(From A Terrible Kindness by Jo Browning Wroe, Part II Cambridge Choir, chapter 20)

  • William, the chorister, is enjoying himself

The putting on of his cassock and the graceful. weighty swing of the gown at his ankles makes him excited and eager to get to morning practice, or even better, evensong. With Martin (his friend) at his side, talking, laughing and singing their way from school to college, scrunching down the gravel avenue towards the chapel William's heart expands to make space for his new home. The classrooms, the austere dorm, and the dining hall heavy with its smells, are no longer strange to him and have no more nasty surprises, but it's in the chapel that he feels himself expanding.

I take 'he feels himself expanding' to mean 'he feels more important and happier'. It could also mean 'he feels his dreams come true and he becomes richer by any means'. I don't understand the correct usage and meaning of 'expand himself' in this context.

  • 4
    It talks about "William's heart expands" in the previous sentence, so it's related to that.
    – Stuart F
    Commented May 26 at 15:47
  • 5
    There is no 'correct usage and meaning' - we can only guess at exactly what the author means. Commented May 26 at 15:56
  • 1
    Not "he feels more important," but happier, yes, in the sense of calm, humility, and grace towards others. All still figurative. When you feel expansive, others can say "That was big of you." Commented May 26 at 16:11

1 Answer 1


There is no "expand himself".

It's: feel yourself expanding.

  • You have the physical sensation of expansion.

Compare: He felt himself shrinking. [getting shorter or less corpulent. Also a metaphor]

Caveat: It is used metaphorically, expansion as in the expansion of one's mind or soul, not expansion of one's stomach, etc. from gas, for example.

Not to be confused with: I feel like myself again.

Presumably, since he is in a chapel, one can conjure up all sorts of religious associations with the noun expanding.

  • Religious associations of expanding?
    – TimR
    Commented May 27 at 14:54
  • Ah, I though you might have something pneumatological in mind, the expanding lungs of the chorister filling with the spirit.
    – TimR
    Commented May 27 at 17:09

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