lack of respect accompanied by a feeling of intense dislike
Our illness is treated with
contempt, foul Black Draught, and castor oil that blunts our minds.
become or make sore by or as if by rubbing
My mother’s anger humiliates me; her words
chafe my cheeks, and I am crying.
unpleasantly loud and harsh
Sometimes their words move in lofty spirals; other times they take
strident leaps, and all of it is punctuated with warm-pulsed laughter—like the throb of a heart made of jelly.
incapable of being retracted
Outdoors was the end of something, an
irrevocable, physical fact, defining and complementing our metaphysical condition.
The adjective "irrevocable" gives "outdoors" a negative meaning that emphasizes "the real terror of life" that comes with not having the money, opportunities, or willpower to make and keep a home for oneself indoors.
on or near an edge or constituting an outer boundary
peripheral existence, however, was something we had learned to deal with—probably because it was abstract.
spotlessly clean and fresh
What I felt at that time was
"Unsullied" is an odd adjective to describe hatred. But the narrator is describing her nine-year-old self's reaction to Shirley Temple's dancing with a man who should've been dancing with her. Because Claudia was so young and didn't know Shirley Temple, and because Shirley Temple was the embodiment of clean and fresh whom everyone is supposed to love, the hatred is an emotion unsullied by others and would not lead to the sullying of others.
It was a most uncomfortable,
patently aggressive sleeping companion.
"It" refers to a big, blue-eyed baby doll that Claudia was given by adults. But Claudia would rather dismember the "patently aggressive sleeping companion" than snuggle with it. This feeling is similar to her desire to slam locker doors on the hand of Maureen Peal, who wore patent-leather shoes and other quality clothes (here, "patent" refers to a leather-making process that the inventor had sole rights to).
Break off the tiny fingers, bend the flat feet, loosen the hair, twist the head around, and the thing made one sound—a sound they said was the sweet and
plaintive cry “Mama,” but which sounded to me like the bleat of a dying lamb, or, more precisely, our icebox door opening on rusty hinges in July.
Instead I tasted and smelled the
acridness of tin plates and cups designed for tea parties that bored me.
escape, either physically or mentally
The truly horrifying thing was the transference of the same impulses to little white girls. The indifference with which I could have axed them was shaken only by my desire to do so. To discover what
eluded me: the secret of the magic they weaved on others.
unaffected by concern for one's own welfare
When I learned how repulsive this
disinterested violence was, that it was repulsive because it was
disinterested, my shame floundered about for refuge.
tiresomely long; seemingly without end
interminable, insulting, and although indirect (Mama never named anybody—just talked about folks and some people), extremely painful in their thrust.
cause to feel shame
She would go on like that for hours, connecting one offense to another until all of the things that
chagrined her were spewed out.
capable of being borne though unpleasant
Misery colored by the greens and blues in my mother’s voice took all of the grief out of the words and left me with a conviction that pain was not only
endurable, it was sweet. But without song, those Saturdays sat on my head like a coal scuttle, and if Mama was fussing, as she was now, it was like somebody throwing stones at it.
to force onto another
There is an abandoned store on the southeast corner of Broadway and Thirty-fifth Street in Lorain, Ohio. It does not recede into its background of leaden sky, nor harmonize with the gray frame houses and black telephone poles around it. Rather, it
foists itself on the eye of the passerby in a manner that is both irritating and melancholy.
ripen and generate pus
So fluid has the population in that area been, that probably no one remembers longer, longer ago, before the time of the gypsies and the time of the teenagers when the Breedloves lived there, nestled together in the storefront.
Festering together in the debris of a realtor’s whim.
Other definitions of "fester" are "decay or rot," "infect, inflame or corrupt," and "be a source of irritation"--all of these could fit the example sentence to describe the physical and emotional effects of poverty on the Breedlove family.
make or work out a plan for; devise
The plan of the living quarters was as unimaginative as a first-generation Greek landlord could
contrive it to be.
capable of being reached with great difficulty or not at all
There were no bath facilities. Only a toilet bowl,
inaccessible to the eye, if not the ear, of the tenants.
spread or diffuse through
And the joylessness stank,
a disposition to be stealthy and do things surreptitiously
It imposed a
furtiveness on the loving done on it.
physical discomfort, as mild sickness or depression
Like a sore tooth that is not content to throb in isolation, but must diffuse its own pain to other parts of the body—making breathing difficult, vision limited, nerves unsettled, so a hated piece of furniture produces a fretful
malaise that asserts itself throughout the house and limits the delight of things not related to it.
deprive of strength or efficiency; make useless or worthless
Although their poverty was traditional and
stultifying, it was not unique.
No one could have convinced them that they were not relentlessly and aggressively ugly.
dissolute indulgence in sensual pleasure
Except for the father, Cholly, whose ugliness (the result of despair,
dissipation, and violence directed toward petty things and weak people) was behavior, the rest of the family—Mrs. Breedlove, Sammy Breedlove, and Pecola Breedlove—wore their ugliness, put it on, so to speak, although it did not belong to them.
unrestrained by convention or propriety
The low, irregular hairlines, which seemed even more irregular in contrast to the straight, heavy eyebrows which nearly met. Keen but crooked noses, with
insolent nostrils. They had high cheekbones, and their ears turned forward.
Another definition of "insolent" is "marked by casual disrespect"--while that could describe Sammy and Cholly's attitude, it would not fit Mrs. Breedlove (who enjoys being a martyr) or Pecola (who is too shy and passive to be disrespectful). Additionally, "insolent" is used here to describe nostrils, which like the rest of the Breedloves' appearance, could be seen as irregular or unconventional.
burial garment in which a corpse is wrapped
Concealed, veiled, eclipsed—peeping out from behind the
shroud very seldom, and then only to yearn for the return of her mask.
showing a brooding ill humor
But the unquarreled evening hung like the first note of a dirge in sullenly expectant air.
meanspirited disagreeable contrariness
Cholly, by his habitual drunkenness and
orneriness, provided them both with the material they needed to make their lives tolerable.
offensive to the mind
She was one of the few things
abhorrent to him that he could touch and therefore hurt.
a corrupt or degenerate act or practice
Even a half-remembrance of this episode, along with myriad other humiliations, defeats, and emasculations, could stir him into flights of
depravity that surprised himself—but only himself.
by unexpressed agreement
Tacitly they had agreed not to kill each other.
a noisy fight
Sammy cursed for a while, or left the house, or threw himself into the
incapable of being explained or accounted for
Outside, Pecola feels the
inexplicable shame ebb.
easily irritated or annoyed
Blond hair in gentle disarray, blue eyes looking at her out of a world of clean comfort. The eyes are
petulant, mischievous. To Pecola they are simply pretty.
to make better
They did not belong to those generations of prostitutes created in novels, with great and generous hearts, dedicated, because of the horror of circumstance, to
ameliorating the luckless, barren life of men, taking money incidentally and humbly for their “understanding.”