"The House of the Spirits," Vocabulary from Chapters 6-8

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 pursuits.

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. diminish
    decrease in size, extent, or range
    The desire I had for her when we married had not diminished; I wanted to possess her absolutely, down to her last thought, but that diaphanous woman would float by me like a breath of air, and even if I held her down with my hands and embraced her with all my strength, I could never make her mine.
  2. impervious
    not admitting of passage or capable of being affected
    Any other woman would have been delighted with all this and would have had her work cut out for her for months to come, but not Clara, who was impervious to these things. All she managed to do was train a couple of cooks and the daughters of two of our tenants to help around the house, and as soon as she was free of brooms and saucepans she returned to her notebooks and her tarot cards.
  3. incessantly
    without interruption
    I could spend the whole day horseback riding, sleep anywhere, and eat anything I felt like without having to worry about my bladder, my liver, or any of the other organs people talk about incessantly.
  4. aesthetic
    characterized by an appreciation of beauty or good taste
    I liked looking at women; I still do. It’s an aesthetic pleasure, almost spiritual.
  5. elude
    escape, either physically or mentally
    Clara eluded me with that distracted attitude of hers I came to despise.
  6. ingenuity
    the power of creative imagination
    Esteban Trueba was no adventurer, but the French count had the winged grace and ingenuity to seduce him, so he spent many sleepless nights mulling over the idea of the chinchilla farm and working out the figures.
    "Ingenuity" also means "the property of showing inventiveness and skill"--this doesn't apply to Jean de Satigny because he was "looking for a partner to put up the capital, the work, and the stock houses; someone who would run all the risks and divide the profits fifty-fifty." Presenting himself as a French count, Jean de Satigny gives the impression that he's too noble and rich to be skillfully inventive with his hands.
  7. indigenous
    originating where it is found
    He even suggested that she export her work to other places, where there was a guaranteed market for indigenous crafts.
  8. ingenuous
    lacking in sophistication or worldliness
    He was thirty-eight years old, at least that is what he admitted to, and he felt that he had finally found paradise on earth, where he could settle into some sort of easygoing business with a few ingenuous partners.
    "Ingenuous" also means "characterized by an inability to mask your feelings"--while this fits Esteban Trueba, who walks around with a cane to emphasize his words and who frightens everyone with his temper, this is not the kind of partner that Jean de Satigny wants. He wants partners lacking in sophistication or worldliness so that they would be more impressed by him and less likely to question his lazy, cheating ways.
  9. tenacious
    stubbornly unyielding
    Someone less tenacious would have packed his bags and gone to stay in the only hotel in town, but the count told Esteban that he was sure of winning the girl’s love if they only gave him enough time.
  10. incorrigible
    impervious to correction by punishment
    He was incorrigibly sentimental. This was why he had become interested in politics and decided not to be a lawyer, as his father wished, but a doctor who would help the needy, as his mother, who knew him better, had suggested.
  11. cultivate
    foster the growth of
    Apart from girls, Nicolas’s primary interest in that period of his life was to cultivate Clara’s capacity for predicting the future.
  12. harangue
    address forcefully
    It was Pedro Tercero Garcia, who hadn’t wanted to miss his grandfather’s funeral and took advantage of the borrowed cassock to harangue the workers house by house, explaining that the coming elections were their chance to shake off the yoke under which they had always lived.
  13. somnolent
    inclined to or marked by drowsiness
    She grew weak and somnolent, could spend hours lying in the shade looking up at the sun, uninterested in anything else.
  14. solicitous
    showing hovering attentiveness
    Jean was solicitous, but he was not pleading or insistent; if anything, he was fraternal and lighthearted.
  15. enterprise
    a purposeful or industrious undertaking
    As a sort of test, he had agreed to set up a cage with a few pairs of the rodents, imitating on a reduced scale the enterprise under consideration.
  16. languor
    inactivity; showing an unusual lack of energy
    Besides, he was beginning to like Blanca, now that she was more robust and had acquired that languor that was smoothing away her rough, peasanty edges.
    Being robust ("sturdy and strong in form, constitution, or construction" or "rough and crude") seems to be the opposite of having languor and actually closer to being a peasant. Yet, Jean wants both qualities in one woman because 1) that would remind him of his mother and 2) that means the woman is strong enough to go horseback riding, yet still has the luxury of lying on cushions to stare at the sky.
  17. disheveled
    in disarray; extremely disorderly
    He followed the road in the direction the Frenchman had indicated, but he had no need to ride all the way to the river, because halfway there he ran into Blanca, who was returning to the house, humming as she walked, her hair disheveled, her clothing dirty, with the happy look of those who have nothing else to ask from life.
  18. taciturn
    habitually reserved and uncommunicative
    The boy rode ahead of me, bareback on his horse, as close to the animal as if they were a single body, and I was behind, taciturn, brooding over my rage.
  19. peripatetic
    a person who walks from place to place
    Within a few days her spiritualist friends, the Rosicrucians, the Theosophists, the acupuncturists, the telepathists, the rainmakers, the peripatetics, the Seventh-Day Adventists, and the hungry or otherwise needy artists began to appear—all those who had habitually been part of Clara’s court.
  20. succulent
    full of juice
    Grains and grasses had to be prepared for some, vegetables and raw fish for others, fruit and sour milk for the three Mora sisters, and succulent meat dishes, desserts, and other poisons for Jaime and Nicolas, who had insatiable appetites and still had not developed their own favorite dishes.
  21. assuage
    provide physical relief, as from pain
    Trueba proceeded to explain to him the various clauses of the marriage contract, which did a great deal to assuage the Frenchman’s fears.
  22. discreet
    marked by prudence or modesty and wise self-restraint
    Flamenco dancing had no practical application in the closed society prevailing in the capital back then, but Nicolas ran a discreet announcement in the paper offering his services as a teacher of that fiery art.
    "Discreet" also means "heedful of potential consequences"--this sort of describes Nicolas, because he knows that his father would not approve of flamenco dancing, so his ad had to draw attention to his services without alerting Esteban. But overall, Nicolas does not have a discreet nature: at his sister's wedding, he got drunk and jumped fully dressed into the fountain; he also tried to get a soda company to sponsor his balloon trip across the mountains.
  23. vehement
    marked by extreme intensity of emotions or convictions
    He studied vehemently, practiced until his health was in jeopardy, and attended the Friday-night sessions with the three Mora sisters, despite his father’s express orders to the contrary; for Esteban Trueba persisted in believing that these were not suitable matters for men.
  24. strenuous
    characterized by or performed with much energy or force
    “You can’t learn these things or inherit them,” she would tell him when she saw him going cross-eyed with concentration in his strenuous efforts to move the saltshaker without touching it.
  25. austerity
    self-denial, especially refraining from worldly pleasures
    Jaime’s madness took a very different form. He had a calling for both sacrifice and austerity.
  26. zeal
    excessive fervor to do something or accomplish some end
    His zeal to construct that enormous, inflatable sausage and to learn all its secret mechanisms, as well as to study wind currents, the predictions of his cards, and the laws of aerodynamics, kept him busy for quite some time.
  27. assiduous
    marked by care and persistent effort
    He wondered whether the sonnets might not have been inspired by Amanda’s presence in the Trueba garden, where the Poet liked to sit at teatime and talk about songs of despair, during the period when he had been an assiduous visitor at the big house on the corner.
  28. frivolous
    not serious in content or attitude or behavior
    He still took his brother’s frivolous activities as a personal affront, for he could not accept the fact that Nicolas could waste his time and energy on balloon rides and the slaughter of chickens when there was so much work to be done in the Misericordia District.
  29. decadent
    marked by excessive self-indulgence and moral decay
    The count decorated it according to his personal taste, with a decadent, ambiguous refinement that startled Blanca, accustomed as she was to country life and her father’s classical sobriety.
  30. allocate
    distribute according to a plan or set apart for a purpose
    The farthest rooms in the house were allocated to Jean’s mania for photography.
  31. torpid
    slow and apathetic
    He wanted to take her to parties, to drive her around by car, and to involve her in the decoration of her new home, but Blanca, heavy, torpid, solitary, and the victim of an unshakable fatigue, took refuge in her knitting and embroidery.
  32. exorbitant
    greatly exceeding bounds of reason or moderation
    His contraband entered the house through the service door and exited through the front door on its way to other destinations, where Jean consumed it in secret revels or sold it at exorbitant prices.
  33. soporific
    inducing mental lethargy
    In the soporific heat of those months Blanca, protected by the creature that was growing inside her, forgot about the magnitude of her disgrace. She stopped thinking about Pedro Tercero Garcia with the terrible urgency she had felt before and took refuge in the sweet, faded memories she could always conjure up at will.
  34. parsimonious
    excessively unwilling to spend
    The next day Blanca waited for Jean de Satigny to finish his meticulous toilette, eat his usual parsimonious breakfast, read his newspaper cover to cover, and finally leave on his morning walk, letting nothing in her placid, expectant mother’s countenance betray her fierce determination.
    Breakfast is the only thing that Jean is parsimonious about, but that is not because he doesn't want to spend the money but because his appetites are for cocaine, opium, gambling, porcelain, and pornography.
  35. furtive
    secret and sly or sordid
    She was determined to clear up the mystery of the furtive mummies.

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