1

This passage is from The Children's Bach by Helen Garner:

Vicki spent an hour getting herself ready. She tied a diaphanous scarf round her head, stuck a yellow rose in it, and put a lot of makeup on her flat, smooth, pale face. She looked striking, and flustered because of the lipstick she had rubbed into her cheekbones.

‘One thing you can be sure of,’ said Dexter in the car. ‘No-one else in the place will be dressed like you.’

How would you know, thought Vicki; you never go to any places. ‘Why don’t you ever wear makeup, Thena?’ she said.

‘Athena doesn’t believe in makeup,’ said Dexter. ‘Do you dear. She’s got beautiful skin.’

‘I don’t know how to put it on,’ said Athena.

‘You don’t need it, dear,’ said Dexter.

‘I wouldn’t mind a bit of feminine mystique, once in a while,’ said Athena.

‘You don’t want that rubbish,’ said Dexter.

Athena sat beside him in the front seat with straight spine and folded hands. It alarmed Vicki to see her shoulders tremble with holding back. ‘Elizabeth used to be against makeup,’ she chattered. ‘But now she even puts polish on her toenails. She says, ‘‘I’ve made my reputation as a strong woman. I reckon I’ve earned the right to a couple of red blobs on my extremities.”’ Athena laughed. ‘She’s clever, isn’t she.’

The meaning of the "I've made my reputation as a strong woman" and "I’ve earned the right to a couple of red blobs on my extremities." are unclear to me is my understanding correct?

  1. Does "I've made my reputation as a strong woman. I reckon I’ve earned the right to a couple of red blobs on my extremities" mean "I made myself as a strong woman and every one know me as a strong woman, I reckon it is my right to polish my nails"?

  2. Does the sentence "It alarmed Vicki to see her shoulders tremble with holding back" literally mean "Vicki saw that Athena's shoulders are trembling because she was sitting with straight spine and folded arm"? Or does Athena want to alarm something to Vicki with this posture?

2

I’ve made my reputation as a strong woman. I reckon I’ve earned the right to a couple of red blobs on my extremities.

Means that in her life so far she has proved herself, to herself and those it might truly make any difference to, to be a strong woman, and as a consequence doesn't care whether anyone might think painting her nails to be a sign of frivolity or weakness.

It alarmed Vicki to see her shoulders tremble with holding back

means that the sight of her shoulders trembling with the effort of holding back some emotion (I assume anger or frustration, based on the fact that Dexter seems to be assuming he can speak for her), causes Vicky to feel alarmed.

'Alarming something to someone' isn't how we use 'alarm', it is not interchangeable with 'warn' if that's what you were thinking.

4
  • Lots of thanks, so 1) She had proved herself as a strong woman to anyone and do not care what people think about her . and 2) when Vicki saw her shoulders was trembling with holding back some emotion she became worried. Am I right? – Viser Hashemi Jun 8 at 19:08
  • 1) she does not think that painting her nails will make anyone think she is not a strong woman. 2) now you are essentially asking the difference between alarm and worry. Ant dictionary will assist you there. – Spagirl Jun 9 at 15:33
  • Many thanks, 1) I searched on the net and found "alarm" as a verb mean: make (someone) feel frightened, disturbed, or in danger, (I have not got Ant dictionary I should download it) is it the right meaning in this context? and 2) In your answer" in her life so far she has proved herself, to herself and those it might truly make any difference to, to be a strong woman" I do not get the meaning of " and those it might truly make any difference to" could you explain me if it is possible for you to explain here ? – Viser Hashemi Jun 9 at 18:55
  • 'Ant dictionary' a typo for 'any dictionary'. I apologise for that confusion. TBH I feel that any further attempt by me to clarify my meaning is straying far from the realms of interpreting the literature and into the realms of helping you learn English. I wish you well in your language journey, but the comments on the Literature site are not the place for that and I have no aptitude for teaching, – Spagirl Jun 11 at 16:44

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.