"The House of the Spirits," Vocabulary from Chapters 3-5

A fictionalized multigenerational account of the Chilean political scene, Isabel Allende's "House of the Spirits" doesn't limit itself to discussions of corruption and torture- there are also scenes of prophesy and magic. Learn this word list that focuses on happy times.

Here are links to our word lists for the novel: Chapters 1-2, Chapters 3-5, Chapters 6-8, Chapters 9-11, and Chapters 12-Epilogue.

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. indiscriminate
    not marked by fine distinctions
    Her interest in books was indiscriminate. She was as happy to read the magic books from her Uncle Marcos’s enchanted trunks as she was to contemplate the Liberal Party documents her father kept in his study.
  2. extravagant
    recklessly wasteful
    She spent the main part of her time and energy in these extravagant pursuits. She developed the capacity to guess an astonishing percentage of the cards in a deck, and invented games of fantasy to play with her brothers and sisters.
  3. luminous
    softly bright or radiant
    She so successfully compensated for the lack of friends with her own total dedication, however, that Clara grew up happily and in later years would recall her childhood as a luminous part of her existence, despite her solitude and muteness.
  4. apparition
    a ghostly appearing figure
    It was a world in which time was not marked by calendars or watches and objects had a life of their own, in which apparitions sat at the table and conversed with human beings, the past and the future formed part of a single unit, and the reality of the present was a kaleidoscope of jumbled mirrors where everything and anything could happen.
    A synonym for "apparition" is "spirit" so the novel's title could refer to Clara's childhood home and the big house on the corner. Other definitions of "spirit" are "the vital principle or animating force within living things" and "the state of a person's emotions"--so the title could also refer to the emotional forces within each person that move her through different times of life, whether happy or terrible.
  5. prosaic
    not fanciful or imaginative
    Clara lived in a universe of her own invention, protected from life’s inclement weather, where the prosaic truth of material objects mingled with the tumultuous reality of dreams and the laws of physics and logic did not always apply.
    "Prosaic" also means "not challenging; dull and lacking excitement"--this does not apply to Clara and her abilities, because she would take a prosaic material object and challenge herself to make it more exciting (e.g. playing Chopin on the piano while lid is still shut).
  6. oblivious
    lacking conscious awareness of
    Clara was a vision in white Chantilly lace and natural camellias, as happy as a parrot after her nine years of silence, dancing with her fiance beneath the canopies and lanterns, completely oblivious to the warnings of the spirits that gestured desperately at her from the curtains, because in the tumult and whirl she could not see them.
  7. exalt
    praise, glorify, or honor
    The music stopped and the guests gathered in the main hall where a small, innocent priest, adorned with the vestments of high mass, read the complicated sermon he had written exalting confused and impracticable virtues.
  8. profoundly
    to a great depth psychologically
    Seated by her side in the narrow cabin, pressing cold compresses to her forehead and holding her while she vomited, he felt profoundly happy and desired her with unjust intensity, considering the wretched state to which she was reduced.
  9. provocation
    a means of arousing or stirring to action
    Seeing her with her wind-reddened nose, and laughing at the slightest provocation, Esteban swore that sooner or later she would come to love him as he needed to be loved, even if it meant he had to resort to extreme measures.
  10. rejuvenate
    return to life; get or give new life or energy
    His sister was surprised not to feel jealousy and observed that Esteban looked rejuvenated.
  11. irremediable
    impossible to correct or redress
    For Ferula, who had spent her life taking care of an old lady who was slowly, irremediably rotting alive, looking after Clara was like being in heaven.
  12. formidable
    extremely impressive in strength or excellence
    And Ferula, too busy in caring for the child, who had formidable lungs, an impulsive nature, and a voracious appetite, had no time to say the rosary in the slums or attend confession with Father Antonio, much less to peek through the half-open door.
  13. resolute
    characterized by quickness and firmness
    She was about forty-five years old then, and her splendid breeding and distant Moorish ancestors kept her looking fit and polished, with black, silky hair and a single white lock on her forehead, a strong and slender body and the resolute step of the healthy.
    "Resolute" also means "firm in purpose or belief"--this could describe the nature of a woman who goes "every Friday to the tenements in the Misericordia District to say the rosary for the poor, the atheists, the prostitutes, and the orphans, who threw garbage at her, dumped chamber pots onto her, and spat on her"; but the example sentence is using the adjective to describe how Ferula walks.
  14. veneration
    a feeling of profound respect for someone or something
    Clara was the one in whom she confided her most subtle feelings, and to her she consecrated her enormous capacity for sacrifice and veneration.
    "Veneration" also means "religious zeal; the willingness to serve God"--this definition applies to Ferula, and the example sentence's inclusion of the word "consecrate" ("dedicate to a deity by a vow" or "give entirely to a specific person, activity, or cause") supports the religious tone. But that would make Ferula a sinner, since as angelic as Clara might seem, she is still only a human.
  15. flourish
    grow vigorously
    In those days, the Christopher Columbus was flourishing, but it hadn’t yet acquired the international reputation it attained when it appeared on the navigational charts of the British shipping companies and in all the guidebooks, and when they showed it on television.
  16. exuberant
    joyously unrestrained
    At her summons, a woman appeared sheathed in a black satin dress that was far too tight and could barely contain her exuberant femininity.
  17. swarthy
    naturally having skin of a dark color
    In that chaos of sheets and pillows, clasped in the living knot of desire, screwed into each other to the point of fainting, I felt I was twenty again, and happy to be holding in my arms this bold, swarthy woman who didn’t fall apart when you got on top of her, a strong mare you could ride on without giving it a second thought
  18. irrefutable
    impossible to deny or disprove
    Thanks to a photograph that showed the three of them around a table with a misty, winged ectoplasm flying overhead, which some unbelievers attributed to a stain from the developer and others to a simple photographic trick, they were the only people who possessed irrefutable proof that souls can take on physical form.
  19. beneficent
    doing or producing good
    By way of a series of discreet inquiries, they managed to obtain her earthly address and arrived at her door with decks of cards impregnated with beneficent liquids, several sets of geometrical figures and mysterious tools of their own invention for unmasking fake parapsychologists, and a tray of ordinary pastries as a gift for Clara.
  20. euphoric
    characterized by a feeling of well-being or elation
    She spoke to him in the same cajoling tones she used to address her cats, and was incapable of telling whether he was tired, sad, euphoric, or eager to make love.
  21. prosperous
    very lively and profitable
    Esteban Trueba entered a very prosperous period. His business deals seemed to have been touched by a magic wand. He felt pleased with life, and he was rich, just as he had once set out to be.
  22. tout
    advertise in strongly positive terms
    There was snow in the capital city, an unaccustomed spectacle that remained on the front page of all the newspapers, touted as a festive decoration, while in the impoverished shantytowns on the city’s outskirts the blue, frozen bodies of small children were discovered every morning.
  23. propensity
    a natural inclination
    Nicolas inherited the adventurous spirit of his great-uncle Marcos and his mother’s propensity for making up astrological charts and reading the future, but this did not constitute a major crime in the rigid code of the school, only an eccentricity, so he fared far better there than his brother.
  24. edifying
    enlightening or uplifting so as to encourage improvement
    They spent that summer reading among the rushes by the river, the pine trees in the forest, and the sprouting stalks of the wheatfields, discussing the virtues of Sinbad and Robin Hood, the bad luck of the Black Pirate, the true and edifying stories from the Treasury of Youth, the worst meanings of the words that did not appear in the dictionary of the Spanish Royal Academy
  25. ruminate
    reflect deeply on a subject
    He spent the whole evening absorbed in thought, ruminating on the story of the fox and the hens, and perhaps that was the night the boy began to become a man.
  26. tranquil
    not agitated
    She was a tranquil soul who entertained herself, studied hard, played with her dolls, and showed not the slightest inclination for her mother’s spiritualism or her father’s fits of rage.
  27. serenity
    a disposition free from stress or emotion
    The family jokingly said that she was the only normal person for many generations, and it was true she was a miracle of equilibrium and serenity.
  28. elated
    full of high-spirited delight
    Once again, they were two children running, hugging, laughing, falling to the ground and rolling over and over, crashing against the pebbles, murmuring each other’s names, elated to be back together.
  29. oscillate
    move or swing from side to side regularly
    They spent that summer oscillating between childhood, which still held them in its clasp, and their awakening as man and woman.
  30. ecstatic
    feeling great rapture or delight
    In those three months they had come to love each other with the ecstatic passion that would torment them for the rest of their lives.
  31. invulnerable
    immune to attack; impregnable
    With time their love became more persistent and invulnerable, but it already had the depth and certainty that characterized it later on.
  32. replete
    fill to satisfaction
    They shouted until they were hoarse, fought at the slightest provocation, and came to resemble two filthy little urchins with scabby knees and heads full of lice, replete with warm freshly picked fruit, sun, and freedom.
  33. insatiable
    impossible to satisfy
    They hugged with the insatiable passion of their youth, while the burro went on chewing grass.
  34. slake
    satisfy, as thirst
    The burro continued nibbling grass with its burden of noisy pots and pans, while Blanca and Pedro Tercero slaked the accumulated hunger and thirst of the long months of silence and separation, rolling among the rocks and brush and moaning passionately.
  35. rejoice
    feel happiness or joy
    He was also afraid he might recognize him and that Esteban Trueba would read it on his face, but he secretly rejoiced at the thought that his son was behind some of the unusual things that were taking place throughout the countryside.

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