Shantytown (noun) – a usually poor town or section of a town consisting mostly of shanties
Taken from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “You in America”
“They trooped into the shantytown house in Lagos, standing beside the nail-studded zinc walls because chairs did not go round, to say good bye in loud voices and tell you with lowered voices what they wanted you to send them.”
Shantytown was ysed to describe the area that the narrator lives in. Knowing the meaning of this word helped me understand that she grew up in poverty and explains why the peolle in her place yearns for that “American dream”, to get away from their poor situation.
Vigil- An event or a period of time when a person or group stays in a place and quietly waits, prays, etc., especially at night
“The honor of his art forbade it. Naturally, none of the watchers understood that. Sometimes there were nightly groups of watchers who carried out their vigil very laxly, deliberately sitting together in a distant corner and putting all their attention into playing cards there, clearly intending to allow the hunger artist a small refreshment, which, according to their way of thinking, he could get from some secret supplies.” -The Hunger Artist
In this situation a group of people come by and fail to understand why the hunger artist is the way he is, trying to spare some refreshments and attention. The word perfectly describes this scenario as watchers look on to the artist, despite the signals given that means that their actions are unwelcomed.
Fatuity- Something foolish or stupid
“Looked at in one way each breadth stands alone, the bloated curves and flourishes—a kind of “debased Romanesque” with delirium tremens—go waddling up and down in isolated columns of fatuity.” -The Yellow Wallpaper
Much of this story goes into detail describing the environment, many of these descriptions being heavily opinionated based on the context. There is an immense obsession over the wallpaper, thoughts going back and forth over it’s design. Fatuity in this case is being used to describe how strange, even nonsensical the wallpapers design is.
Tableau- A graphic depiction or representation
“None of the young men were quite good enough for Miss Emily and such. We had long thought of them as a tableau, Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father a spraddled silhouette in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip, the two of them framed by the back-flung front door. So when she got to be thirty and was still single, we were not pleased exactly, but vindicated; even with insanity in the family she wouldn’t have turned down all of her chances if they had really materialized.” -A Rose for Emily
The word falls in line with the dark themes found in the story through the use of negative descriptions and imagery. The story describes Emily’s character in detail based on an outsiders view, allowing the reader to see what the narrators say. The tone is set thanks to this information that is learned, hence why the word lends itself so nicely with this passage.
Exalted (verb)- to raise in rank, power, or character
“She did not stop to ask if it were or were not a monstrous joy that held her. A clear and exalted perception enabled her to dismiss the suggestion as trivial. She knew that she would weep again when she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death; the face that had never looked save with love upon her, fixed and gray and dead. ” –The Story of an Hour
The word was used in order to describe how Mrs. Mallard’s feelings were essentially enhanced at the moment. A sudden jump in her happiness is expressed at the very moment when she learns that her husband is dead, though also comes to an understanding that it is still a serious circumstance she would be stuck in.
The Shawl by Louise Edrich
“But we still have sorrows that are passed to us from early generations, sorrows to handle in addition to our own and cruelties lodged where we cannot forget them. We have the need to forget. We are always walking on oblivion edge”
Oblivion: the state of being forgotten, especially by the public
As a Native American, the character/narrator in this passage is a part of American history that is not spoken about very often and even then is expressed in very vague and incomplete ways. His entire culture and his people are on the verge of extinction and they are very much like living ghost.