at this last awkward tribute. A short litany, a vast brief Amen

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Miaomiao Gong

Senior Member
Chinese
An old man came across his first love who dumped him 40 years ago. He still loved her. They talked in a empty church and she told him that she had a husband. He said he was sorry. Then,
"She shook her head slightly, jerked it with emotion, at this last awkward tribute. A short litany, a vast brief Amen. "
Could you please tell me what this sentence means, especially "at this last awkward tribute. A short litany, a vast brief Amen."? Wasn't the church empty? Why was there litany, Amen?
Thank you in advance!
 
  • DocPenfro

    Senior Member
    English - British
    The writer is comparing their exchange of words to parts of a church service. In particular, "Amen" implies "let it be so" (i.e. "the end").
     

    Elwintee

    Senior Member
    England English
    I disagree, I would prefer 'metaphor' to 'symbols'. Metaphor means, literally, to 'carry beyond' the factual meaning. Describing something in terms of a church service and the language used there (the liturgy) is exactly what this does.
     

    Elwintee

    Senior Member
    England English
    Elwintee, thank you for you reply.

    I understood that 'a symbol' could be understood by everyone because it doesn't stand for a specific situation.
    I wonder how "comparing their exchange of words to parts of a church service" could be a symbolic act? As I understand it, a symbol is usually graphic. For instance, a picture of a crown can represent kingship, the one thing (by convention) stands for something else. The equivalent in language is a metaphor.
     
    I wonder how "comparing their exchange of words to parts of a church service" could be a symbolic act? As I understand it, a symbol is usually graphic. For instance, a picture of a crown can represent kingship, the one thing (by convention) stands for something else. The equivalent in language is a metaphor.
    Thank you for your reply.
    I think "Amen' couldn't desrve being regarded as a metaphor. I always understood it refers to a period of any prayers.
     

    Elwintee

    Senior Member
    England English
    It all depends on the context. In a church service 'amen' means what it says: "So be it!" [in Hebrew], marking an ending to a prayer. It can be seen as metaphorical outside a liturgical, church context. In everyday life some people, when endorsing strongly something someone has said, might add "Amen to that!", meaning "How right you are - I agree with you." They are not addressing themselves to God as a congregation, but have removed the word from its normal context and 'gone beyond' that context. I hope this helps.
     

    lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    Here's the difference between a symbolic and a metaphorical use of "amen." (Remember, the "amen" itself is not metaphorical - it's how it's being used by the text that's metaphorical.)

    Symbolic: She shook her head slightly, jerked it with emotion, at this last awkward tribute. The congregation, hearing the priest conclude the liturgy, intoned a solemn "Amen."
    Metaphorical:
    She shook her head slightly, jerked it with emotion, at this last awkward tribute, this vast, brief "Amen."

    The narrator is naming the "last tribute" an "amen," which it was not (literally, at least, although it shares characteristics with an "amen"). The tribute is like an "amen"; it is compared to an "amen" by the narrator.

    Metaphors are in the discourse of the narration - "My love is a red, red rose." Symbols are in the world of the story - the Beast in Beauty and the Beast actually owns a rose that symbolizes his love.
     
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