causing fear or anxiety by threatening great harm
He was tall and huge, and his bushy eyebrows and wide nose gave him a very
a speech disorder involving hesitations and repetitions
He had a slight
stammer and whenever he was angry and could not get his words out quickly enough, he would use his fists.
not supplying something useful for the future
In his day he was lazy and
improvident and was quite incapable of thinking about tomorrow.
The pronoun "he" refers to Okonkwo's father Unoka, and this description is the opposite of Okonkwo's nature. Okonkwo is the man he is because Unoka was not the man he should've been.
a superior skill learned by study and practice
To crown it all he had taken two titles and had shown incredible
prowess in two inter-tribal wars.
detect with the senses
discerned a clear overtone of tragedy in the crier's voice, and even now he could still hear it as it grew dimmer and dimmer in the distance.
In describing how Okonkwo "discerned a clear overtone of tragedy," Achebe is emphasizing that his character is a human with reason and emotions (which deliberately contrasts with the Africans described in Conrad's Heart of Darkness).
held in check with difficulty
Okonkwo, who had been walking about aimlessly in his compound in
suppressed anger, suddenly found an outlet.
Okonkwo finds an outlet to release his anger by beating his wife and shooting a loaded gun at her, and "in spite of this incident the New Yam Festival was celebrated with great joy in Okonkwo's household." But when the British colonize Umuofia, Okonkwo will struggle with suppressing his own anger at being suppressed, and the consequences of his failure to do so will not be as forgiving.
having or showing arrogant superiority to
And so when Okonkwo of Umuofia arrived at Mbaino as the proud and
imperious emissary of war, he was treated with great honor and respect, and two days later he returned home with a lad of fifteen and a young virgin.
someone sent on a mission to represent another's interests
And so when Okonkwo of Umuofia arrived at Mbaino as the proud and imperious
emissary of war, he was treated with great honor and respect, and two days later he returned home with a lad of fifteen and a young virgin.
uninterrupted in time and indefinitely long continuing
His wives, especially the youngest, lived in
perpetual fear of his fiery temper, and so did his little children.
be in control
But his whole life was
dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness.
Note that "dominate" is being used passively in the example sentence. Although Okonkwo likes to actively dominate others, he cannot control his own fear of weakness and failure. His fear of being dominated by failure and weakness drives him to dominate others so that they wouldn't have the strength to notice or point out any of his weaknesses or failures.
It was deeper and more intimate than the fear of evil and
capricious gods and of magic, the fear of the forest, and of the forces of nature, malevolent, red in tooth and claw.
feel bitter or indignant about
Even as a little boy he had
resented his father's failure and weakness, and even now he still remembered how he had suffered when a playmate had told him that his father was agbala.
only partly in existence; imperfectly formed
Okonkwo's first son, Nwoye, was then twelve years old but was already causing his father great anxiety for his
the condition of having good fortune
prosperity was visible in his household.
deserving of contempt or scorn
And indeed he was possessed by the fear of his father's
contemptible life and shameful death.
to exert much effort or energy
And so at a very early age when he was
striving desperately to build a barn through share-cropping Okonkwo was also fending for his father's house.
the comfort you feel when soothed in times of disappointment
He had one
consolation. The yams he had sown before the drought were his own, the harvest of the previous year. He still had the eight hundred from Nwakibie and the four hundred from his father's friend. So he would make a fresh start.
a state in which all hope is lost or absent
It always surprised him when he thought of it later that he did not sink under the load of
resistant to being bent
"Since I survived that year," he always said, "I shall survive anything." He put it down to his
Okonkwo is using "inflexible" as a positive adjective to describe his strength. But Achebe is also hinting at the definition of "incapable of adapting or changing to meet circumstances"--a quality that will end up breaking Okonkwo.
the state of having little or no money and possessions
He was talking about Okonkwo, who had risen so suddenly from great
poverty and misfortune to be one of the lords of the clan.
persevering determination to perform a task
Indeed he respected him for his
industry and success.
an abrupt discourteous manner
But he was struck, as most people were, by Okonkwo's
brusqueness in dealing with less successful men.
deny the truth of
Only a week ago a man had
contradicted him at a kindred meeting which they held to discuss the next ancestral feast.
having or displaying warmth or affection
Even Okonkwo himself became very
fond of the boy - inwardly of course.
for or by a group rather than individuals
Sometimes when he went to big village meetings or
communal ancestral feasts he allowed Ikemefuna to accompany him, like a son, carrying his stool and his goatskin bag.
call forth, as an emotion, feeling, or response
provoked to justifiable anger by his youngest wife, who went to plait her hair at her friend's house and did not return early enough to cook the afternoon meal.
discipline in personal and social activities
Did she take them?" he asked with unusual coolness and
feeling or expressing remorse for misdeeds
Inwardly, he was
repentant. But he was not the man to go about telling his neighbors that he was in error.
skillful in physical movements; especially of the hands
Sometimes he decided that a yam was too big to be sown as one seed and he split it deftly along its length with his sharp knife.
put down by force or intimidation
He trembled with the desire to conquer and