Maxine Hong Kingston's "The Woman Warrior" recounts the troubles and triumphs of Chinese women in ancient folklore and in modern day America. Learn this word list that focuses on the theme of imagination vs. reality.
not transmitting or reflecting light or radiant energy; impenetrable to sight
Another definition of "opaque" is "not clearly understood or expressed"--this does not fit the example sentence, which is literally talking about mist. But the opacity of the mist also symbolizes the young Kingston's relationship to Chinese culture.
The bird would cross the sun and lift into the mountains (which look like the ideograph “mountain”), there parting the mist briefly that swirled
In the example sentence, the image of mussing a line literally refers to messing up the carefully arranged pine needles on the floor. But it is also a theme that runs throughout the book--whether Kingston is mussing the line between memory and myth, reality and fiction, her personal stories and those of her family, female and male...
While the definition of "muss" suggests an undesired state, Kingston seems to encourage it because it could lead to "new blends of earth colors."
When I stepped carelessly and
mussed a line, my feet kicked up new blends of earth colors, but the old man and old woman walked so lightly that their feet never stirred the designs by a needle.
the passing of a soul into another body after death
I had met a rabbit who taught me about self-immolation and how to speed up
transmigration: one does not have to become worms first but can change directly into a human being— as in our own humaneness we had just changed bowls of vegetable soup into people too.
For a woman who has fought for the rights that she believes should be just as much hers as the males around her, having people recognize her worth by relinquishing their sons to her (to be under her command) would be a real gift. But this only happened in Kingston's dream life.
Then the villagers
relinquished their real gifts to me--their sons.
relating to or characteristic of or befitting an offspring
The word "filiality" sounds made up (as of the date of this list, it is not listed in this site's dictionary). The words "legend" and "perfect" add to the unreal quality. The example sentence is describing Kingston's dream of being successful in the battlefield and on the home front. But in her American life, Kingston struggles with her Chinese parents' expectations of filiality.
From the words on my back, and how they were fulfilled, the villagers would make a legend about my perfect filiality.
come up with (an idea, plan, explanation, theory, or principle) after a mental effort
In the example sentence, the act of forging a sword is only imaginary because Kingston was in the real world. But in her dream world where she was a warrior, she had the ability to forge a palpable sword with her mind. However, Kingston got her revenge on her boss years later through a weapon mightier than an imaginary sword that she also forged with her mind: her book.
If I took the sword, which my hate must surely have
forged out of the air, and gutted him, I would put color and wrinkles into his shirt.