Things Fall Apart," Vocabulary from Part One: Chapters 6-9

Immerse yourself in the words of Chinua Achebe's 1958 novel, which has been hailed as a milestone for African literature.

Here are links to all our word lists for the novel: Part One: Chapters 1-5, Part One: Chapters 6-9, Part One: Chapters 10-13, Part Two: Chapters 14-19, Part Three: Chapters 20-25

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. frenzy
    state of violent mental agitation
    The drums rose to a frenzy.
  2. taut
    subjected to great tension; stretched tight
    The air, which had been stretched taut with excitement, relaxed again.
  3. disembodied
    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.
  4. tendril
    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.
  5. feign
    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.
  6. wily
    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.
  7. wither
    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.
  8. obtain
    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.
  9. ceaseless
    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.
  10. harbinger
    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.
  11. counsel
    give advice to
    Many people went out with baskets trying to catch them, but the elders counseled patience till nightfall.
  12. scald
    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."
  13. taboo
    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."
  14. esteem
    the condition of being honored
    "I think it is good that our clan holds the ozo title in high esteem," said Okonkwo.
  15. succulent
    full of juice
    She wore a black necklace which hung down in three coils just above her full, succulent breasts.
    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)
  16. audacity
    fearless daring
    Of his three wives Ekwefi was the only one who would have the audacity to bang on his door.
  17. delicacy
    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.
  18. conspiracy
    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.
  19. resignation
    acceptance of an unpleasant but inevitable situation
    As she buried one child after another her sorrow gave way to despair and then to grim resignation.
  20. glory
    rejoice proudly
    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.")
  21. devoid
    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.
  22. implore
    call upon in supplication
    One of them was a pathetic cry, Onwumbiko—"Death, I implore you."
  23. defiant
    boldly resisting authority or an opposing force
    Ekwefi then became defiant and called her next child Onwuma—"Death may please himself."
  24. elude
    escape, either physically or mentally
    In that way she will elude her wicked tormentor and break its evil cycle of birth and death."
  25. malevolence
    wishing evil to others
    Her husband's wife took this for malevolence, as husbands' wives were wont to.
  26. listless
    marked by low spirits; showing no enthusiasm
    At first Ekwefi accepted her, as she had accepted others—with listless resignation.
  27. specious
    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 specious one.
  28. manifest
    clearly revealed to the mind or the senses or judgment
    "No," said Ezinma, whose feeling of importance was manifest in her sprightly walk.
  29. sprightly
    full of spirit and vitality
    "No," said Ezinma, whose feeling of importance was manifest in her sprightly walk.
  30. proportion
    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.

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