WORD LISTS

An Excerpt from "The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead

April 10, 2017
Colson Whitehead's reimagining of African-American history, The Underground Railroad, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction on April 10, 2017. The novel had previously won the National Book Award this year as well. Even in the vocabulary from this small excerpt the reader gets a sense of Whitehead's vision and the care with which he portrays his characters. Here are 17 words from an excerpt from "The Underground Railroad".
exponential
Chained head to toe, head to toe, in exponential misery.
stymie
The sailors stymied her both times, versed in the schemes and inclinations of chattel.
hankering
Her first husband developed a hankering for corn whiskey and started using his big hands to make big fists.
simper
Her simpering posture and piteous aspect, recognizable from thousands of slaves before her, betrayed her intentions.
froth
A young buck from strong tribal stock got customers into a froth.
glut
She would have fetched more but for that sea- son’s glut of young girls.
noxious
The noxious air of the hold, the gloom of confinement, and the screams of those shackled to her contrived to drive Ajarry to madness.
chattel
The sailors stymied her both times, versed in the schemes and inclinations of chattel.
disparate
Masters and mistresses in degrees of wickedness, estates of disparate means and ambition.
renowned
There was a bidding war over a group of Ashanti studs, those Africans of renowned industry and musculature, and the foreman of a lime- stone quarry bought a bunch of pickaninnies in an astounding bargain.
piteous
Her simpering posture and piteous aspect, recognizable from thousands of slaves before her, betrayed her intentions.
relinquish
A broken calabash was worth less than one that held its water, a hook that kept its catfish more prized than one that relinquished its bait.
fetter
She was branded, not for the first or last time, and fettered to the rest of the day’s acquisitions.
stagger
The captain staggered his purchases, rather than find himself with cargo of singular culture and disposition.
salvation
She enjoyed the stories and parables and supposed that white men had a point: Talk of salvation could give an African ideas.
magistrate
The diagrams were convincing, but in the end Ajarry was another asset liquidated by order of the magistrate.
disposition
The captain staggered his purchases, rather than find himself with cargo of singular culture and disposition.

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