"Their Eyes Were Watching God," Vocabulary from Chapters 1-5

"Their Eyes Were Watching God" is notable for its strong African American female protagonists who pursue love and respect. This novel is now considered a seminal work and is Zora Neale Hurston's best known novel.

Learn these word lists for the novel: Foreword, Chapters 1-5, Chapters 6-10, Chapters 11-15, Chapters 16-20, Afterword

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. horizon
    the line at which the sky and Earth appear to meet
    For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time.
    In this context, the mention of "horizon" and "dreams" is to show how these dreams are not really approachable, just as the horizon is not really there.
  2. resignation
    acceptance of an unpleasant but inevitable situation
    For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time.
  3. sodden
    wet through and through; thoroughly wet
    She had come back from the sodden and the bloated; the sudden dead, their eyes flung wide open in judgment.
  4. cloak
    cover as if with clothing
    ’Tain’t no use in your tryin’ to cloak no ole woman lak Janie Starks, Pheoby, friend or no friend.”
  5. fussy
    exacting especially about details
    Mah husband ain’t fussy.”
    One who does not make much noise about matters.
  6. pelt
    attack and bombard with or as if with missiles
    She left the porch pelting her back with unasked questions.
  7. treacherous
    tending to betray
    An envious heart makes a treacherous ear.
  8. zest
    vigorous and enthusiastic enjoyment
    Pheoby eager to feel and do through Janie, but hating to show her zest for fear it might be thought mere curiosity.
  9. consolation
    the comfort you feel when soothed in times of disappointment
    He give me every consolation in de world.
  10. dilate
    add details, as to an account or idea
    Pheoby dilated all over with eagerness, “Tea Cake gone?”
  11. wake
    be alert
    It followed her through all her waking moments and caressed her in her sleep.
  12. parcel
    a collection of things wrapped or boxed together
    The cooling palma christi leaves that Janie had bound about her grandma’s head with a white rag had wilted down and become part and parcel of the woman.
  13. diffuse
    spread through
    They diffused and melted Janie, the room and the world into one comprehension.
  14. desecrate
    violate the sacred character of a place or language
    The vision of Logan Killicks was desecrating the pear tree, but Janie didn’t know how to tell Nanny that.
  15. wean
    gradually deprive of mother's milk
    You ain’t hardly old enough to be weaned.
  16. lavish
    very generous
    Dey gits uh lavish uh talk.”
  17. incredulous
    not disposed or willing to believe; unbelieving
    They tried hard to hold it in, but enough incredulous laughter burst out of their eyes and leaked from the corners of their mouths to inform anyone of their thoughts.
  18. obliged
    under a moral obligation to do something
    “Much obliged.”
  19. jurisdiction
    the territory within which power can be exercised
    Youse way outa jurisdiction.
  20. titter
    laugh nervously
    Some tittered at his ignorance.
  21. metropolis
    a large and densely populated urban area
    Ah means tuh put mah hands tuh de plow heah, and strain every nerve tuh make dis our town de metropolis uh de state.
    In this context, the word also means "the center of".
  22. unconscious
    (followed by `of') not knowing or perceiving
    He strode along invested with his new dignity, thought and planned out loud, unconscious of her thoughts.
  23. whiff
    perceive by inhaling through the nose
    They cut all sorts of capers and whiffed the meat as it slowly came to perfection with the seasoning penetrating to the bone.
  24. brazen
    made of or resembling brass, as in color or hardness
    While Davis chanted a traditional prayer-poem with his own variations, Joe mounted the box that had been placed for the purpose and opened the brazen door of the lamp.
  25. tempo
    the speed at which a composition is to be played
    They, all of them, all of the people took it up and sung it over and over until it was wrung dry, and no further innovations of tone and tempo were conceivable.
  26. bulk
    the property of something that is great in magnitude
    His bulk was not even imposing as men go.
  27. tangible
    perceptible by the senses especially the sense of touch
    He had a bow-down command in his face, and every step he took made the thing more tangible.
  28. sparkly
    having brief brilliant points or flashes of light
    And look at the way he painted it—a gloaty, sparkly white.
  29. recede
    become faint or more distant
    As time went on and the benefits he had conferred upon the town receded in time they sat on his store porch while he was busy inside and discussed him.
  30. temerity
    fearless daring
    The town had a basketful of feelings good and bad about Joe’s positions and possessions, but none had the temerity to challenge him.

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