something added to complete or embellish or make perfect
The honey in Polly's words for the pink and yellow girl complemented the beauty of the sunset but they contrasted with the abusive language and actions Mrs. Breedlove directed towards her own daughter.
"Hush. Don’t worry none,” she whispered, and the honey in her words complemented the sundown spilling on the lake.
(theology) the act of delivering from sin or saving from evil
The songs caressed her, and while she tried to hold her mind on the wages of sin, her body trembled for redemption, salvation, a mysterious rebirth that would simply happen, with no effort on her part.
There in the dark her memory was refreshed, and she succumbed to her earlier dreams. Along with the idea of romantic love, she was introduced to another—physical beauty. Probably the most destructive ideas in the history of human thought.
hinder or prevent the progress or accomplishment of
So she became, and her process of becoming was like most of ours: she developed a hatred for things that mystified or obstructed her; acquired virtues that were easy to maintain; assigned herself a role in the scheme of things; and harked back to simpler times for gratification.
exquisitely fine and subtle and pleasing; susceptible to injury
More and more she neglected her house, her children, her man—they were like the afterthoughts one has just before sleep, the early-morning and late-evening edges of her day, the dark edges that made the daily life with the Fishers lighter, more delicate, more lovely.
A person who revels is usually engaged in "uproarious festivities" or "unrestrained merrymaking" but in deliberate contrast to her always-drinking husband, Mrs. Breedlove takes delight in looking at the work she'd put into polishing her employer's pots, pans, and floor.
It was her pleasure to stand in her kitchen at the end of a day and survey her handiwork. Knowing there were soap bars by the dozen, bacon by the rasher, and reveling in her shiny pots and pans and polished floors.
guided by or in accordance with conscience or sense of right and wrong
Another definition of "conscientious" is "characterized by extreme care and great effort"--this might describe how Mrs. Breedlove treats the Fisher daughter but it does not fit how she treats her own children (see example sentence for "delicate"). The conscientiousness that Mrs. Breedlove applies to her family is connected to her belief in God and her need to feel like she's a morally superior martyr.
She was an active church woman, did not drink, smoke, or carouse, defended herself mightily against Cholly, rose above him in every way, and felt she was fulfilling a mother’s role conscientiously, when she pointed out their father’s faults to keep them from having them, or punished them when they showed any slovenliness, no matter how slight, when she worked twelve to sixteen hours a day to support them.
the quality of lacking strength or power; being weak and feeble
"Impotence" often refers to a man's inability to perform sexually, which is what happened to Cholly when he was interrupted in the act. White men with long guns stood over Cholly, making him feel powerless and weak as they urged him to "get on wid it" with Darlene while they watched.
He was, in time, to discover that hatred of white men—but not now. Not in impotence but later, when the hatred could find sweet expression. For now, he hated the one who had created the situation, the one who bore witness to his failure, his impotence.
Had he been interested in the accumulation of things, he could have thought of them as his material heirs; had he needed to prove himself to some nameless “others,” he could have wanted them to excel in his own image and for his own sake.
having calluses; having skin made tough and thick through wear
A callus is "a skin area that is thick or hard from continual pressure"--this describes the hands of a man who has worked in steel mills. "Callous" can also mean "emotionally hardened"--this would describe the heart of a man who has been abandoned and rejected by his parents, who has killed and been shot at, and who was about to rape his eleven-year-old daughter.
What could his calloused hands produce to make her smile?
Then, too, he had read several books and made the acquaintance of several great misanthropes of the ages, whose spiritual company soothed him and provided him with yardsticks for measuring his whims, his yearnings, and his antipathies.
To contemplate, for example, evidence of human footsteps on the mat—absorb the smell of the quilt and wallow in the sweet certainty that many bodies had sweated, slept, dreamed, made love, been ill, and even died under it.
All in all, his personality was an arabesque: intricate, symmetrical, balanced, and tightly constructed—except for one flaw. The careful design was marred occasionally by rare but keen sexual cravings.
They were industrious, orderly, and energetic, hoping to prove beyond a doubt De Gobineau’s hypothesis that “all civilizations derive from the white race, that none can exist without its help, and that a society is great and brilliant only so far as it preserves the blood of the noble group that created it.”
No obviously bad effects were noticed from these ill-advised unions, but one or two old maids or gardener boys marked a weakening of faculties and a disposition toward eccentricity in some of the children.
a constitutional tendency to be gloomy and depressed
When she learned two months into the marriage how important his melancholy was to him, that he was very interested in altering her joy to a more academic gloom, that he equated lovemaking with communion and the Holy Grail, she simply left.