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 Post subject: stuck in English
PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2015 11:26 am 
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Posts: 2609
I know the meaning of ‘a tower of ivory’ as we have exactly the same idiom in French.
However, I fail to find the meaning of ‘a portrait in ivory’ though I have the feeling it means something very intricate and exquisite.
Please, would it be possible to anyone to explain to me the meaning?

Here is the sentence the phrase comes from:
Of Mice and Men is a ‘portrait in ivory’ of a highly representative working class enclave, where the labourers’ own powerlessness results in social instability.

. Is the image referring to
- miniatures which, in the 18th century, were painted with watercolour on ivory?
- some very delicate carving of ivory, like it is so beautifully done in the Far East?
- something else?

Thank you in advance for helping me out...


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 Post subject: Re: stuck in English
PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2015 12:03 pm 
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Joined: Sun Sep 07, 2014 1:47 pm
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Thinking aloud could it be a portrait in an ivory picture frame?

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In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.

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 Post subject: Re: stuck in English
PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2015 1:40 pm 
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quasimodo wrote:
Thinking aloud


Hi Quasimodo, :D (Did you chose your pen name after the character created by Victor Hugo?)

Thanks a lot for trying to join my quest and thinking aloud. :D That is very kind of you and I am very grateful! :D :D I hope that some other posters will join too…
Of Mice and men is a novel written by John Steinbeck*. Therefore, it cannot be a portrait; I think that the meaning in the sentence above is rather metaphorical. I hope that somebody will shed a light for us.

* Steinbeck is an American author. He is among the authors who will not be studied anymore in England during the course of the new English GCSE. Maybe a loss... I know that my daughter has been deeply, very deeply touched by the novel ‘to kill a mockingbird’ that she studied for her GCSE. I have not yet read the book, but I will, especially that the sequel has been published recently:
Go set a watchman by Harper Lee

PS:article of May 2014 about the reform and this particular point of ‘axing’ American literature form the syllabus
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/educa ... 32818.html



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 Post subject: Re: stuck in English
PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2015 1:52 pm 
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Joined: Thu Nov 22, 2007 10:30 am
Posts: 505
Location: Warwickshire
Just a thought - could it be a misprint for 'irony'?


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 Post subject: Re: stuck in English
PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2015 2:11 pm 
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That makes more sense to me Warks mum, nver heard the expression 'potrait in ivory '. Asked DS but he wasn't much help. Doesn't bode well for his assessment. :roll:


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 Post subject: Re: stuck in English
PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2015 2:29 pm 
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Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 7:10 pm
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Location: Buckinghamshire
Ivory carving was a very specific art in the ancient and medieval worlds: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivory_carving

The virtue of ivory was that it could be carved in very fine detail, much more than could be achieved with many other media, especially 3D media, at the time, and the whiteness of the ivory created stark imagery. I think that is the allegory being made.

A good example here:

Image

Lots more images if you Google "Ivory carvings".


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 Post subject: Re: stuck in English
PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2015 3:00 pm 
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Just what I was thinking SallyAnne, though I confess to never having heard the OP's saying. Ivory carvings are very fine with exquisite fine detail. I would think the phrase is referring to a finely crafted and very detailed piece of prose?


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 Post subject: Re: stuck in English
PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2015 3:09 pm 
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Maybe there's hope for DS after all. He did say irony didn't really fit. :lol: Now it's been explained it is a rather wonderful allegory/metaphor? but not sure that it works in this context for me.


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 Post subject: Re: stuck in English
PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2015 3:16 pm 
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My immediate thought, similar to that of doodles and Sally-Anne, is that the phrase refers to the fact that it's a short novel with a lot of finely crafted detail, like an ivory carving/portrait; a rather intense and narrow representation of the lives of some individuals limited by their class and outlook. It makes me think of something contained, limited and perhaps a bit bleak and unhealthy - but described using beautiful language. Having said that I've not read Of Mice and Men for a very long time - but I have read most of Steinbeck's novels and this seems to make sense.

Where does the phrase come from? Is it in a past paper?


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 Post subject: Re: stuck in English
PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2015 3:34 pm 
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Warks mum wrote:
could it be a misprint for 'irony'?

Hi Warks mum :D
you've got me doubting about the strength of my eyes... which are in the state eyes usually are after 40... meaning I now need reading glasses (or varifocal ones).. big sigh... :(

so I checked the introduction I was reading... and it is 'ivory'... but you were right to suggest this possible misprint!!

Peridot wrote:
Where does the phrase come from? Is it in a past paper?

No, it is in the introduction by Susan Shillinglaw (page XViii); I am using the Penguin books edition, isbn 9780141185101

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mice-Men-John-S ... 0141185101

Sally-Anne wrote:
A good example here:

thank you for the beautiful picture, Sally Anne.
That reminds me of a praising talk one of my French teacher did to us about carrot carving in a Chinese restaurant. She was amazed by the meticulous, intricate and fine carving :D Some people are amazingly gifted and patient!!

Thank you all for your help! I can return to the novel now... might come back one day if I am stuck again... The language level is quite high! 8)


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