extending out above or beyond a surface or boundary
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.
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.
strong and sharp, as a taste or smell
They overturned the great waist-high earthenware jugs; duck eggs, pickled fruits, vegetables burst out and mixed in
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.
not serious in content, attitude, or behavior
Whenever we did
frivolous things, we used up energy; we flew high kites.
extramarital sexual relations
Adultery, perhaps only a mistake during good times, became a crime when the village needed food.
the quality of exceeding appropriate limits
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
turn away or aside
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.
look angry or sullen as if to signal disapproval
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.
draw someone's attention away from something
Perhaps they had thrown her out to
deflect the avengers.
represented accurately or precisely
But the rare urge west had fixed upon our family, and so my aunt crossed boundaries not
delineated in space.
the quality of extreme wickedness
Fear at the
enormities of the forbidden kept her desires delicate, wire and bone.
given to merry frolicking
It could very well have been, however, that my aunt did not take subtle enjoyment of her friend, but, a wild woman, kept
strange and unconventional behavior
On a farm near the sea, a woman who tended her appearance reaped a reputation for
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.
an angry stare
A preoccupied child who took his bowl with one hand got a sideways
the quality of being one of a kind
Children and lovers have no
singularity here, but my aunt used a secret voice, a separate attentiveness.
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.
offensive to the mind
He may have been somebody in her own household, but intercourse with a man outside the family would have been no less
a powerful circular current of water
But one human being flaring up into violence could open up a black hole, a
maelstrom that pulled in the sky.
unsparing and uncompromising in discipline or judgment
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
the quality of being unfaithful
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.
impossible to prevent, resist, or stop
Awaken her to the
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.
a state of guilt
People who refused fatalism because they could invent small resources insisted on
strip the skin off
Flayed, unprotected against space, she felt pain return, focusing her body.
remove completely from recognition or memory
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.
provoke or stir up
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.
impose something unpleasant
The real punishment was not the raid swiftly
inflicted by the villagers, but the family’s deliberately forgetting her.