someone who pays rent to use property owned by someone else
In the little houses the
tenant people sifted their belongings and the belongings of their fathers and of their grandfathers.
"Tenant" comes from the Latin "tenere" which means "to hold" but the farmers had either sold their lands to or rented them from the banks, so they can't hold onto their way of life when the banks want them out. Having lost their tenancy, the farmers now test their tenacity ("persistent determination") on the road.
without mercy or pity
The men were
ruthless because the past had been spoiled, but the women knew how the past would cry to them in the coming days.
in an uncontrolled manner
They stood and watched them burning, and then
frantically they loaded up the cars and drove away, drove in the dust.
a piece of equipment or a tool used for a specific purpose
When the truck had gone, loaded with
implements, with heavy tools, with beds and springs, with every movable thing that might be sold, Tom hung around the place.
able to accomplish a purpose
Al sat bent over the wheel, proud and serious and
efficient, and Pa and Uncle John, as befitted the heads of the clan, had the honor seats beside the driver.
But Winfield was still a trifle of a snot-nose, a little of a brooder back of the barn, and an
inveterate collector and smoker of snipes.
"Inveterate" comes from the Latin "inveterare" which means "to make old"--Winfield is only ten years old, so the adjective does not fit him as much as it would his grandparents, who are creatures of habit and do not adjust well to the move.
defeat with dire consequences
They had assailed the buyer, argued; but they were routed when his interest seemed to flag and he had told them he didn’t want the stuff at any price.
home symbolized as a part of the fireplace
The ancient Hudson, with bent and scarred radiator screen, with grease in dusty globules at the worn edges of every moving part, with hub caps gone and caps of red dust in their places—this was the new
hearth, the living center of the family; half passenger car and half truck, high-sided and clumsy.
having a difficult and contrary disposition
“She’s old an’ she’s
ornery,” he said gravely.
Compare this definition and example sentence to "cantankerous"--the two words are synonymous, but "cantankerous" describes an old man while "ornery" describes an old truck. Note the pronoun "she" which is often used to refer to vehicles; used by the sixteen-year-old Al who "don’t think of nothin’ but girls and engines" it has a prideful tone, since Al had picked her out and was the only one who knows how to drive and fix her (before Tom unexpectedly showed up).
standing above others in quality or position
Indeed his position was
eminent, for Uncle John moved sideways, leaving space between Pa and himself for the preacher.
revulsion spread to the rest. “Whyn’t we go? Get sleep on the way.”
walk leisurely and with no apparent aim
Pa said, “Al, go down, wake up Granma, Grampa. Tell ’em to come an’ eat. We’re goin’ before long.” And as Al
sauntered toward the barn, “Muley, ya wanta squeeze in with us an’ go?
a healthy capacity for vigorous activity
And when a horse stops work and goes into the barn there is a life and a
vitality left, there is a breathing and a warmth, and the feet shift on the straw, and the jaws champ on the hay, and the ears and the eyes are alive.
marked by or showing hopelessness
They saw Muley standing forlornly in the dooryard looking after them.
traveler who moves from one region or country to another
Highway 66 is the main
a branch that flows into the main stream
From all of these the people are in flight, and they come into 66 from the
tributary side roads, from the wagon tracks and the rutted country roads.
a procession traveling together in single file
The people in flight streamed out on 66, sometimes a single car, sometimes a little
mentally upset over possible misfortune or danger
And the men driving the trucks and the overloaded cars listened apprehensively.
"Apprehensive" also means "quick to understand"--this definition does not fit the example sentence, because many of the men who are listening to their vehicles might apprehend a sound of trouble but might not apprehend the mechanics of fixing it; another reason the men are apprehensive is that they don't have the money to spend on parts and repairs.
act or move at high speed
hastened to explain. “Road is full a people, come in, use water, dirty up the toilet, an’ then, by God, they’ll steal stuff an’ don’t buy nothin’. Got no money to buy with. Come beggin’ a gallon gas to move on.”
become faint or more distant
The old eyes looked up at Ma in pain and bewilderment for a moment before the awareness
spread by scattering
He said boldly, “His guts was just
strewed all over—all over”—he was silent for a moment—“
strewed—all—over,” he said, and then he rolled over quickly and vomited down the side of the truck.
kindness in welcoming guests or strangers
The appeal to
hospitality had an instant effect.
decrease in size, extent, or range
And the hole drove down, for the work never
diminished in speed.
the violation of a law or a duty or moral principle
“This here’s a nice one, just blowed full a religion: ‘Blessed is he whose
transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.’
"Transgression" also means "the action of going beyond some boundary or limit"--although the biblical verse is focused on sinning (which makes it humorously appropriate for Grampa), both definitions fit the situation, since Grampa's soul is going beyond the boundary of life while his body is being unlawfully buried on the side of the road.
a definite length of time marked off by two instants
Few passenger cars went by on the highway now, but the transport trucks thundered by at
intervals and put little earthquakes in the ground.
an organ in its earliest stage of development
Here is the
anlage of the thing you fear. This is the zygote.
being in a tense state
A half-million people moving over the country; a million more
restive, ready to move; ten million more feeling the first nervousness.
showing a brooding ill humor
And Al, morosely, Where ya think they get them big cars and stuff?
move heavily or clumsily
Mae watched them get into the great truck, watched it
lumber off in low gear, and heard the shift up the whining gears to cruising ratio.
designed to offer the least resistant to fluid flow
On 66 the traffic whizzed by, trucks and fine
streamlined cars and jalopies; and they went by with a vicious whiz.
"Streamlined" also means "made efficient by stripping off nonessentials"--this definition would not apply to the fine cars, but it would eventually apply to the jalopies of the migrant families. The word also emphasizes the line of cars streaming by, in a whiz considered "vicious" (this could describe the cars' speeding sounds and possible impacts, and the growing anger of the displaced migrants).