WORD LISTS

"The Grapes of Wrath," Vocabulary from Chapters 1-8

October 5, 2013
As you read John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath," learn this word list that focuses on dust and heat. Here are links to our lists for the novel: Chapters 1-8, Chapters 9-15, Chapters 16-19, Chapters 20-24, Chapters 25-30
dissipate
"Dissipate" also means "spend frivolously and unwisely"--this definition does not fit the example sentence, but it will soon be a rare action in the lives of the Joads, and it was used in an introductory description of the author Steinbeck: "His work demanded his attention so fully that he finally refused to dissipate his energy in extra-literary pursuits."
In the last part of May the sky grew pale and the clouds that had hung in high puffs for so long in the spring were dissipated.
flare
The sun flared down on the growing corn day after day until a line of brown spread along the edge of each green bayonet.
fray
The weeds frayed and edged back toward their roots.
sluggish
The rain crust broke and the dust lifted up out of the fields and drove gray plumes into the air like sluggish smoke.
cunning
The use of the adverb "cunningly" to describe the wind personifies it as a clever villain that fights with the corn by digging and uprooting so that it could only accuse its murderer with the position of its fallen body.
During a night the wind raced faster over the land, dug cunningly among the rootlets of the corn, and the corn fought the wind with its weakened leaves until the roots were freed by the prying wind and then each stalk settled wearily sideways toward the earth and pointed the direction of the wind.
pierce
When the night came again it was black night, for the stars could not pierce the dust to get down, and the window lights could not even spread beyond their own yards.
emulsion
Now the dust was evenly mixed with the air, an emulsion of dust and air.
sift
All day the dust sifted down from the sky, and the next day it sifted down. An even blanket covered the earth.
bemused
After a while the faces of the watching men lost their bemused perplexity and became hard and angry and resistant.
insinuation
His voice had the same quality of secrecy and insinuation his eyes had.
subtle
The questions of the driver had the tone of a subtle examination.
significant
The driver looked significantly at the fields along the road where the corn was fallen sideways and the dust was piled on it.
shimmer
He looked out over the fields, at the shimmering air, and gathering his gum into his cheek, out of the way, he spat out the window.
testily
“Well, it ain’t no goddamn cinch,” he said testily.
plod
Joad plodded along, dragging his cloud of dust behind him.
pique
“Goin’ someplace,” Joad explained, a little piqued.
strive
The plants strove against the sun.
sparse
The willows of a stream lined across the west, and to the northwest a fallow section was going back to sparse brush.
wane
Now that the sun was on the wane some of its impact was gone, and while the air was hot, the hammering rays were weaker.
snub
"Snub" is used as an adjective here, but as a verb, it means "refuse to acknowledge" or "reject outright and bluntly" and as a noun, it means "an instance of driving away and warding off"--all these definitions also fit how the tractors and drivers interact with the tenant farmers who are being plowed out of their land and house.
Snub-nosed monsters, raising the dust and sticking their snouts into it, straight down the country, across the country, through fences, through dooryards, in and out of gullies in straight lines.
beseech
He did not know or own or trust or beseech the land.
wither
If the young thrusting plant withered in drought or drowned in a flood of rain, it was no more to the driver than to the tractor.
cultivated
Where the dooryard had been pounded hard by the bare feet of children and by stamping horses’ hooves and by the broad wagon wheels, it was cultivated now, and the dark green, dusty cotton grew.
truculent
"Petulant" means "easily irritated or annoyed" and "scowl" means "frown with displeasure"--these two words describe the truculent look of Muley, whose name is also indicative of his mood ("mulish" means "unreasonably rigid in the face of argument or entreaty or attack").
Muley’s face was smooth and unwrinkled, but it wore the truculent look of a bad child, the mouth held tight and small, the little eyes half scowling, half petulant.
linger
A large red drop of sun lingered on the horizon and then dripped over and was gone, and the sky was brilliant over the spot where it had gone, and a torn cloud, like a bloody rag, hung over the spot of its going.
insubstantial
The sky grayed among the stars, and the pale, late quarter-moon was insubstantial and thin.
hackles
Now all dogs met and hackles rose, and they all growled and stood stiffly, each waiting for the others to start a fight.
animosity
Two rangy shepherd dogs trotted up pleasantly, until they caught the scent of strangers, and then they backed cautiously away, watchful, their tails moving slowly and tentatively in the air, but their eyes and noses quick for animosity or danger.
cantankerous
"Lecherous" means "given to excessive indulgence in sexual activity"--both adjectives describe Grampa, who seems to embody both the life-affirming and conflict-creating qualities of heat and dust.
A cantankerous, complaining, mischievous, laughing face. He fought and argued, told dirty stories. He was as lecherous as always.
malice
His little eyes glittered with malice. “Lookut him,” he said. “A jailbird. Ain’t been no Joads in jail for a hell of a time.”

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