Cloak: transitive verb: to cove or hide / noun: something that envelops or conceals

From “The Shawl”: First, I told him that keeping his sister’s shawl was wrong, because we never keep the clothing of the dead. Now’s the time to burn it, I said. Send it off to cloak her spirit. And he agreed.

Now I came to understand that the boy requested his father to burn the shawl so that the shawl will reach to the spirit of his father’s dead sister and cover her.


Stash: transitive verb : to store in a usually secret place for future use

From “The Shawl”: I got my growth earlier that some boys, and, one night when I was thirteen and Doris and Raymond and I were sitting around wishing for something besides the oatmeal and commodity canned milk I’d stashed so he couldn’t sell them, I heard him coming down the road.

Now I understand that the boy kept the oatmeal and commodity canned milk in secret place so that his father won’t sell them and they could eat later.


Avid: adjective: desirous to the point of greed, urgently eager

From “The Shawl”: For he kept seeing his mother put the baby and grip his sister around the waist. He saw the brown shawl with its red lines flying open. He saw the shadows, the wolves, rush together, quick and avid, as the wagon with sled runners disappeared into the distance- forever, for neither he nor his father saw Aanakwad again.

Now I came to know that the boy used to see a nightmare where his mother and sister are being chased by quick and hungrily greedy wolves.


Scorch: verb: to burn a surface of so as to change its color and texture, to dry or shrivel with or as if with intense heat

From “The Shawl”: His chest was scorched with pain, and yet he pushed himself on. He’d never run so fast, so hard and furiously, but he was determined, and he refused to believe that the increasing distance between him and the wagon was real.

Now I came to understand that the boy was running very fast, so his chest was burning with pain but still he was not ready to give up the race with the wagon.


Capricious; adjective; subject to, led by, or indicative of a sudden, odd notion or unpredictable change; erratic.

From The Shawl by Louise Erdrich: “He became, for us, a thing to be avoided, outsmarted, and exploited. We survived off him as if he were a capricious and dangerous line of work. I suppose we stopped thinking of him as a human being, certainly as a father.”

After searching this word, I see that the narrator was describing his father as something dangerous and unpredictable. He and the siblings he was referring to saw their father as someone crazy.


Monotonously; adjective; lacking in variety, tediously unvarying.

From The Shawl by Louise Erdrich: “If she could have thrown off that wronghearted love, she would have, but the thought of the other man, who lived across the lake, was with her always. She became a gray sky, stared monotonously at the walls, sometimes wept into her hands for hours at a time.”

After searching this word, I now understand that the narrator described the women as boring, having no variety or activity. She had become flat.