupboard."

‘Where have you been all day?’ said Philip. ‘I waited for you. Let’s go out and eat.’ ‘I’m going on the train. Tonight.’ ‘Wait another couple of days. We’ll fly back.’ She shook her head. The music ...
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Meaning of "now that the blood had gone out of them"

‘Where have you been all day?’ said Philip. ‘I waited for you. Let’s go out and eat.’ ‘I’m going on the train. Tonight.’ ‘Wait another couple of days. We’ll fly back.’ She shook her head. The music ...
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Middlemarch, meaning of a sentence in Chapter 2

The following are the last two paragraphs of the second chapter of George Eliot's Middlemarch: He was not in the least jealous of the interest with which Dorothea had looked up at Mr. Casaubon: it ...
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Meaning of "just leave in the images..."

She walked down the neon streets, and up again, and found her way back to the hotel. It was dark. He was lying on the bed watching a band on television. A girl was sitting at the dressing table, also ...
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Meaning of "old houses full of stone and shutters and anachronistic lace. They notice that the..."

What do tourists do? They walk, they stand, they look, they buy. They fumble for money on buses, not knowing whether to pay the driver or the conductor. They visit famous monuments, fountains, old ...
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Meaning of "lit from behind through a cloud of metallic steam" and "strain a person’s sense ... " [closed]

They stopped on a rising note. Dexter was standing in the bathroom doorway, holding Billy by the hand, lit from behind through a cloud of metallic steam. ‘Some things, Morty,’ he said, ‘strain a ...
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Meaning of "But you are faking it" and "Rule number one of modern life"

Vicki said, ‘Don’t you care about Philip and Athena?’ said Vicki. Elizabeth said, ‘Course I care. I always care. But there’s no point in making a song and dance about it, like that night he stayed ...
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Meaning of "Joachim spent the time it took for Dave and I to be snapped attempting to chat up Brigitte."

From The Last Bandit. A Rock'n'roll Life by Nikki Sudden: Joachim spent the time it took for Dave and I to be snapped attempting to chat up Brigitte. I don't understand the meaning and the ...
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arrogant slow gait

ANNABEL and Midge came out of the tearoom with the arrogant slow gait of the leisured, for their Saturday afternoon stretched ahead of them. Hey there, What does this text mean by "the arrogant ...
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meaning of "braced for more sobbing" [closed]

This passage is from The Children's Bach by Helen Garner someone laughed up high, there was a scuffling somewhere in the house, Dexter was up, he would see to it. Her muscles let go and she was away. ...
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Meaning of "jerking figures"

Beside one of the speaker boxes crouched an androgynous creature in a raincoat. Its neck was bent, its hair was slicked back like a schoolboy’s off its sweating, waxen face, it nodded its head in time ...
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What is this writing technique called in English?

How is this writer's technique called in English when the author seems to address someone in his epistle or a letter, but, in fact, is only indirectly addressing him (because, for example, that person ...
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what does "in the brief camaraderie of moving to music" mean?

Vicki charged down the front to dance beside girls she did not know but who meet her eye and smile at her as they leap and bob and twirl about in their cheap and cheerful dresses, in the brief ...
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Meaning of "The other right" and "back looping"

I was watching the sci-fi series "The Flash". Character1 is instructing Character2 about direction: Character1: "Turn right" Charater2 moves in the wrong direction. Charater1: &...
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Meaning of "he is trying to keep something alive." and "righteous set of Dexter's mouth..."

This passage is from The Children's Bach by Helen Garner ‘Sing something,’ said Poppy to Elizabeth. ‘Sing ‘‘Breaking Up Is Hard To Do’’.’ ‘Oh, not that,’ said Philip. ‘You do the come-ah come-ah,’ ...
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How different are "the tracks" from "the steps" that one leaves in the snow?

Reading a story by A. Blackwood, I am not sure what to make of the following phrase: The night was still as ice, bitterly cold. Breathlessly they ran, following the tracks. Halfway his steps diverged,...
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What does "Some Polos" mean in this passage from "The Ferryman"?

The following is from The Ferryman, page 7 (depiction of a man, who was found in the bog, he was supposed to be an IRA informer, but something went wrong and IRA itself they killed him). What does &...
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The meaning of “Let-us-take-and-heave-him-over”

Just when the reasons were drowsy with blood-sucking I heard the regular—“Let-us-take-and-heave-him-over” grunt of doolie-bearers in the compound. First one doolie came in, then a second, and then a ...
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Why is there a comma in "'I'd like to be as rich as Marco,' he thought"?

This is a sentence from a story I was reading: 'I'd like to be as rich as Marco,' he thought. Why is a comma used after the word 'Marco'? Can you please explain the grammar behind that?
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What does "show Callum what he was missing" mean here? [closed]

I am wondering what "show Callum what he was missing" means in the following sentences: ‘I was on my phone,’ I say, ‘and I could see that Callum was with Ellie. She’d shared all these pics ...
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What does "he wasn’t very subtle about" mean here?

I am wondering what "he wasn’t very subtle about" means in the following sentences: Hannah speaks first. ‘Olivia.’ The cave replies in a whisper: Olivia, Olivia, Olivia. ‘God,’ Hannah says, ...
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What does "Can’t think of the last time I did that." mean here?

I am wondering what "Can’t think of the last time I did that." means in the following sentences: ‘Actually,’ I say, ‘I’m not all that tired. And I don’t have to get up early tomorrow ...
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What does "Had enough in there?" mean here?

I am wondering what "Had enough in there?" means in the following sentences: I push into the drawing room next door and as I walk through I stop short in shock. A figure’s sitting there on ...
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1 vote
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What does "ladies" mean here?

I am wondering what "ladies" means in the following sentences: ‘The first part,’ Angus says, ‘is: “Do brave deeds and endure”, which was the school motto. The second part was added in by us ...
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What does "a big tradition" mean here?

I am wondering what "a big tradition" means in the following sentences: ‘Survival?’ Hannah turns to him. ‘This game we used to play at school,’ Femi explains. Duncan’s wife Georgina chips ...
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What does "from the school, deep into the grounds" mean here?

I am wondering what "from the school, deep into the grounds" means in the following sentences: ‘Survival?’ Hannah turns to him. ‘This game we used to play at school,’ Femi explains. Duncan’...
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What does "the better versions of the sort of school we both went to" mean here?

I am wondering what "the better versions of the sort of school we both went to" means in the following sentences: ‘Well,’ I say. ‘Funny you should say that, but I did actually do a try-out ...
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