"Things Fall Apart," Vocabulary from Part Two: Chapters 14-19

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. refuge
    a shelter from danger or hardship
    He was taking his family of three wives and their children to seek refuge in his motherland.
  2. vigor
    active strength of body or mind
    But it was like beginning life anew without the vigor and enthusiasm of youth, like learning to become left-handed in old age.
  3. exile
    a person who is sent way from home or country by authority
    He is an exile, condemned for seven years to live in a strange land.
  4. sorrow
    an emotion of great sadness associated with loss
    "He does not know that either," said Uchendu, "and yet he is full of sorrow because he has come to live in his motherland for a few years."
  5. banish
    expel from a community or group
    Do you know that men are sometimes banished for life?
  6. beckon
    signal with the hands or nod
    The first people who saw him ran away, but he stood beckoning to them.
  7. stray
    wander from a direct course or at random
    Do you not think that they came to our clan by mistake, that they have strayed from their way to a land where everybody is like them?"
  8. considerable
    large in number or amount or extent or degree
    The arrival of the missionaries had caused a considerable stir in the village of Mbanta.
  9. heathen
    not acknowledging the God of Christianity, Judaism and Islam
    Evil men and all the heathen who in their blindness bowed to wood and stone were thrown into a fire that burned like palm-oil.
  10. derisive
    expressing contempt or ridicule
    When this was interpreted to the men of Mbanta they broke into derisive laughter.
  11. enthralled
    filled with wonder and delight
    The interpreter explained each verse to the audience, some of whom now stood enthralled.
    "Enthrall" as a verb also mean "enslave"--while missionaries have often paved the way for colonists who enslaved the natives, the example sentence does not connect to that definition. "Enthralled" as an emotion of wonder and delight contrasts with "derisive laughter"--both of which emphasize Achebe's view that outsiders who bring new ideas can face opposition as well as touch hearts, minds, and souls. This largely depends on whether they are more like Mr. Smith or Mr. Brown.
  12. persistent
    continually recurring to the mind
    The hymn about brothers who sat in darkness and in fear seemed to answer a vague and persistent question that haunted his young soul—the question of the twins crying in the bush and the question of Ikemefuna who was killed.
  13. callow
    young and inexperienced
    Nwoye's callow mind was greatly puzzled.
  14. persevere
    be persistent, refuse to stop
    But the missionaries persevered, and in the end they were received by the rulers of Mbanta.
  15. impudent
    improperly forward or bold
    And so excitement mounted in the village as the seventh week approached since the impudent missionaries built their church in the Evil Forest.
    Another definition of "impudent" is "marked by casual disrespect"--this would also fit the villagers' view of the missionaries for referring to the Ibo gods as wood and stone. But the example sentence is focused on the missionaries being so bold as to first ask for land and then to build on the Evil Forest, which the Ibos believe would be the missionaries' doom at the hands of the gods, ancestors, sinister forces, powers of darkness, and diseases.
  16. perturbed
    thrown into a state of agitated confusion
    Her husband and his family were already becoming highly critical of such a woman and were not unduly perturbed when they found she had fled to join the Christians.
  17. vile
    morally reprehensible
    A sudden fury rose within him and he felt a strong desire to take up his machete, go to the church and wipe out the entire vile and miscreant gang.
  18. miscreant
    a person without moral scruples
    A sudden fury rose within him and he felt a strong desire to take up his machete, go to the church and wipe out the entire vile and miscreant gang.
  19. effeminate
    having unsuitable feminine qualities
    To abandon the gods of one's father and go about with a lot of effeminate men clucking like old hens was the very depth of abomination.
  20. annihilation
    total destruction
    Suppose when he died all his male children decided to follow Nwoye's steps and abandon their ancestors? Okonkwo felt a cold shudder run through him at the terrible prospect, like the prospect of annihilation.
  21. caste
    a social class separated by distinctions of hereditary rank
    Wherever he went he carried with him the mark of his forbidden caste—long, tangled and dirty hair.
  22. waver
    be unsure or weak
    The wavering converts drew inspiration and confidence from his unshakable faith.
  23. adherent
    someone who believes and helps to spread a doctrine
    The two outcasts shaved off their hair, and soon they were the strongest adherents of the new faith.
  24. zeal
    excessive fervor to do something or accomplish some end
    It was in fact one of them who in his zeal brought the church into serious conflict with the clan a year later by killing the sacred python, the emanation of the god of water.
  25. accountable
    responsible for one's actions
    We would then not be held accountable for their abominations."
  26. ostracize
    expel from a community or group
    Everybody in the assembly spoke, and in the end it was decided to ostracize the Christians.
  27. atonement
    the act of making amends for sin or wrongdoing
    If a clansman killed a royal python accidentally, he made sacrifices of atonement and performed an expensive burial ceremony such as was done for a great man. No punishment was prescribed for a man who killed the python knowingly. Nobody thought that such a thing could ever happen.
  28. breadth
    the extent of something from side to side
    That night a bell-man went through the length and breadth of Mbanta proclaiming that the adherents of the new faith were thenceforth excluded from the life and privileges of the clan.
  29. debar
    prevent from entering; keep out
    But it is not our custom to debar anyone from the stream or the quarry."
  30. kinship
    relatedness or connection by blood or marriage or adoption
    But I fear for you young people because you do not understand how strong is the bond of kinship. You do not know what it is to speak with one voice.
    Another definition of "kinship" is "a close connection marked by community of interests"--this fits the example sentence's mention of "one voice." However, for the Ibos, kinship needs both definitions, while the Christians are challenging that idea by only requiring the second.

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