"12 Years a Slave," Vocabulary from Chapters 15-22

As you read Solomon Northup's "12 Years a Slave" (etext found here), learn these word lists for the autobiography: Chapters 1-7, Chapters 8-14, Chapters 15-22

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. bayou
    a swampy arm or slow-moving outlet of a lake
    The mill is an immense brick building, standing on the shore of the bayou.
  2. respite
    a pause for relaxation
    The only respite from constant labor the slave has through the whole year, is during the Christmas holidays.
  3. viand
    a choice or delicious dish
    When the viands have disappeared, and the hungry maws of the children of toil are satisfied, then, next in the order of amusement, is the Christmas dance.
  4. evasive
    deliberately vague or ambiguous
    I made him some evasive answer, which only had the effect of increasing his violence.
  5. coax
    influence or urge by gentle urging, caressing, or flattering
    Now he would command me to come to him, now endeavor to coax me, but I was careful to keep at a respectful distance.
  6. berate
    censure severely or angrily
    As he approached, nevertheless, Mistress Epps began to berate him roundly, heaping upon him many rather disrespectful epithets, and demanding for what reason he had attempted to cut my throat.
  7. divulge
    make known to the public information previously kept secret
    Shortly after this time a circumstance occurred that came nigh divulging the secret of my real name and history, which I had so long and carefully concealed, and upon which I was convinced depended my final escape.
  8. inviolable
    immune to attack; incapable of being tampered with
    He assured me, upon his honor, he would deposit it in the Marksville post-office, and that he would keep it an inviolable secret forever.
  9. aspiration
    a cherished desire
    I was willing to risk a great deal to accomplish my purpose, but should the letter by any means fall into the hands of Epps, it would be a death-blow to my aspirations.
  10. duplicity
    the act of deceiving or acting in bad faith
    My worst fears were realized, and although it may not be considered entirely creditable, even under the circumstances, yet a resort to duplicity and downright falsehood was the only refuge that presented itself.
  11. writhe
    move in a twisting or contorted motion
    As soon as he was gone I threw the letter in the fire, and, with a desponding and despairing heart, beheld the epistle which had cost me so much anxiety and thought, and which I fondly hoped would have been my forerunner to the land of freedom, writhe and shrivel on its bed of coals, and dissolve into smoke and ashes.
  12. miasma
    an unwholesome atmosphere
    The summer of my life was passing away; I felt I was growing prematurely old; that a few years more, and toil, and grief, and the poisonous miasma of the swamps would accomplish their work on me—would consign me to the grave's embrace, to moulder and be forgotten.
  13. succor
    assistance in time of difficulty
    Repelled, betrayed, cut off: from the hope of succor, I could only prostrate myself upon the earth and groan in unutterable anguish.
  14. taciturn
    habitually reserved and uncommunicative
    The year 1850, down to which time I have now arrived, omitting many occurrences uninteresting to the reader, was an unlucky year for my companion Wiley, the husband of Phebe, whose taciturn and retiring nature has thus far kept him in the background.
  15. chastisement
    a rebuke for making a mistake
    They have the right, either by law, or by general consent, to inflict discretionary chastisement upon a black man caught beyond the boundaries of his master's estate without a pass, and even to shoot him, if he attempts to escape.
  16. intolerable
    incapable of being put up with
    His sufferings became intolerable, and finally he resolved to run away.
  17. deranged
    driven insane
    My first impression was that she was some deranged young mistress, who, escaping from home, was wandering, she knew not whither, and had been attracted to my cabin by the sound of the violin.
  18. notoriety
    the state of being known for some unfavorable act or quality
    It was, I presume, a matter of newspaper notoriety at the time, but all the knowledge I have of it, has been derived from the relation of those living at that period in the immediate vicinity of the excitement.
  19. indiscriminate
    failing to make or recognize distinctions
    The planters on Bayou Boeuf finally rebelled against such reckless destruction of property, but it was not until a regiment of soldiers had arrived from some fort on the Texan frontier, demolished the gallows, and opened the doors of the Alexandria prison, that the indiscriminate slaughter was stayed.
  20. profligate
    a dissolute man in fashionable society
    This man, as has been intimated, was a notorious profligate, and withal not on the most friendly terms with Epps.
  21. libertine
    a dissolute person
    Her visits were prompted by friendship merely, but the suspicion gradually entered the brain of Epps, that another and a baser passion led her thither—that it was not Harriet she desired to meet, but rather the unblushing libertine, his neighbor.
  22. tempestuous
    characterized by violent emotions or behavior
    The tempestuous emotions that were raging there were little in harmony with the calm and quiet beauty of the day.
  23. corporeal
    characteristic of the body as opposed to the mind or spirit
    She entertained but confused notions of a future life—not comprehending the distinction between the corporeal and spiritual existence.
  24. thoroughgoing
    performed comprehensively and completely
    Without discrimination, at such times, he applies the rawhide, urging the slaves forward with shouts, and occasional expressions of profanity, while the old man laughs, and commends him as a thorough-going boy.
  25. impunity
    exemption from punishment or loss
    What would be intolerable, coming from the lips of another, could be said by him with impunity.
  26. peregrination
    traveling or wandering around
    He was a native of Canada, from whence he had wandered in early life, and after visiting all the principal localities in the northern and western States, in the course of his peregrinations, arrived in the unhealthy region of the Red River.
  27. destitute
    completely wanting or lacking
    Edwin Epps was a person utterly regardless of a black man's rights or wrongs—utterly destitute of any natural sense of justice, as I well knew.
  28. unfathomable
    resembling an abyss in depth; so deep as to be immeasurable
    I felt as if sinking down, down, amidst the bitter waters of Slavery, from the unfathomable depths of which I should never rise again.
  29. feign
    make believe with the intent to deceive
    I laid down upon my board and feigned I was asleep.
  30. corroborate
    support with evidence or authority or make more certain
    Accompanying this memorial were several affidavits of prominent citizens of Sandy Hill and Fort Edward, corroborating fully the statements it contained, and also a request of several well known gentlemen to the Governor, that Henry B. Northup be appointed agent under the legislative act.
  31. impenetrable
    not admitting of passage into or through
    Taking passage on the first steamer that arrived, he pursued his journey up Red River, a sluggish, winding stream, flowing through a vast region of primitive forests and impenetrable swamps, almost wholly destitute of inhabitants.
  32. proffer
    present for acceptance or rejection
    After reading the letters and documents presented him, and listening to a representation of the circumstances under which I had been carried away into captivity, Mr. Waddill at once proffered his services, and entered into the affair with great zeal and earnestness.
  33. eccentric
    conspicuously or grossly unconventional or unusual
    We have one here in Marksville, an eccentric creature, who preaches abolitionism as vehemently as any fanatic at the North. He is a generous, inoffensive man, but always maintaining the wrong side of an argument. It affords us a deal of amusement.
  34. propound
    put forward, as of an idea
    It was accordingly arranged during the ride, that, before I had an opportunity of speaking to Mr. Northup, the sheriff should propound to me certain questions agreed upon, such as the number and names of my children, the name of my wife before marriage, of places I knew at the North, and so forth.
  35. wield
    handle effectively
    It was some time before I succeeded in cutting an armful, having, somehow, unaccountably lost the power of wielding the axe with any manner of precision.
  36. litigation
    a legal proceeding in a court
    Finally, Mr. Taylor assured his client that he was satisfied, and that litigation would not only be expensive, but utterly useless.
  37. unfounded
    without a basis in reason or fact
    The story of the trio of slave-traders is a fabrication as absurd as it is base and unfounded.
  38. infamous
    known widely and usually unfavorably
    I should have known that such a step would have resulted in rendering me infamous.
  39. prattle
    speak about unimportant matters rapidly and incessantly
    When I left her, she was but seven years old, a little prattling girl, playing with her toys.
  40. delineated
    represented accurately or precisely
    What it may be in other States, I do not profess to know; what it is in the region of Red River, is truly and faithfully delineated in these pages.

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