WORD LISTS

"Things Fall Apart," Vocabulary from Part One: Chapters 1-5

March 22, 2013
Immerse yourself in the words of Chinua Achebe's 1958 novel, which has been hailed as a milestone for African literature.

Here are links to all our word lists for the novel: Part One: Chapters 1-5, Part One: Chapters 6-9, Part One: Chapters 10-13, Part Two: Chapters 14-19, Part Three: Chapters 20-25
severe
He was tall and huge, and his bushy eyebrows and wide nose gave him a very severe look.
stammer
He had a slight stammer and whenever he was angry and could not get his words out quickly enough, he would use his fists.
improvident
The pronoun "he" refers to Okonkwo's father Unoka, and this description is the opposite of Okonkwo's nature. Okonkwo is the man he is because Unoka was not the man he should've been.
In his day he was lazy and improvident and was quite incapable of thinking about tomorrow.
prowess
To crown it all he had taken two titles and had shown incredible prowess in two inter-tribal wars.
discern
In describing how Okonkwo "discerned a clear overtone of tragedy," Achebe is emphasizing that his character is a human with reason and emotions (which deliberately contrasts with the Africans described in Conrad's Heart of Darkness).
He had discerned a clear overtone of tragedy in the crier's voice, and even now he could still hear it as it grew dimmer and dimmer in the distance.
suppressed
Okonkwo finds an outlet to release his anger by beating his wife and shooting a loaded gun at her, and "in spite of this incident the New Yam Festival was celebrated with great joy in Okonkwo's household." But when the British colonize Umuofia, Okonkwo will struggle with suppressing his own anger at being suppressed, and the consequences of his failure to do so will not be as forgiving.
Okonkwo, who had been walking about aimlessly in his compound in suppressed anger, suddenly found an outlet.
imperious
And so when Okonkwo of Umuofia arrived at Mbaino as the proud and imperious emissary of war, he was treated with great honor and respect, and two days later he returned home with a lad of fifteen and a young virgin.
emissary
And so when Okonkwo of Umuofia arrived at Mbaino as the proud and imperious emissary of war, he was treated with great honor and respect, and two days later he returned home with a lad of fifteen and a young virgin.
perpetual
His wives, especially the youngest, lived in perpetual fear of his fiery temper, and so did his little children.
dominate
Note that "dominate" is being used passively in the example sentence. Although Okonkwo likes to actively dominate others, he cannot control his own fear of weakness and failure. His fear of being dominated by failure and weakness drives him to dominate others so that they wouldn't have the strength to notice or point out any of his weaknesses or failures.
But his whole life was dominated by fear, the fear of failure and of weakness.
capricious
It was deeper and more intimate than the fear of evil and capricious gods and of magic, the fear of the forest, and of the forces of nature, malevolent, red in tooth and claw.
resent
Even as a little boy he had resented his father's failure and weakness, and even now he still remembered how he had suffered when a playmate had told him that his father was agbala.
incipient
Okonkwo's first son, Nwoye, was then twelve years old but was already causing his father great anxiety for his incipient laziness.
prosperity
Okonkwo's prosperity was visible in his household.
contemptible
And indeed he was possessed by the fear of his father's contemptible life and shameful death.
strive
And so at a very early age when he was striving desperately to build a barn through share-cropping Okonkwo was also fending for his father's house.
consolation
He had one consolation. The yams he had sown before the drought were his own, the harvest of the previous year. He still had the eight hundred from Nwakibie and the four hundred from his father's friend. So he would make a fresh start.
despair
It always surprised him when he thought of it later that he did not sink under the load of despair.
inflexible
Okonkwo is using "inflexible" as a positive adjective to describe his strength. But Achebe is also hinting at the definition of "incapable of adapting or changing to meet circumstances"--a quality that will end up breaking Okonkwo.
"Since I survived that year," he always said, "I shall survive anything." He put it down to his inflexible will.
poverty
He was talking about Okonkwo, who had risen so suddenly from great poverty and misfortune to be one of the lords of the clan.
industry
Indeed he respected him for his industry and success.
brusqueness
But he was struck, as most people were, by Okonkwo's brusqueness in dealing with less successful men.
contradict
Only a week ago a man had contradicted him at a kindred meeting which they held to discuss the next ancestral feast.
fond
Even Okonkwo himself became very fond of the boy - inwardly of course.
communal
Sometimes when he went to big village meetings or communal ancestral feasts he allowed Ikemefuna to accompany him, like a son, carrying his stool and his goatskin bag.
provoke
Okonkwo was provoked to justifiable anger by his youngest wife, who went to plait her hair at her friend's house and did not return early enough to cook the afternoon meal.
restraint
Did she take them?" he asked with unusual coolness and restraint.
repentant
Inwardly, he was repentant. But he was not the man to go about telling his neighbors that he was in error.
deft
Sometimes he decided that a yam was too big to be sown as one seed and he split it deftly along its length with his sharp knife.
subdue
He trembled with the desire to conquer and subdue.

Rate this wordlist:

Do you have a comment?

Share it with the Visual Thesaurus community.

Your comments:

Sign in to post a comment!

We're sorry, you must be a subscriber to comment.

Click here to subscribe today.

Already a subscriber? Click here to login.

Create a new Word List