His hurt expression and absent apology stirred little guilt in her hardened bosom.

  1. "Hurt expression" and "Absent apology" are contradicting each other. "Hurt expression" means an expression that shows hurt, unhappiness. Absent is defined in oxford dictionaries "(Of an expression or manner) showing that someone is not paying attention to what is being said or done", meaning that his apology was distracted, half-hearted, or perfunctory. Am I right?
  2. Does "hardened bosom" mean her feelings and emotions lack sympathy or pity?
  • 1
    Please rewrite your title so people can know what your real question is without looking at the body. This will help future visitors to our site.
    – tchrist
    Sep 7, 2015 at 22:46
  • I have to point out that the example sentence is pretty bad writing: an attempt at 'literariness' by someone who doesn't use English with great precision. Source. Sep 8, 2015 at 14:01
  • @StoneyB I didn't know about that source. I usually learn the language through studying a lot of example sentences. This was taken from Oxford Dictionaries. But I believe you can only view more example sentences if you have the premium subscription.(oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/absent). Sep 8, 2015 at 19:09

1 Answer 1


Yes, I agree with all of your interpretations.

Absent apology could also mean an apology that is missing. Perhaps he did not apologize, and that is why she does not feel guilty. This seems less likely than your interpretation, but without more context, it is hard to know for sure.

The sentence does seem to be contradictory, because his hurt expression suggests that he is sincere, and absent apology suggests that he is not. But that is what the sentence says, and of course people sometimes do contradictory things. Again, more context might explain what is really going on here.

  • Thank you for answering. This sentence was taken from Oxford Dictionaries as it is. It is supposed to be an English learning sentence. With respect to your interpretation, I thought that the sentence means she did feel guilty, correct? Sep 8, 2015 at 0:15
  • Not really. Note the word little. Taken literally it means she felt a small amount of guilt, but using little in this way has a negative sense - it emphasizes that she felt much less guilt than you might expect, perhaps practically none. Little here could be replaced by no without really changing the meaning. Sep 8, 2015 at 0:32
  • That clarifies a lot. How about my question 2? what does "hardened bosom" mean, is my interpretation right? Sep 8, 2015 at 1:35
  • @Ghaith: I said I agreed with all your interpretations, including that one :-) Sep 8, 2015 at 1:54

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