The passage below comes from Emily's runaway imagination by Beverly Cleary.

Then one Sunday, when the store was closed and no one had banged on the door to get Grandpa to open up, Grandpa and Grandma drove over to the farm in the new Ford. Grandma was wearing her good serge suit and her best hat. She had a resigned do-or-die look on her gentle face.

I'd like to ask the meaning of 'a resigned do-or-die look.' It's not easy to figure out the meaning of the part in question because the two word resigned and do-or-die seems to contradict in meaning each other. Resigned means that grandma yield to grandpa's insistence to go on driving with his descendants. But the meaning for do-or-die in the dictionary says it means 'very determined'. So I cannot draw how the grandma looks in my mind.

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    She "resigned", as if against her will or preference (druthers), to use a do-or-die look or expression. And I highly recommend The Mouse and the Motorcycle by the same author. Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 15:42
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    Thanks a lot, Clare, for your suggesting another great book for Beverly Cleary.
    – morti
    Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 10:33
  • Morti, I would agree with you that these are somewhat contradictory descriptors. Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 20:18

1 Answer 1


"Resigned" is indeed a mood of capitulation or yielding to inevitability. She's got no choice but to go along.

The "Do-or-die" expression means that she's going to devote her full efforts to getting through the experience.

A similar situation (and a possible model for her facial expression) might be someone saying "We're stuck with this cleaning job, so let's get it done."

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