"Ceremony," Vocabulary from Sections 4-5

"Ceremony" by Leslie Marmon Silko is about the wounds of the past and how difficult it can be to reconcile with that past and move forward.

Learn these word lists for the novel: Sections 1-3, Sections 4-5, Sections 6-8, Sections 9-10

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. disjointed
    lacking orderly continuity
    Harley’s words were becoming disjointed and he was accenting the words at the beginning and swallowing the ending sounds until it didn’t sound like English any more.
  2. terrify
    frighten greatly
    The sensation was sudden and terrifying; he could not get out of the room, and he was afraid he would fall into the stinking dirty water and have to crawl through it, like before, with jungle clouds raining down filthy water that smelled ripe with death.
  3. sullen
    showing a brooding ill humor
    He couldn’t make out Harley or Leroy or Pinkie; all he could see was Emo’s sullen face.
  4. disgrace
    a state of dishonor
    He never forgot that, and finally, years later, he understood what it was about white men and Indian women: the disgrace of Indian women who went with them.
  5. ritual
    any customary observance or practice
    The night progressed according to that ritual: from cursing the barren dry land the white man had left them, to talking about San Diego and the cities where the white women were still waiting for them to come back to give them another taste of what white women never got enough of.
  6. symmetry
    balance among the parts of something
    The symmetry of the oval pleased him; he raised it high over his head and smashed it against the ground.
  7. ambush
    concealing yourself and lying in wait to attack by surprise
    The teeth sucked up the light, and darkness closed around Tayo with an ambush of voices in English and Japanese.
  8. dense
    hard to pass through because of heavy growth
    The silence was dense; the darkness was cold.
  9. brittle
    having little elasticity
    But the posters were flapping and twisting around, and the brittle edges of the paper were beginning to split and tear.
  10. relentless
    not to be placated or appeased or moved by entreaty
    There was a chill in the wind during the last days the sun occupied a summer place in the sky—and something relentless in the way the wind drove the sand and dust ahead of it.
  11. enlist
    join the military
    “Sure, sure,” he said, “you enlist now and you’ll be eligible for everything—pilot training—everything.”
  12. maintain
    keep in a certain state, position, or activity
    The things Laura had done weren’t easily forgotten by the people, but she could maintain a distance between Rocky, who was her pride, and this other, unwanted child.
  13. temporary
    not permanent; not lasting
    When Josiah or old Grandma or Robert was there, the agreement was suspended, and she pretended to treat him the same as she treated Rocky, but they both knew it was only temporary.
  14. evade
    escape, either physically or mentally
    Robert and Josiah evaded her; they were deaf to those undertones.
  15. descend
    move downward and lower, but not necessarily all the way
    An old sensitivity had descended in her, surviving thousands of years from the oldest times, when the people shared a single clan name and they told each other who they were; they recounted the actions and words each of their clan had taken, and would take; from before they were born and long after they died, the people shared the same consciousness.
  16. deplorable
    bringing or deserving severe rebuke or censure
    Shamed by what they taught her in school about the deplorable ways of the Indian people; holy missionary white people who wanted only good for the Indians, white people who dedicated their lives to helping the Indians, these people urged her to break away from her home.
  17. humiliation
    state of disgrace or loss of self-respect
    For the people, it was that simple, and when they failed, the humiliation fell on all of them; what happened to the girl did not happen to her alone, it happened to all of them.
  18. reconcile
    bring into consonance or accord
    So Auntie had tried desperately to reconcile the family with the people; the old instinct had always been to gather the feelings and opinions that were scattered through the village, to gather them like willow twigs and tie them into a single prayer bundle that would bring peace to all of them.
  19. anticipate
    make a prediction about; tell in advance
    He could anticipate her mood by watching her face.
  20. admit
    declare to be true or accept the reality of
    He cried for it and Josiah came to comfort him; he asked Tayo why he was crying, but just as he was ashamed to tell Josiah about the understanding between him and Auntie, he also could not tell him about the picture; he loved Josiah too much to admit the shame.
  21. regret
    sadness associated with some wrong or disappointment
    He remembered it from the nights after they had buried his mother, when he stuffed the bed covers around his stomach and close to his heart, hugging the blankets into the empty space of loss, regret for things which could not be changed.
  22. complicated
    difficult to analyze or understand
    Scientific cattle breeding was very complicated, he said, and he used to wait until Rocky and Tayo were doing their homework on the kitchen table, and then he would come in from the back room, with his glasses on, carrying a book.
  23. examine
    observe, check out, and look over carefully or inspect
    Auntie got out her black church shoes and wiped them carefully with a clean damp cloth, putting her finger inside the cloth and cleaning around each of the eyelets where the laces were strung; she examined them closely by the lamp on the table to make sure that any dust or spots of dirt left from last Sunday had been removed.
  24. devout
    deeply religious
    Later on, Tayo wondered if she liked it that way, going to church by herself, where she could show the people that she was a devout Christian and not immoral or pagan like the rest of the family.
  25. accessible
    capable of being reached
    It had the clarity of the sky after a summer rainstorm, when the dust was washed away, and the colors of the hills and the shadows of the mesas had an intensity which made everything he saw accessible, as if he could touch all of it, even the little green rabbit weed growing close to the sand, its tiny leaves clustered like stars.
  26. insist
    assert to be true
    But Robert had to admit that the calves were stocky through the shoulder and hip, showing at least some trace of the fine registered Hereford bull that Ulibarri had insisted and sworn was their sire.
  27. withstand
    resist or confront with resistance
    But Josiah said they would grow up heavy and covered with meat like Herefords, but tough too, like the Mexican cows, able to withstand hard winters and many dry years.
  28. extend
    stretch out over a distance, space, time, or scope
    The cows already had big Mexican brands on their sides, extending across their ribs, a brand so big you could see it for a half mile, Josiah said.
  29. coincide
    happen simultaneously
    If she had not been so young, she would have realized that he was nothing, that the power she was feeling had always been inside her, growing, pushing to the surface, only its season coinciding with her new lover.
  30. incapable
    lacking ability
    He would lie beside her under the blanket and his eyes would be fevered even after he was limp and incapable of taking any more from her.
  31. prefer
    like better; value more highly
    “You came breathlessly,” she answered in a steady voice, “but you will always prefer the lie."
  32. illuminate
    make lighter or brighter
    The ecstasy he found in her had illuminated the dead tissues and outlined the hollow of his spirit.
  33. precarious
    not secure; beset with difficulties
    The creaking of the wood became a moan and a cry; my balance was precarious as if the floor were no longer level.
  34. persuade
    cause somebody to adopt a certain position or belief
    They had a good man working for them then, an Apache guy from White River, and he was probably the best sheepherder they ever had; but whenever she wanted to persuade Josiah to go check up on things, she would go into a long history of what the Apaches had done to the Pueblo people, dwelling especially on Geronimo.
  35. offhand
    casually thoughtless or inconsiderate
    He took good care of the sheep in an offhand way, carrying the book around with him while he herded them; and when the old black mother dog had had pups, he had trained the best two for sheep dogs.
  36. inaudible
    impossible to hear; imperceptible by the ear
    After he was gone, Auntie made an inaudible remark from the stove, where she kept her dishpan to keep the dishwater hot.
  37. malicious
    having the nature of threatening evil
    She alone had known how to outsmart the malicious mountain Ka’t’sina who imprisoned the rain clouds in the northwest room of his magical house.
  38. niche
    a small concavity
    When the shadows were gone, and the cliff rock began to get warm, the frogs came out from their sleeping places in small cracks and niches in the cliff above the pool.
  39. arroyo
    a stream or brook
    In dried up ponds and in the dry arroyo sands, even as the rain was still falling, they came popping up through the ground, with wet sand still on their backs.
  40. imperceptible
    impossible or difficult to sense
    It was a world alive, always changing and moving; and if you knew where to look, you could see it, sometimes almost imperceptible, like the motion of the stars across the sky.

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