Questions citing excerpts from works of literature.

learn more… | top users | synonyms

0
votes
1answer
3k views

“It was then that…” vs “That was when…”

I'm not very sure if both mean exactly the same but I've noticed that the former is more widely use in Japanese novels translated into English. Whereas the latter is more often used in English novels (...
2
votes
2answers
306 views

What does this text from The Haunted House by Charles Dickens mean?

"Who is--or who was--the hooded woman with the owl? Do you know?" "Well!" said Ikey, holding up his cap with one hand while he scratched his head with the other, "they say, in general, that she ...
0
votes
3answers
165 views

What does 'had been took with fits and held down in 'em' mean?

The following appears in The Haunted House by Charles Dickens. What is the meaning of the bolded phrase? This very concise summary of the facts was all I could learn, except that a young man, as ...
3
votes
3answers
3k views

Meaning of a mixed metaphor from “The Gift of The Magi”?

This is from The Gift of The Magi by O Henry (William Sydney Porter). Oh, and the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings. Forget the hashed metaphor. (part 4, paragraph 5 in the reference ...
0
votes
1answer
130 views

What does “breathing of the lighter elements” mean? [closed]

I'm reading Yelizaveta Bam of Daniil Kharms (tr. Neil Cornwell) and stumbled upon the following dialogue: Ivan I.: But who then lights the lamp? Pyotr N.: No one, it burns by itself. Ivan I.:...
0
votes
1answer
3k views

What does “meanest flower might blow” mean

A beautiful woman risking everything for a mad passion. A few wild weeks of happiness cut short by a hideous, treacherous crime. Months of voiceless agony, and then a child born in pain. The mother ...
4
votes
3answers
364 views

Can you explain the pun “erpigarms”

Here is an extract from a short story: When Pushkin broke his legs, he started to go about on wheels. His friends used to enjoy teasing Pushkin and grabbing him by his wheels. Pushkin took this ...
8
votes
4answers
2k views

What does the initial fragment of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy mean?

I begun reading Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. This is one of the initial fragments, emphasis mine: This planet has - or rather had - a problem, which was this: most of ...
1
vote
1answer
3k views

Why is Beowulf considered one of the most important works in the history of the English language? [closed]

Apologies if this is too subjective of a question. I'm currently studying Beowulf. I've seen it referred to as one of the, if not the first, most influential works of Anglo-Saxon literature. Some ...
8
votes
3answers
1k views

Meaning of “Where will wants not, a way opens”

I have been reading "The Lord of the Rings" and came across this phrase in the "The Return of the King". “Where will wants not, a way opens, so we say,” he whispered. “and so I have found myself.” ...
2
votes
1answer
860 views

Words at beginning of sentences with first letter displayed within brackets?

I've been reading The Deer Slayer, and I can't help but notice that some words at the beginning of sentences display their first letter within square brackets. Here are some examples: [W]hen five ...
4
votes
2answers
171 views

Can “But!” be a sentence?

From Dune by Frank Herbert: "I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and ...
3
votes
2answers
600 views

Meaning of “catch birds for”?

I am reading B. Traven's adventure The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, which is about three men who secretly go prospecting for gold. On their way home with their new-found loot they cover their tracks ...
1
vote
3answers
4k views

How to use “learn you” [closed]

While I was reading "The Adventures of Tom sawyer",I came across this phrase. Huck said ,"I will learn you." Is it right to say like that?Or we should say "I will learn from you"?
2
votes
2answers
4k views

Quintology or Pentalogy?

Recently I was looking at the X-Men box set and saw that currently five have been released. I had it in my head that these would be called a quintology but I have seen them being called a pentalogy. ...
6
votes
1answer
161 views

Meaning of “holidays of hay”

What does this phrase, from Pynchon's novel Gravity's Rainbow, mean? Schnorp, his hair blown like holidays of hay… There are no references to "holidays" or "hay" in the preceding several pages.
14
votes
2answers
518 views

Meaning of “cry creek” and “cock of the game”

I'm reading an excerpt from John Lyly (1554–1606), and there are some phrases that I can't find anything about on the net or elsewhere. Here is the context: Though Cutio be as hot as a toast, yet ...
6
votes
1answer
247 views

Meaning of “Let us hit with him, and not miss with him”

I'm reading one of Sir Philip Sidney's prose essays, "An Apology for Poetry" and I bumped into the following phrase which I never heard of. Can anyone please help me with it? Yet will some bring ...
0
votes
1answer
6k views

What does “fiend angelical” stand for?

Juliet--"Beautiful tyrant! fiend angelical!" (Act III Scene ii Line 77) When Juliet refers to Romeo as a "beautiful tyrant," she is expressing an oxymoron because the acts of a tyrant will rarely be ...
7
votes
2answers
102 views

Who is “Martha” alluded to in “Eight Cousins”?

Early in Louisa May Alcott's novel Eight Cousins, a character is described thus: Aunt Plenty was utterly dissimilar, being a stout, brisk old lady, with a sharp eye, a lively tongue, and a face ...
4
votes
2answers
504 views

Literary device: frequently referenced object which never appears

What do you call an object or a person which is frequently referenced but never actually appears? For example, Godot from ‘Waiting for Godot’?
4
votes
1answer
521 views

Meaning of “shot” cloth

"A truly beautiful shade! A cloth of smoked grey, shot with flame colour!" —Gogol, trans. by D. J. Hogarth 'Shot' is what is confusing me. In my mind I imagine it refers to a repeated pattern. My ...
3
votes
0answers
193 views

How is she to describe how she likes him, when he doesn't know? [closed]

There's a friend of mine—let's call her Lily—and a guy—David. Lily told me that she feels very happy each time she meets, talks, plays games, dines (and so on) with David. I guess she's falling in ...
6
votes
2answers
606 views

Meaning of “Y-o-u-u Tom!”

In the opening chapter of Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Tom's aunt Polly calls out to him in a rather peculiar fashion: She went to the open door and stood in it, and looked out among the ...
1
vote
1answer
514 views

Can someone please explain the following passage from Milton's Paradise Lost?

I understand all the words, but not quite the meaning of the following passage, from Milton's Paradise Lost, Book I: 635 For me be witness all the host of heaven, 636 If counsels different, or ...
-1
votes
1answer
388 views

Some help in understanding Dickens [closed]

It's from a page of "Our Mutual Friend". The specific phrases/vocabulary I didn't understand are in bold, while the general gists which are lost on me are in italics: 'I merely referred', Mr ...
5
votes
1answer
445 views

Could “old fashioned” mean “angry” or “disconsolate” in early 19th Century England?

Patrick O'Brian wrote the Aubrey/Maturin seafaring novels during the late 20th Century, but the novels read as if they were written during the early 1800s (at least as far as I can tell, which isn't ...
6
votes
3answers
6k views

What does “in the sere and yellow” mean?

I am currently reading "A Study in Scarlet" by Arthur Conan Doyle. On page 33 is a sentence I don't understand: Well, if a man can stride four and a-half feet without the smallest effort, he can't ...
5
votes
4answers
2k views

What does 'rare device' refer to?

What does rare device refer to in the line 'It was a miracle of rare device' of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem, Kubla Khan?
4
votes
2answers
467 views

An Epithet of the River Styx

I have a question that falls under literature, but I remember that Dante, Greek mythology, and Milton were required reading in my English courses in high school and university. It's about an epithet ...
4
votes
2answers
163 views

What is the meaning of “pole of time” here?

In the translation of a story by Daniil Kharms, I see the following sentence: Thirty-five poles of time elapsed and mine host brought Ivan Ivanovich his entrecote on a round wooden platter. Two ...
5
votes
2answers
569 views

What does the phrase “a fine one” mean in this context?

In one one Daniil Kharms' short stories, Tikakeyev “insults” Koratygin by saying: A fine one you are! This causes a fight between the two. When I first read this, I didn't see the “insult”, ...
1
vote
3answers
2k views

Technical term for `avoiding responsibility` with decision-makers?

Suppose a parliament that tries to "outsource" their responsibility in various ways (they take the gains but not wanting to take the risks). Of course, the situation cannot last: risks and gains ...
2
votes
4answers
6k views

Charles Dickens' “for good and for evil” and “superlative degree of comparison”

Charles Dickens' "Tale of Two Cities" starts with the words: 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 ...
0
votes
2answers
754 views

Informal use of the title 'sir'

I would like to hear from the forum regarding the use of 'sir' in American literature, such as 'The Manhattan Transfer' by Dos Passos published in 1923. In the Italian translation it is given in the ...
1
vote
2answers
146 views

“..which did what lay in it…” from “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens

Ref: “A tale of two cities” by Charles Dickens. What does “..which did what lay in it…” mean in the following sentence? “As the bank passenger – with an arm drawn through the leathern strap, ...
0
votes
3answers
1k views

“To have a run upon it” from “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens

Ref: A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens What does “To have a run upon it” mean in the following sentence? “Tellson’s bank had a run upon it in the mail”
0
votes
1answer
817 views

Is this usage of “now” correct?

Consider this piece of a poem: Crouched at the elder's feet, the knight Now kissed his hand in exultation. The world before his eyes turned bright, Forgot his spirit's sore vexation....
3
votes
3answers
584 views

Noun genders in Moby Dick

English nouns do not have grammatical gender. But in Moby Dick, some nouns do seem to have gender, like "ship" (feminine) and "whale" (masculine). Some passages: And now the time of tide has come; ...
12
votes
3answers
1k views

“Open sesame”: how widely understood is it, and how else to put it?

“Open sesame” is a passphrase opening the treasure cave in the tale of Ali Baba and the Fourty Thieves. In French at least, it is a widely used phrase to say jokingly when using keys or any other mean ...
9
votes
2answers
891 views

Meaning of “dust” when referring to a person

I stumbled upon the following passage while reading Lord Dunsany (The Sphinx at Gizeh). Delilah was younger than she, and Delilah is dust. Time hath loved nothing but this worthless painted face....
1
vote
5answers
2k views

What is between dystopian and utopian?

There are many speculative fiction pieces that are labeled "dystopian" and some "utopian". Is there a specific word for the reasoned middle ground? Please let me know if this is better suited to the ...
7
votes
8answers
3k views

“Directly” in the meaning of “As soon as”

I've just read my first James Bond novel, Casino Royale. In it, I have found several instances of the word "directly" being used in a way I am not familiar with. It appears to have the meaning "when" ...
1
vote
1answer
444 views

Does the word “system” have any special meaning in literature?

I'm writing an English rendition of a Farsi passage. There's a word I'm hunting for which means methods of literary styles of writing. I came across with the word "system" in a "Farsi to English ...
1
vote
3answers
2k views

What does “noon hour” mean?

I came across the following sentence in a book. I wonder how should I interpret "noon hour": "And how shall you rise beyond your days and nights unless you break the chains which you at the ...
1
vote
1answer
181 views

Impugned and pugn'd

In Jingo, by Terry Pratchet, Lord Vetinari says: "... Sergeant Colon and Corporal Nobbs have never been pugn'd in their entire lives." What about "pugn'd"? Is it just a contraction for "impugned"...
11
votes
2answers
23k views

What is the etymology of “…kick ass and take names”?

Inspired by What is this idiom?, but that question doesn't actually ask for where the expression originated. I Googled around, but couldn't find any reliable source. Surely the expression originates ...
3
votes
1answer
1k views

A Good Resource (Book, …) For Literary Techniques/Devices? [closed]

What's a good book (Or resource) on Literary Techniques/Devices in English Literature?
1
vote
3answers
734 views

Gender, generally associated with “toad” characters in English fiction and folklore

Common noun for a toad ("жаба") is of female gender in Russian. From all English literature that I read, I can remember only one toad-like character: Mr. Toad from The Wind in The Willows, and he is ...
2
votes
1answer
2k views

Common Literary Techniques for Drama Texts?

Right now we're studying a piece on drama (Disclosure: This is for school, but not necessarily for an essay or homework - It's just further study on other literary techniques that are used within ...