WORD LISTS

"The Woman Warrior"--Vocabulary from "No Name Woman"

February 20, 2013
Maxine Hong Kingston's "The Woman Warrior" recounts the troubles and triumphs of Chinese women in ancient folklore and in modern day America. Learn this word list that focuses on crime and punishment.

Here are links to all of our lists for "The Woman Warrior":
No Name Woman, White Tigers, Shaman, At the Western Palace, and A Song for a Barbarian Reed Pipe.
protruding
This visual image of the protruding stomach both literally and symbolically represents the aunt's crime. The actual pregnancy is evidence of the aunt's adultery; the idea of "extending out above or beyond a boundary" emphasizes that the aunt is stretching beyond herself and the tight social controls of the village.
I remember looking at your aunt one day when she and I were dressing; I had not noticed before that she had such a protruding melon of a stomach.
acrid
Another definition of "acrid" is "harsh and corrosive in tone"--this also fits the example sentence because it could describe the message that the villagers are sending with their destruction of the aunt's family's food supplies during a time of hunger.
They overturned the great waist-high earthenware jugs; duck eggs, pickled fruits, vegetables burst out and mixed in acrid torrents.
frivolous
Whenever we did frivolous things, we used up energy; we flew high kites.
adultery
Adultery, perhaps only a mistake during good times, became a crime when the village needed food.
extravagance
Adultery is extravagance.
prodigal
Could people who hatch their own chicks and eat the embryos and the heads for delicacies and boil the feet in vinegar for party food, leaving only the gravel, eating even the gizzard lining—could such people engender a prodigal aunt?
avert
Instead of letting them start separate new lives like the Japanese, who could become samurais and geishas, the Chinese family, faces averted but eyes glowering sideways, hung on to the offenders and fed them leftovers.
glower
Instead of letting them start separate new lives like the Japanese, who could become samurais and geishas, the Chinese family, faces averted but eyes glowering sideways, hung on to the offenders and fed them leftovers.
deflect
Perhaps they had thrown her out to deflect the avengers.
delineate
But the rare urge west had fixed upon our family, and so my aunt crossed boundaries not delineated in space.
enormity
Fear at the enormities of the forbidden kept her desires delicate, wire and bone.
rollicking
It could very well have been, however, that my aunt did not take subtle enjoyment of her friend, but, a wild woman, kept rollicking company.
eccentricity
The lead-in to "eccentricity" with the words "reap" and "reputation" almost makes it sound like a good thing, but in a community where wholeness is important, another definition ("a circularity that deviates from a circular path") could be used to justify punishing eccentric behavior.
On a farm near the sea, a woman who tended her appearance reaped a reputation for eccentricity.
glare
A preoccupied child who took his bowl with one hand got a sideways glare.
singularity
Singularity does not sound like a quality that should be punished (Kingston emphasizes this throughout the chapter by showing her sympathy for and similarities with her aunt), but in the aunt's village and time, it was a quality that can cause one to be seen as dangerously eccentric.
Children and lovers have no singularity here, but my aunt used a secret voice, a separate attentiveness.
abhorrent
He may have been somebody in her own household, but intercourse with a man outside the family would have been no less abhorrent.
maelstrom
But one human being flaring up into violence could open up a black hole, a maelstrom that pulled in the sky.
severe
If my aunt had betrayed the family at a time of large grain yields and peace, when many boys were born, and wings were being built on many houses, perhaps she might have escaped such severe punishment.
infidelity
The villagers were speeding up the circling of events because she was too shortsighted to see that her infidelity had already harmed the village, that waves of consequences would return unpredictably, sometimes in disguise, as now, to hurt her.
inexorable
The definition is for "inexorable" as an adjective, but the example sentence is using it as a noun to refer to the spiritual forces that would punish the entire village for the aunt's crime. Although these forces cannot be appeased by pleas or reason, the village did try to lessen both their own and the inexorable's anger by punishing the aunt.
Awaken her to the inexorable.
culpability
People who refused fatalism because they could invent small resources insisted on culpability.
flay
Flayed, unprotected against space, she felt pain return, focusing her body.
obliterate
Sometimes a vision of normal comfort obliterated reality: she saw the family in the evening gambling at the dinner table, the young people massaging their elders’ backs.
incite
I have thought that my family, having settled among immigrants who had also been their neighbors in the ancestral land, needed to clean their name, and a wrong word would incite the kinspeople even here.
inflict
The real punishment was not the raid swiftly inflicted by the villagers, but the family’s deliberately forgetting her.

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Comments from our users:

Saturday March 2nd 2013, 4:31 AM
Comment by: Jurgens Pieterse (South Africa)
Glower was a word I learned from this list.
Friday March 15th 2013, 4:41 AM
Comment by: Manisha C.
i've got a frugal vocabulary... i have a lot to learn.

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