"Sula" by Toni Morrison, Prologue–1920

Nel Wright and Sula Peace are close friends growing up in a town called The Bottom, but tragedy and a terrible secret send their lives in different directions.

Here are links to our lists for the novel: Prologue–1920, 1921, 1922–1927, 1937–1939, 1940–1965

Here are links to our lists for other books by Toni Morrison: Beloved, The Bluest Eye, Jazz

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. clutter
    fill a space in a disorderly way
    Generous funds have been allotted to level the stripped and faded buildings that clutter the road from Medallion up to the golf course.
  2. float
    be in motion due to some air or water current
    Her bare feet would raise the saffron dust that floated down on the coveralls and bunion-split shoes of the man breathing music in and out of his harmonica.
  3. chore
    a specific piece of work required to be done
    A good white farmer promised freedom and a piece of bottom land to his slave if he would perform some very difficult chores.
  4. preferred
    liked above all others and treated with partiality
    So the slave pressed his master to try to get him some. He preferred it to the valley.
  5. astonished
    filled with the emotional impact of overwhelming surprise
    Blasted and permanently astonished by the events of 1917, he had returned to Medallion handsome but ravaged, and even the most fastidious people in the town sometimes caught themselves dreaming of what he must have been like a few years back before he went off to war.
    In this case, astonished is a bit of an understatement: Shadrack suffers from shell shock.
  6. ignore
    refuse to acknowledge
    But stubbornly, taking no direction from the brain, the body of the headless soldier ran on, with energy and grace, ignoring altogether the drip and slide of brain tissue down its back.
  7. beige
    of a light grayish-brown color
    Then he noticed two lumps beneath the beige blanket on either side of his hips.
  8. relieved
    made easier to bear
    With extreme care he lifted one arm and was relieved to find his hand attached to his wrist.
  9. panic
    an overwhelming feeling of fear and anxiety
    In panic he raised himself to his knees and tried to fling off and away his terrible fingers, but succeeded only in knocking the nurse into the next bed.
  10. grateful
    feeling or showing thankfulness
    When they bound Shadrack into a straitjacket, he was both relieved and grateful, for his hands were at last hidden and confined to whatever size they had attained.
  11. violence
    an act of aggression
    Shadrack’s earlier violence had coincided with a memorandum from the hospital executive staff in reference to the distribution of patients in high-risk areas.
  12. materialize
    come into being; become reality
    Then he noticed that there were many people about, and that he was just now seeing them, or else they had just materialized.
  13. fabric
    artifact made by weaving or felting or knitting fibers
    The four fingers of each hand fused into the fabric, knotted themselves and zig-zagged in and out of the tiny eyeholes.
  14. tiny
    very small
    The four fingers of each hand fused into the fabric, knotted themselves and zig-zagged in and out of the tiny eyeholes.
  15. legitimacy
    undisputed credibility
    A woman who won all social battles with presence and a conviction of the legitimacy of her authority.
  16. conductor
    the person who collects fares on a public conveyance
    As they opened the door marked colored only, they saw a white conductor coming toward them.
  17. chilly
    appreciably or disagreeably cold
    It was a chilly day but a light skim of sweat glistened on the woman’s face as she and the little girl struggled to hold the door open, hang on to their luggage and enter all at once.
  18. squat
    sit on one's heels
    All of them, the fat woman and her four children, three boys and a girl, Helene and her daughter, squatted there in the four o’clock Meridian sun.
  19. wreath
    a circular band of foliage or flowers for ornamentation
    On the door hung a black crepe wreath with purple ribbon.
  20. exhilarating
    making lively and joyful
    It had been an exhilarating trip but a fearful one.
  21. repugnance
    intense aversion
    All their repugnance was contained in the neat balance of the triangles—a balance that soothed him, transferred some of its equilibrium to him.
  22. guffaw
    a burst of deep loud hearty laughter
    While plotting his course— where he would have to leap, where to skirt a clump of bushes—a loud guffaw startled him.
  23. manipulation
    touching with the hands or by use of mechanical means
    The nurse had tied them into a double knot, the way one does for children, and Shadrack, long unaccustomed to the manipulation of intricate things, could not get them loose.
  24. vulnerability
    susceptibility to injury or attack
    All the old vulnerabilities, all the old fears of being somehow flawed gathered in her stomach and made her hands tremble
  25. raze
    tear down so as to make flat with the ground
    They are going to raze the Time and a Half Pool Hall, where feet in long tan shoes once pointed down from chair rungs.

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, Vocabulary.com can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.