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Thread: How to understand the last sentence?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2017

    Default How to understand the last sentence?

    Hello everyone,
    I am reading Howard Zinn's book "A people's history of the United States", which I find very interesting and I recommend to everyone. However there is a paragraph that really puzzles me; it is the last sentence that I can't understand. And here is the whole text:
    In Newport, Rhode Island, Bridenbaugh found, as in Boston, that "the town meetings, while ostensibly democratic, were in reality controlled year after year by the same group of merchant aristocrats, who secured most of the important offices...." A contemporary described the Newport merchants as "... men in flaming scarlet coats and waistcoats, laced and fringed with brightest glaring yellow. The Sly Quakers, not venturing on these charming coats and waistcoats, yet loving finery, figured away with plate on their sideboards."
    I can't understand what does "figured away with plate on their sideboards" mean, so I'll appreciate any opinion suggesting how to explain this sentence.
    Thank you

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2016

    Default Re: How to understand the last sentence?

    I donīt know if you are still there, but to my mind the meaning of the sentence is, that while the Newport merchants used showy clothes, the Quakers,who had to dress very modestly, showed off their fine China or silver plates.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2017

    Post Re: How to understand the last sentence?

    Thank you Leseratte, what you are suggesting makes sence. First I thought "figure away" was a phrasal verb, but I looked id up and didn't find anything. So I wandered what was the purpose of "away" in the sentence. I think it suggests more energy or eagerness when doing something.

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