"Beloved" by Toni Morrison, Part 3

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Morrison's novel tells the story of Sethe, a formerly enslaved woman who is haunted by her past.

Here are links to our lists for the novel: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Here are links to our lists for other works by Toni Morrison: The Bluest Eye, Sula, Jazz
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Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. assert
    insist on having one's opinions and rights recognized
    When once or twice Sethe tried to assert herself—be the unquestioned mother whose word was law and who knew what was best—Beloved slammed things, wiped the table clean of plates, threw salt on the floor, broke a windowpane.
  2. listless
    lacking zest or vivacity
    Listless and sleepy with hunger Denver saw the flesh between her mother’s forefinger and thumb fade.
  3. tentative
    hesitant or lacking confidence; unsettled in mind or opinion
    It was April and everything alive was tentative.
  4. rout
    an overwhelming defeat
    “Don’t box with me. There’s more of us they drowned than there is all of them ever lived from the start of time. Lay down your sword. This ain’t a battle; it’s a rout.”
  5. hearten
    give encouragement to
    Braced and heartened by that easy encounter, she picked up speed and began to look deliberately at the neighborhood surrounding her.
  6. rancor
    a feeling of deep and bitter anger and ill-will
    With that education pat and firmly set, she dispensed with rancor, was indiscriminately polite, saving her real affection for the unpicked children of Cincinnati, one of whom sat before her in a dress so loud it embarrassed the needlepoint chair seat.
  7. indiscriminate
    not marked by fine distinctions
    With that education pat and firmly set, she dispensed with rancor, was indiscriminately polite, saving her real affection for the unpicked children of Cincinnati, one of whom sat before her in a dress so loud it embarrassed the needlepoint chair seat.
  8. inaugurate
    commence officially
    She did not know it then, but it was the word “baby,” said softly and with such kindness, that inaugurated her life in the world as a woman.
  9. tonic
    a medicine that strengthens and invigorates
    One remembered the tonic mixed there that cured a relative.
  10. disdain
    lack of respect accompanied by a feeling of intense dislike
    Maybe they were sorry for the years of their own disdain.
  11. arrogant
    having or showing feelings of unwarranted importance
    In any case, the personal pride, the arrogant claim staked out at 124 seemed to them to have run its course.
  12. yield
    give over
    And the older woman yielded it up without a murmur.
  13. cajole
    influence or urge by gentle urging, caressing, or flattering
    Washing, cooking, forcing, cajoling her mother to eat a little now and then, providing sweet things for Beloved as often as she could to calm her down.
  14. calamity
    an event resulting in great loss and misfortune
    She would hire herself out somewhere, and although she was afraid to leave Sethe and Beloved alone all day not knowing what calamity either one of them would create, she came to realize that her presence in that house had no influence on what either woman did.
  15. provoke
    annoy continually or chronically
    Growled when they chose; sulked, explained, demanded, strutted, cowered, cried and provoked each other to the edge of violence, then over.
  16. bedevil
    treat cruelly
    Sethe was worn down, speckled, dying, spinning, changing shapes and generally bedeviled.
  17. atrocity
    an act of shocking cruelty
    It was “the lowest yet” who gave her a disgust for sex and against whom she measured all atrocities.
  18. outstrip
    be or do something to a greater degree
    Sethe’s crime was staggering and her pride outstripped even that; but she could not countenance the possibility of sin moving on in the house, unleashed and sassy.
  19. sassy
    improperly forward or bold
    Sethe’s crime was staggering and her pride outstripped even that; but she could not countenance the possibility of sin moving on in the house, unleashed and sassy.
  20. countenance
    consent to, give permission
    Sethe’s crime was staggering and her pride outstripped even that; but she could not countenance the possibility of sin moving on in the house, unleashed and sassy.
  21. sufficient
    of a quantity that can fulfill a need or requirement
    Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof,” and nobody needed more; nobody needed a grownup evil sitting at the table with a grudge.
  22. astride
    with one leg on each side
    It displeased him a bit because he preferred his figure astride Princess.
  23. indulgence
    the act of gratifying a desire
    Privacy was an adult indulgence, but when he got to be one, he seemed not to need it.
  24. antagonism
    an actively expressed feeling of dislike and hostility
    It made him the most visible and memorable person at every gathering, and cartoonists had fastened onto the theatricality of his white hair and big black mustache whenever they depicted local political antagonism.
  25. heady
    extremely exciting as if by alcohol or a narcotic
    Those heady days were gone now; what remained was the sludge of ill will; dashed hopes and difficulties beyond repair.
  26. sedition
    an illegal action inciting resistance to lawful authority
    Nothing since was as stimulating as the old days of letters, petitions, meetings, debates, recruitment, quarrels, rescue and downright sedition.
  27. circumvent
    avoid or try to avoid fulfilling, answering, or performing
    Yet it had worked, more or less, and when it had not, he and his sister made themselves available to circumvent obstacles.
  28. abolish
    do away with
    The Society managed to turn infanticide and the cry of savagery around, and build a further case for abolishing slavery.
  29. rapt
    feeling great delight
    They saw Denver sitting on the steps and beyond her, where the yard met the road, they saw the rapt faces of thirty neighborhood women.
  30. mote
    a tiny piece of anything
    Sifting daylight dissolves the memory, turns it into dust motes floating in light.
  31. confiscate
    take temporary possession of a security by legal authority
    Keane and his friend, a Sergeant Rossiter, confiscated a skiff and the three of them floated in Mobile Bay.
  32. skiff
    a small boat propelled by oars or by sails or by a motor
    Keane and his friend, a Sergeant Rossiter, confiscated a skiff and the three of them floated in Mobile Bay.
  33. disembark
    exit from a ship, vehicle, or aircraft
    Keane and Rossiter disembarked at Memphis to look for their commanders.
  34. stifling
    characterized by oppressive heat and humidity
    It has no sheets, and because the roof windows do not open the room is stifling.
  35. lichen
    a plant occurring in crusty patches on tree trunks or rocks
    Where the memory of the smile under her chin might have been and was not, a latch latched and lichen attached its apple-green bloom to the metal.

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