Mary Hodgson Burnett's beloved "The Secret Garden" finds a way to make its surly protagonist, Mary Lennox, happy in a way that rings true (etext found
here). Learn this word list that focuses on Mary Lennox.
characteristic of an absolute ruler or absolute rule; having absolute sovereignty
She never remembered seeing familiarly anything but the dark faces of her Ayah and the other native servants, and as they always obeyed her and gave her her own way in everything, because the Mem Sahib would be angry if she was disturbed by her crying, by the time she was six years old she was as
tyrannical and selfish a little pig as ever lived.
The woman looked frightened, but she only
stammered that the Ayah could not come and when Mary threw herself into a passion and beat and kicked her, she looked only more frightened and repeated that it was not possible for the Ayah to come to Missie Sahib.
in a dishonorable manner or to a dishonorable degree
"Disgraceful" means "deserving or bringing disgrace or shame" and "giving offense to moral sensibilities and injurious to reputation"--both definitions fit the situation: being neglected shames Mary; neglecting a child is offensive to the moral sensibilities of the larger society and would've hurt the reputations of her parents, if they had lived.
She looked an ugly, cross little thing and was frowning because she was beginning to be hungry and feel
He sang it until the other children heard and laughed, too; and the crosser Mary got, the more they sang "Mistress Mary, quite
contrary"; and after that as long as she stayed with them they called her "Mistress Mary Quite
Contrary" when they spoke of her to each other, and often when they spoke to her.
"Scornful" and "impudent" are semi-synonymous adjectives ("scorn" has more hateful rudeness than "impudence"). While these words are referring to Basil here, they could also describe Mary. Used to being treated like a queen, Mary does not recognize or appreciate her own attitudes in others. This contrasts with her relationship to Ben, with whom she also shares the same temper, but because he's older, has gardening knowledge, and doesn't mind sharing, Mary seeks him out.
"She doesn't know where home is!" said Basil, with seven-year-old
But she thought over it a great deal afterward; and when Mrs. Crawford told her that night that she was going to sail away to England in a few days and go to her uncle, Mr. Archibald Craven, who lived at Misselthwaite Manor, she looked so
stony and stubbornly uninterested that they did not know what to think about her.
"Unresponsive" also means "not reacting to some influence or stimulus"--Mrs. Medlock was trying to talk to Mary, but the only response she got was "No" (twice). Even when Mary starts to become interested in Mrs. Medlock's descriptions of Misselthwaite Manor, her disagreeable nature makes her continue to pretend to be aloofly unresponsive.
"Humph," muttered Mrs. Medlock, staring at her queer,
unresponsive little face.
having or showing arrogant superiority to and disdain of those one views as unworthy
"Haughty" and "imperious" are synonymous adjectives, but they have different roots: "haughty" comes from the Latin "altus" meaning "high"; "imperious" comes from the Latin "imperare" which means "to command" and is also the root of "empire"--this gives the example sentence more meaning, because Mary's "imperious little Indian way" is due to the British Empire's control of India from 1858-1947 (the novel was published in 1911).
"Are you going to be my servant?" Mary asked, still in her
imperious little Indian way.
"Humiliation" also means "state of disgrace or loss of self-respect"--combining both definitions would give a more accurate picture of Mary's feelings: she is embarrassed that Martha described her as "yellow"; she is feeling disgraced and disrespected that Martha should think that she would be black, which she connects to Indian natives, who "are not people--they're servants who must salaam to you."
Mary did not even try to control her rage and
If she had been an affectionate child, who had been used to being loved, she would have broken her heart, but even though she was "Mistress Mary Quite Contrary" she was
desolate, and the bright-breasted little bird brought a look into her sour little face which was almost a smile.
inclined to anger or bad feelings with overtones of menace
He had a
surly old face, and did not seem at all pleased to see her-- but then she was displeased with his garden and wore her "quite contrary" expression, and certainly did not seem at all pleased to see him.
It seemed as if there was no one in all the huge
rambling house but her own small self, wandering about upstairs and down, through narrow passages and wide ones, where it seemed to her that no one but herself had ever walked.