Chapters 11–14

After the death of their daughter, Frank McCourt's impoverished immigrant parents decide to return to Ireland. With humor and tenderness, this Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir tells the story of his early life there.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. arrears
    an unpaid overdue debt
    Mam comes back up to Italy and sits by the fire wondering where in God’s name she’ll get the money for a week’s rent never mind the arrears.
  2. musty
    covered with or smelling of mold
    Everything is damp and musty and Laman Griffin snores over our heads.
  3. inviolate
    safe from harm or desecration
    Now I have to look up inviolate and chastity and all I can find here is that inviolate means not violated and chastity means chaste and that means pure from unlawful sexual intercourse.
  4. wrest
    obtain by seizing forcibly or violently, also metaphorically
    He talks about American history, If the American farmer, with flintlock and musket, could wrest from the English a continent, surely we, warriors ever, can recover our island.
  5. lament
    a mournful poem
    He says that this seems to be a poem about England but it is a lament for the poet’s native land, our own native land, Ireland.
  6. severe
    unsparing and uncompromising in discipline or judgment
    A man severe he was and stern to view,
    I knew him well, and every truant knew.
  7. dismal
    causing dejection
    Full well the busy whisper circling round
    Conveyed the dismal tidings when he frowned.
  8. vanquish
    defeat in a competition, race, or conflict
    In arguing, too, the parson owned his skill,
    For, even though vanquished, he could argue still
  9. rustic
    an unsophisticated country person
    While words of learned length and thundering sound
    Amazed the gazing rustics ranged around.
  10. resplendent
    having great beauty
    Stock your minds and you can move through the world resplendent.
  11. pithy
    concise and full of meaning
    Pithy, Clarke, but adequate.
  12. hew
    strike with an axe; cut down, strike
    Mr. O’Halloran tells the class it’s a disgrace that boys like McCourt, Clarke, Kennedy, have to hew wood and draw water.
  13. foist
    force onto another
    He is disgusted by this free and independent Ireland that keeps a class system foisted on us by the English, that we are throwing our talented children on the dungheap.
  14. disposition
    your usual mood
    It has more than a hump. It has a nasty, mean disposition and its teeth are green with gangrene and it bites.
  15. spectacle
    a blunder that makes you look ridiculous
    And what class of a spectacle you’d be strolling down the street, lopsided in Limerick.
  16. fester
    ripen and generate pus
    In the Sahara they’ll fester and rot and fall out of your head.
  17. defile
    spot, stain, or pollute
    She weeps when she looks down the long dreary vista of time and beholds in horror the spectacle of Limerick boys defiling themselves, polluting themselves, interfering with themselves, abusing themselves, soiling their young bodies, which are the temples of the Holy Ghost.
  18. ghastly
    gruesomely indicative of death or the dead
    Our Lady weeps over these abominations knowing that every time you interfere with yourself you nail to the cross her Beloved Son, that once more you hammer into His dear head the crown of thorns, that you reopen those ghastly wounds.
  19. succumb
    be fatally overwhelmed
    He wants you with him in hell and know this, that every time you interfere with yourself, every time you succumb to the vile sin of self-abuse you not only nail Christ to the cross you take another step closer to hell itself.
  20. abyss
    a bottomless gulf or pit
    Retreat from the abyss, boys.
  21. repentance
    remorse for your past conduct
    I go to confession and they hiss that I’m not in a proper spirit of repentance, that if I were I’d give up this hideous sin.
  22. absolution
    the act of being formally forgiven
    Sometimes he falls asleep and I don’t have the heart to wake him up so I go to Communion the next day without penance or absolution.
  23. obituary
    a notice of someone's death
    I lick the obituaries and the sad memorial poems, the sports pages, the market prices of eggs butter and bacon.
  24. idle
    not having a job
    In the weeks I’m idle I can do anything I like, get up in the morning, stay in bed, take long walks out the country like my father, wander around Limerick.
  25. urchin
    a poor and often mischievous city child
    If they see me they’ll be running to the woman of the house, Oh, madam, madam, there’s an urchin beyant that’s makin’ off with all the milk and bread.
  26. welt
    a raised mark on the skin
    She didn’t want to marry anyone so she prayed to God for help and He caused her eye to melt in her head so that it dribbled down her cheek and left such a great welt the men of Ireland lost interest.
  27. traipse
    walk or tramp about
    They sailed around for awhile and traipsed through various countries till they stopped in Cologne where the chief of the Huns asked Ursula to marry him.
  28. turgid
    abnormally distended especially by fluids or gas
    He says, The male organ of copulation becomes turgid and is inserted into the receptive female orifice.
  29. orifice
    an opening, especially one that opens into a bodily cavity
    He says, The male organ of copulation becomes turgid and is inserted into the receptive female orifice.
  30. beatific
    experiencing or displaying extreme joy or bliss
    She always looks worried when I’m at the dictionary so I tell her I’m looking for canonize or beatific or any class of a religious word.
Created on March 20, 2013 (updated November 1, 2018)

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