state of violent mental agitation
The drums rose to a
subjected to great tension; stretched tight
The air, which had been stretched
taut with excitement, relaxed again.
not having a material body
The crowd had surrounded and swallowed up the drummers, whose frantic rhythm was no longer a mere
disembodied sound but the very heartbeat of the people.
The scene is very physical, with the drumbeat becoming a part of the people's bodies and with its focus on a wrestling contest. But this scene also emphasizes a collective spirit that enjoys organized displays of strength.
slender structure by which some plants attach to an object
He grew rapidly like a yam
tendril in the rainy season, and was full of the sap of life.
Note how Ikemefuna is being compared to a yam and to sap. This emphasizes the agricultural way of life in Umuofia. It also makes Ikemefuna seem more tragic because he didn't live through enough seasons to ripen as a man's crop or to wither like a tree.
give a false appearance of
On receiving such a message through a younger brother or sister, Nwoye would
feign annoyance and grumble aloud about women and their troubles.
marked by skill in deception
Nwoye knew that it was right to be masculine and to be violent, but somehow he still preferred the stories that his mother used to tell, and which she no doubt still told to her younger children—stories of the tortoise and his
wily ways, and of the bird eneke-nti-oba who challenged the whole world to a wrestling contest and was finally thrown by the cat.
shrink, as with a loss of moisture
He remembered the story she often told of the quarrel between Earth and Sky long ago, and how Sky withheld rain for seven years, until crops
withered and the dead could not be buried because the hoes broke on the stony Earth.
come into possession of
So Nwoye and Ikemefuna would listen to Okonkwo's stories about tribal wars, or how, years ago, he had stalked his victim, overpowered him and
obtained his first human head.
uninterrupted in time and indefinitely long continuing
Okonkwo and the boys worked in complete silence, which was only broken when a new palm frond was lifted on to the wall or when a busy hen moved dry leaves about in her
ceaseless search for food.
something indicating the approach of something or someone
They were the
harbingers sent to survey the land.
The pronoun "they" refers to a small swarm of locusts that arrives before the mass of locusts descends like a black cloud that covers half the sky. In the Bible, the descent of locusts was seen as a plague; here, they're seen as a rare opportunity for tasty treats. Later, when a couple of missionaries come as harbingers of British colonists, the villagers' reactions to them are a mix of both views.
give advice to
Many people went out with baskets trying to catch them, but the elders
counseled patience till nightfall.
burn with a hot liquid or steam
"A child's fingers are not
scalded by a piece of hot yam which its mother puts into its palm."
a ban resulting from social custom or emotional aversion
It is like Dimaragana, who would not lend his knife for cutting up dogmeat because the dog was
taboo to him, but offered to use his teeth."
the condition of being honored
"I think it is good that our clan holds the ozo title in high
esteem," said Okonkwo.
full of juice
She wore a black necklace which hung down in three coils just above her full,
Using "succulent" to describe a woman's breasts seems sexually inappropriate but it isn't here because 1) Akueke is showing off her body to get a better bride-price for her family; 2) it confirms that Akueke is ripe for her future duties as a wife and mother; 3) it contrasts with the sexually inappropriate staring of Marlow at Kurtz's African woman whom he describes as "savage and superb" (in Conrad's Heart of Darkness)
Of his three wives Ekwefi was the only one who would have the
audacity to bang on his door.
something considered choice to eat
Ekwefi even gave her such
delicacies as eggs, which children were rarely allowed to eat because such food tempted them to steal.
a secret agreement to perform an unlawful act
There was something in it like the companionship of equals, which was strengthened by such little
conspiracies as eating eggs in the bedroom.
acceptance of an unpleasant but inevitable situation
As she buried one child after another her sorrow gave way to despair and then to grim
The birth of her children, which should be a woman's crowning
glory, became for Ekwefi mere physical agony devoid of promise.
"Glory" could also mean "a state of high honor", which a woman who produces many sons for her husband would have. "Crowning glory" could refer to the moment the baby's head crowns and the mother is rejoicing that her painful labor is nearly over and she'd be rewarded with the gift of life; it could also refer to the halo around a saint's head (although Ekwefi is not Christian, Achebe is, and in the novel, "Mother is Supreme.")
completely wanting or lacking
The birth of her children, which should be a woman's crowning glory, became for Ekwefi mere physical agony
devoid of promise.
call upon in supplication
One of them was a pathetic cry, Onwumbiko—"Death, I
boldly resisting authority or an opposing force
Ekwefi then became
defiant and called her next child Onwuma—"Death may please himself."
escape, either physically or mentally
In that way she will
elude her wicked tormentor and break its evil cycle of birth and death."
wishing evil to others
Her husband's wife took this for
malevolence, as husbands' wives were wont to.
marked by low spirits; showing no enthusiasm
At first Ekwefi accepted her, as she had accepted others—with
plausible but false
And although she believed that the iyi-uwa which had been dug up was genuine, she could not ignore the fact that some really evil children sometimes misled people into digging up a
clearly revealed to the mind or the senses or judgment
"No," said Ezinma, whose feeling of importance was
manifest in her sprightly walk.
full of spirit and vitality
"No," said Ezinma, whose feeling of importance was manifest in her
magnitude or extent
Ekwefi went to bring the pot and Okonkwo selected the best from his bundle, in their due
proportions, and cut them up.