Could you please tell me what the meaning of "pull up her(or his) smile" is?

Sadie trembled for the entire ride, but she pretended to be enjoying herself, restoring her lipsticked smile every time he glanced in her direction.

At the next rehearsal, Charles asked Sadie about a scene, and Shawn saw them talking. Sadie came over a few minutes later but Shawn wouldn’t speak to her. He turned his back and she left crying.
“What’s that about?” I said.
“Nothing,” he said.

By the next rehearsal, a few days later, Shawn seemed to have forgotten it. Sadie approached him warily, but he smiled at her, and a few minutes later they were talking and laughing. Shawn asked her to cross the street and buy him a Snickers at the dime store. She seemed pleased that he would ask and hurried out the door, but when she returned a few minutes later and gave him the bar, he said, “What is this shit? I asked for a Milky Way.”
“You didn’t,” she said. “You said Snickers.”
“I want a Milky Way.”
Sadie left again and fetched the Milky Way. She handed it to him with a nervous laugh, and Shawn said, “Where’s my Snickers? What, you forgot again?”
“You didn’t want it!” she said, her eyes shining like glass. “I gave it to Charles!”
“Go get it.”
“I’ll buy you another.”
“No,” Shawn said, his eyes cold. His baby teeth, which usually gave him an impish, playful appearance, now made him seem unpredictable, volatile. “I want that one. Get it, or don’t come back.”

A tear slid down Sadie’s cheek, smearing her mascara. She paused for a moment to wipe it away and pull up her smile. Then she walked over to Charles and, laughing as if it were nothing, asked if she could have the Snickers. He reached into his pocket and pulled it out, then watched her walk back to Shawn. Sadie placed the Snickers in his palm like a peace offering and waited, staring at the carpet. Shawn pulled her onto his lap and ate the bar in three bites.

Educated by Tara Westover

  • Some more context is needed. Is she happy or sad? Because "pull up" could mean to stop doing something, or it could mean she is "pulling up" her muscles and forcing herself to smile. May 15, 2018 at 6:35
  • 1
    It's not a common English idiom, so it means pretty much what it says. It's a simple enough image that probably works in any language.
    – Andrew
    May 15, 2018 at 6:35
  • It’s not a common idiom, and @Andrew says. One more common way to say it is to force a smile.
    – J.R.
    May 15, 2018 at 10:59

1 Answer 1


As in any language, English writers are going to make up metaphors that are not common idiomatic expressions. In this case "pull up her smile" suggests she's forcibly lifting the corners of her mouth into a smile, even though she doesn't feel like smiling at all.

If you can't find an expression in the dictionary or by searching online, assume it's something the writer made up and use the context to figure out what is meant -- the same as any native speaker would do. Make an "educated guess" and see if it fits.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .