"The God of Small Things," Vocabulary from Chapters 11-14

The traumatic separation of fraternal twins in India is at the heart of Arundhati Roy's "God of a Small Things" which addresses communism and the Indian caste system while recounting the lives of the twins both together and apart. Learn this word list that focuses on worship and work.

Here are links to our lists for the novel: Chapters 1-2, Chapters 3-6, Chapters 7-10, Chapters 11-14, Chapters 15-21

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. pariah
    a person who is rejected from society or home
    Pariah kites dropped into nearby trees, to supervise the supervision of the last rites of the dead elephant. They hoped, not without reason, for pickings of giant innards.
    "Pariah" is used as an adjective here to describe the kites, which are small graceful hawks that feed on insects and small animals. The fact that these kites would feed on the organs of a dead elephant would cause them to be rejected by a society in which many of its people worship an animal that can be trained to remove obstacles, fight in wars, or perform ceremonial rounds in a temple.
  2. tethered
    confined or restricted with or as if with a rope or chain
    Kochu Thomban had finished his ceremonial rounds, and lay tethered to a wooden stake next to a steaming mound of his own dung.
  3. jettison
    throw away, of something encumbering
    In Ayemenem they danced to jettison their humiliation in the Heart of Darkness.
  4. misappropriate
    take possession of fraudulently for one's own use
    On their way back from the Heart of Darkness, they stopped at the temple to ask pardon of their gods. To apologize for corrupting their stories. For encashing their identities. Misappropriating their lives.
  5. colonnaded
    having a series of columns arranged at regular intervals
    In the broad, covered corridor—the colonnaded kuthambalam abutting the heart of the temple where the Blue God lived with his flute, the drummers drummed and the dancers danced, their colors turning slowly in the night.
  6. carnage
    the savage and excessive killing of many people
    He can turn effortlessly from the carnage of war into the felicity of a woman washing her hair in a mountain stream.
  7. ebullience
    eager enjoyment or approval
    From the crafty ebullience of a rakshasa with a new idea into a gossipy Malayali with a scandal to spread.
    The ebullience of rakshasa is often connected to bloodlust: Hindu legends say that rakshasas were created from the breath of Brahma, and their first act was to eat Brahma, for which they were expelled to earth. In stories from the epic Mahabharata, which Rahel and Estha watch in the temple, the hero Bhima both kills a rakshasa who eats human travelers and summons another to help him in the war for a kingdom.
  8. viable
    capable of life or normal growth and development
    But these days he has become unviable. Unfeasible. Condemned goods. His children deride him. They long to be everything that he is not. He has watched them grow up to become clerks and bus conductors. Class IV nongazetted officers. With unions of their own.
    The body of the Kathakali Man "has been planed and polished, pared down, harnessed wholly to the task of storytelling." But this role has become unviable ("incapable of success or ongoing effectiveness") in modern India. This is why he needs to perform for tourists, but this way of maintaining viability actually slowly kills him, which brings to mind the contradictory phrase: "a viable die-able age."
  9. melancholy
    grave or even gloomy in character
    Karna, sheathed in his armor of light. Karna, melancholy son of Surya, God of Day. Karna the Generous. Karna the abandoned child. Karna the most revered warrior of them all.
  10. abject
    showing utter resignation or hopelessness
    Ironically, his struggle is the reverse of an actor’s struggle—he strives not to enter a part but to escape it. But this is what he cannot do. In his abject defeat lies his supreme triumph.
  11. revile
    spread negative information about
    They were the ones, Arjuna in particular, who had publicly reviled him for being a lowly charioteer’s son.
  12. recalcitrant
    stubbornly resistant to authority or control
    He pursued every feeble tremor in the dying body with his mace, hammering at it until it was stilled. An ironsmith flattening a sheet of recalcitrant metal. Systematically smoothing every pit and bulge. He continued to kill him long after he was dead.
  13. assertion
    the act of affirming or stating something
    Margaret Kochamma had moved out of her parents’ home a year ago, for no greater reason than a youthful assertion of independence.
  14. reproach
    express criticism towards
    Margaret Kochamma was reproached by her employer and given a lecture on Cafe Ethics.
  15. penury
    a state of extreme poverty or destitution
    Along with the pressures of living together came penury. There was no longer any scholarship money, and there was the full rent of the flat to be paid.
  16. sloth
    a disinclination to work or exert yourself
    A year into the marriage, and the charm of Chacko’s studently sloth wore off for Margaret Kochamma.
    "Sloth" also means "apathy and inactivity in the practice of virtue"--despite growing up in a Christian household, Chacko is guilty of all seven deadly sins. His sloth cost him his marriage, which led to him indulging his lust with factory workers; he has a gluttonous ambition to die of overeating, and his greed refuses to share the family's property with Ammu; he was wrathful when he broke Ammu's bedroom door; he envied Joe because of Margaret; and he is proud of having read at Oxford.
  17. solvent
    capable of meeting financial obligations
    Joe was a biologist. He was updating the third edition of a Dictionary of Biology for a small publishing house. Joe was everything that Chacko wasn’t.
    Steady. Solvent. Thin.
  18. corpulence
    the property of excessive fatness
    He began to cultivate his corpulence and general physical dilapidation.
  19. denigrate
    charge falsely or with malicious intent
    “She traded me in for a better man,” he would say to Mammachi, and she would flinch as though he had denigrated her instead of himself.
  20. brisk
    imparting vitality and energy
    She concealed her anguish under the brisk, practical mask of a schoolteacher.
  21. munificence
    liberality in bestowing gifts
    Mammachi, though annoyed at his drunkenness, wasn’t averse to listening to bardic stories about herself and her family’s Christian munificence.
  22. unctuous
    unpleasantly and excessively suave or ingratiating
    Baby Kochamma recognized at once the immense potential of the situation, but immediately anointed her thoughts with unctuous oils.
    "Unctuous" also means "having the characteristics of oil." The verb "anoint" ("administer an oil to" and "choose by divine intervention") suggests that Baby Kochamma sees herself performing a religious healing ritual. She is happy to hear that Ammu has been caught with Velutha because of the immense potential for punishment and revenge, but as a good Christian woman, she could not reveal these thoughts.
  23. brutish
    resembling a beast; showing lack of human sensibility
    So after Sophie Mol’s funeral, when Ammu went to him with the twins to tell him that a mistake had been made and he tapped her breasts with his baton, it was not a policeman’s spontaneous brutishness on his part.
  24. supplicant
    one praying humbly for something
    As an aspiring politician, it was essential for Comrade Pillai to be seen in his chosen constituency as a man of influence. He wanted to use Chacko’s visit to impress local supplicants and Party Workers.
  25. collusion
    agreement on a secret plot
    He had expected to encounter antagonism, even confrontation, and instead was being offered sly, misguided collusion.
  26. grievance
    a complaint about a wrong that causes resentment
    “Of course the proper forum to air workers’ grievances is through the Union. And in this case, when Modalali himself is a comrade, it is a shameful matter for them not to be unionized and join the Party Struggle.”
  27. hector
    be bossy towards
    Then Comrade Pillai, in a hectoring voice, quoted Chairman Mao.
    “Revolution is not a dinner party. Revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence in which one class overthrows another.”
  28. deft
    skillful in physical movements; especially of the hands
    And so, having bagged the contract for the Synthetic Cooking Vinegar labels, he deftly banished Chacko from the fighting ranks of the Overthrowers to the treacherous ranks of the To Be Overthrown.
  29. pharisaic
    excessively or hypocritically pious
    Even Chacko—who knew that the fervent, high-pitched speeches about Rights of Untouchables (“Caste is Class, comrades”) delivered by Comrade Pillai during the Marxist Party siege of Paradise Pickles were pharisaic—never learned the whole story.
    The adjective's origin is from the New Testament, where Jesus criticizes the Pharisees for their hypocritical teachings about a God they did not love and laws they did not truly practice; they also presented an appearance of virtue when they were filled with greed and self-indulgence. The example sentence describes the pharisaic nature of Comrade Pillai and his speeches, but the adjective could also apply to Chacko, Pappachi, Mammachi, and Baby Kochamma.
  30. decimate
    kill in large numbers
    And there it was again. Another religion turned against itself. Another edifice constructed by the human mind, decimated by human nature.

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