"The Secret Garden," Vocabulary from Chapters 1-6

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.

Here are links to our lists for the novel: Chapters 1-6, Chapters 7-12, Chapters 13-17, Chapters 18-22, Chapters 23-27

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. fretful
    habitually complaining
    So when she was a sickly, fretful, ugly little baby she was kept out of the way, and when she became a sickly, fretful, toddling thing she was kept out of the way also.
  2. tyrannical
    characteristic of an absolute ruler or absolute rule
    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.
  3. stammer
    speak haltingly
    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.
  4. bewilderment
    confusion resulting from failure to understand
    During the confusion and bewilderment of the second day Mary hid herself in the nursery and was forgotten by everyone.
  5. disgracefully
    in a dishonorable manner or to a dishonorable degree
    She looked an ugly, cross little thing and was frowning because she was beginning to be hungry and feel disgracefully neglected.
    "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.
  6. contrary
    very opposed in nature or character or purpose
    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.
  7. impudent
    marked by casual disrespect
    Basil was a little boy with impudent blue eyes and a turned-up nose, and Mary hated him.
  8. scorn
    open disrespect for a person or thing
    "She doesn't know where home is!" said Basil, with seven-year-old scorn.
    "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.
  9. stony
    showing unfeeling resistance to tender feelings
    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.
  10. sallow
    unhealthy looking
    If she were not so sallow and had a nicer expression, her features are rather good.
  11. straggle
    go, come, or spread in a rambling or irregular way
    Her black dress made her look yellower than ever, and her limp light hair straggled from under her black crepe hat.
  12. unresponsive
    aloof or indifferent
    "Humph," muttered Mrs. Medlock, staring at her queer, unresponsive little face.
    "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.
  13. discomfit
    cause to lose one's composure
    Mary said nothing at all, and Mrs. Medlock looked rather discomfited by her apparent indifference, but, after taking a breath, she went on.
  14. obsequious
    attentive in an ingratiating or servile manner
    The native servants she had been used to in India were not in the least like this. They were obsequious and servile and did not presume to talk to their masters as if they were their equals.
  15. haughty
    having or showing arrogant superiority
    "You are a strange servant," she said from her pillows, rather haughtily.
  16. imperious
    having or showing arrogant superiority
    "Are you going to be my servant?" Mary asked, still in her imperious little Indian way.
    "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).
  17. indignant
    angered at something unjust or wrong
    "No," answered Mary, quite indignantly."I never did in my life. My Ayah dressed me, of course."
  18. disdainfully
    in a proud and domineering manner
    "It is different in India," said Mistress Mary disdainfully.
  19. humiliation
    strong feelings of embarrassment
    Mary did not even try to control her rage and humiliation.
    "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."
  20. unrestrained
    marked by uncontrolled excitement or emotion
    She sobbed so unrestrainedly that good-natured Yorkshire Martha was a little frightened and quite sorry for her.
  21. sentiment
    tender, romantic, or nostalgic feeling or emotion
    So she began to feel a slight interest in Dickon, and as she had never before been interested in any one but herself, it was the dawning of a healthy sentiment.
  22. desolate
    crushed by grief
    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.
  23. surly
    unfriendly and inclined toward anger or irritation
    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.
  24. warrant
    stand behind the quality, accuracy, or condition of
    We've got the same nasty tempers, both of us, I'll warrant.
  25. meddlesome
    intrusive in an offensive manner
    Don't you be a meddlesome wench an' poke your nose where it's no cause to go.
  26. languid
    lacking spirit or liveliness
    In India she had always felt hot and too languid to care much about anything.
  27. persist
    refuse to stop
    "Why did he hate it?" Mary persisted.
  28. distinguish
    mark as different
    But as she was listening to the wind she began to listen to something else. She did not know what it was, because at first she could scarcely distinguish it from the wind itself.
  29. resent
    feel bitter or indignant about
    The time had come when Mary had forgotten to resent Martha's familiar talk.
  30. rambling
    spreading out in different directions
    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.

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