a state of extreme poverty
He was as ragged as a rock star, but his missing teeth and the unhealthy pallor of his skin spoke eloquently of a life of
privation and despair.
the act of making a choice
The obsessive cleanliness of the room was the only positive sign of
volition from Estha.
Just the whisper of an unwillingness to
subsist on scraps offered by others.
softly bright or radiant
Only her eyes were incontestably more beautiful. Large.
Luminous. Drownable in, as Larry McCaslin had said and discovered to his cost.
The contest here is between Rahel and Ammu's beauty as grown women. A divorced, drifting, and childless Rahel is "longer, harder, flatter, more angular" than her mother had been. Rahel's eyes might be more beautiful, but they are as luminous as her mother's nut-brown skin. This physical luminosity contrasts with their emotional darkness, and makes their lives seem more tragic.
pulled or drawn tight
The sculpted hollows on either side of his
taut, beautiful buns. Men’s bums never grow up. Like school satchels, they evoke in an instant memories of childhood.
The example sentences are focused on the physical tightness of Estha's butt. But similar to how Ammu's "watchfulness stretched her, made her taut and tense," Rahel watching her twin brother in this way makes the scene emotionally taut and tense, especially since Estha does not respond.
attract strongly, as if with a magnet
His yellow teeth were magnets. They saw, they smiled, they sang, they smelled, they moved. They
being sharply insistent on being heard
“No, Ammu! No, Ammu, no! I want to come with you!”
Ammu, surprised at the unusually
shrill insistence from her usually quiet son, apologized to the Orangedrink Lemondrink Uncle.
easily irritated or annoyed
“So why don’t you marry him then?” Rahel said petulantly.
Seven-year-old Rahel was showing more disrespect ("petulant" also means "contemptuous in speech or behavior") than irritation or annoyance here. In response to this careless petulance on her daughter's part, Ammu deliberately shows her petulance by telling Rahel that she loved her a little less.
hard to pass through because of heavy growth
A cold moth with unusually
dense dorsal tufts landed lightly on Rahel’s heart.
affected by yellowing of the skin
A swathe of dirty yellow sponge spilled out and shivered on the backseat like an immense
ready and able to resort to force or violence
He drove fast, pugnaciously, darting into empty spaces, nudging other cars out of their lanes.
"Pugnacious" also means "tough and callous by virtue of experience"--while this can describe a driver whose taxi smells of sleep because it doubles as his home and who jumps lights despite being so small that he looks through the steering wheel, it does not fully describe the nature of a driver who would deliberately try to kill dogs that wander onto the road.
held in check with difficulty
Chacko often said that his ambition was to die of overeating. Mammachi said it was a sure sign of
allocate or distribute anew
The original plan had been that Estha would sleep with Chacko, and Rahel with Ammu and Baby Kochamma. But now that Estha wasn’t well and Love had been re-apportioned (Ammu loved her a little less), Rahel would have to sleep with Chacko, and Estha with Ammu and Baby Kochamma.
“No thank you,” Rahel said, hoping that if she could somehow effect her own punishment, Ammu would
marked by or showing hopelessness
forlorn, stubby convict in striped pajamas and a Fountain in a Love-in-Tokyo.
strong and sharp, as a taste
Estha Alone walked weavily to the bathroom. He vomited a clear, bitter, lemony, sparkling, fizzy liquid. The
acrid aftertaste of a Little Man’s first encounter with Fear.
having precise or logical relevance to the matter at hand
In his speeches he managed a clever mix of
pertinent local issues and grand Maoist rhetoric, which sounded even grander in Malayalam.
"Pertinent" and "local" are used here as antonyms of "grand" and "Maoist"--this gives a negative tone to the adjective "grand" which mocks the "high moral or intellectual value" of the Maoist rhetoric. This is also suggested by the use of the word "rhetoric" ("high-flown style; excessive use of verbal ornamentation" or "loud and confused and empty talk").
direct energy or urges into useful activities
While fathers played
sublimated sexual games with their nubile teenaged daughters, Poothana suckled young Krishna at her poisoned breast. Bhima disemboweled Dushasana and bathed Draupadi’s hair in his blood.
deadly or sinister
Neither question nor answer was meant as anything more than a polite preamble to conversation. Both she and he knew that there are things that can be forgotten. And things that cannot—that sit on dusty shelves like stuffed birds with
baleful, sideways-staring eyes.
"Baleful" also means "threatening or foreshadowing evil or tragic developments"--while birds often represent omens of bad things to come, this definition would not fit the example sentence because 1) it is referring to things that have already happened and cannot be forgotten; 2) the bird is stuffed, most likely because it's dead, like the mounted bison head and Pappachi's moths.
the state of being degenerate in mental or moral qualities
It occurred to Comrade Pillai that this generation was perhaps paying for its forefathers’ bourgeois
expressing extreme contempt
And in a rush of snot and relief, it emerged. A little mauve bead in a glistening bed of slime. As proud as a pearl in an oyster. Children gathered around to admire it. The boy who was playing with the sign was
a state or condition markedly different from the norm
It was one of those baffling
aberrations in Ammu’s taste, a cloud of stiff yellow lace with tiny silver sequins and a bow on each shoulder.
strike with disgust or revulsion
In her stiff lace dress and her fountain in a Love-in-Tokyo, Rahel looked like an Airport Fairy with
judge tentatively or form an estimate of
Rahel watched hawk-eyed to try and
gauge how much Ammu loved Sophie Mol, but couldn’t.
servile flattery; exaggerated and hypocritical praise
Burdened with a number of small unmanageable packages and unabashed public
adulation, he felt obliged to perform.
showing firm determination or purpose
“Just trying to attract attention,” Baby Kochamma said and
resolutely refused to have her attention attracted.
Ambassador Rahel, unable to cope with seesawing changes in her life, had raveled herself like a sausage into the dirty airport curtain, and wouldn’t
Estha saw how Baby Kochamma’s neckmole licked its chops and throbbed with delicious
a person with a prejudiced belief in his own superiority
“We don’t count,” Rahel said. “And anyway he might change. Ammu says.”
“How d’you mean? Change into what?” Sophie Mol asked.
“Into a Male
Chauvinist Pig,” Rahel said.
Rahel's repetition of Ammu's words is more humorous than hurtful, especially since Estha is not a chauvinist pig and they're in the middle of a conversation about love. When Ammu talks about male chauvinist pigs, she is disgusted because she is hurt by the chauvinistic rules of society. Despite working as hard as Chacko in the factory, she cannot inherit the property because she has no "locus standi" (legal standing).
lacking refinement or cultivation or taste
“It’s useless,” Baby Kochamma said. “They’re sly. They’re
uncouth. Deceitful. They’re growing wild. You can’t manage them.”