Act I

In the 1940s, a working class African-American family in Chicago must decide how to best spend a ten-thousand dollar insurance payout.


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Explore the Words


definitions & notes
only words

  1. defer

    hold back to a later time
    What happens to a dream
    deferred?
  2. fester

    ripen and generate pus
    Or
    fester like a sore...
  3. muffle

    conceal or hide
    She calls to the boy, between yawns, in a slightly
    muffled voice.
  4. rousing

    capable of stirring enthusiasm or excitement
    She crosses to her son and gives him a good, final,
    rousing shake.
  5. stupor

    marginal consciousness
    (Her son sits up at last, in a
    stupor of sleepiness) I say hurry up, Travis!
  6. disheveled

    in disarray; extremely disorderly
    She wipes her face with a moist cloth and runs her fingers through her sleep-disheveled hair in a vain effort and ties an apron around her housecoat.
  7. erratic

    likely to perform unpredictably
    He is a lean, intense young man in his middle thirties, inclined to quick nervous movements and
    erratic speech habits and always in his voice there is a quality of indictment.
  8. indictment

    an accusation of wrongdoing
    He is a lean, intense young man in his middle thirties, inclined to quick nervous movements and erratic speech habits and always in his voice there is a quality of
    indictment.
  9. exasperated

    greatly annoyed; out of patience
    (The boy gives her an
    exasperated look for her lack of understanding, and eats grudgingly)
  10. vindicated

    freed from any question of guilt
    (The boy finally turns around and rolls his eyes at her, knowing the mood has changed and he is
    vindicated; he does not, however, move toward her yet) Not for nothing in this world!
  11. defiance

    a hostile challenge
    Walter stands and stares back at her with
    defiance, and suddenly reaches into his pocket again on an afterthought)
  12. chauffeur

    a man paid to drive a privately owned car
    (Shrugging) So you would rather be Mr. Arnold than be his
    chauffeur?
  13. permeate

    spread or diffuse through
    Her speech is a mixture of many things; it is different from the rest of the family's insofar as education has
    permeated her sense of English and perhaps the Midwest rather than the South has finally at last won out in her inflection; but not altogether, because over all of it is a soft slurring and transformed use of vowels which is the decided influence of the Southside.
  14. inflection

    the patterns of stress and intonation in a language
    Her speech is a mixture of many things; it is different from the rest of the family's insofar as education has permeated her sense of English and perhaps the Midwest rather than the South has finally at last won out in her
    inflection; but not altogether, because over all of it is a soft slurring and transformed use of vowels which is the decided influence of the Southside.
  15. slur

    utter indistinctly
    Her speech is a mixture of many things; it is different from the rest of the family's insofar as education has permeated her sense of English and perhaps the Midwest rather than the South has finally at last won out in her inflection; but not altogether, because over all of it is a soft
    slurring and transformed use of vowels which is the decided influence of the Southside.
  16. vengeance

    harming someone in retaliation for something they have done
    She closes the door with a sleepy
    vengeance and crosses to the table and sits down a little defeated.
  17. feeble

    pathetically lacking in force or effectiveness
    She crosses through the room, goes to the window, opens it, and brings in a
    feeble little plant growing doggedly in a small pot on the window sill.
  18. doggedly

    with obstinate determination
    She crosses through the room, goes to the window, opens it, and brings in a feeble little plant growing
    doggedly in a small pot on the window sill.
  19. ledger

    a record in which commercial accounts are recorded
    But whether I go into business selling it to 'em is, and I don't want that on my
    ledger this late in life.
    In context, "ledger" refers to a person's "book of life" or "metaphorical record book where one's actions were kept."
  20. tentatively

    in a hesitant manner
    (She waits several seconds, trying to make up her mind about something, and looks at RUTH a little
    tentatively before going on) Been thinking that we maybe could meet the notes on a little old two-story somewhere, with a yard where Travis could play in the summertime, if we use part of the insurance for a down payment and everybody kind of pitch in.
  21. furtively

    in a secretive manner
    Ruth (Studying her mother-in-law
    furtively and concentrating on her ironing, anxious to encourage without seeming to): Well, Lord knows, we've put enough rent into this here rat trap to pay for four houses by now.
  22. raucous

    unpleasantly loud and harsh
    (Mama and Ruth look at each other and burst into
    raucous laughter) Don't worry I don't expect you to understand.
  23. neurotic

    a person suffering from a mental disturbance causing worry
    Brother isn't really crazy yet he he's an elaborate
    neurotic.
  24. dreary

    lacking in liveliness or charm or surprise
    (She looks out of the window as she replaces the plant) Lord, ain't nothing as
    dreary as the view from this window on a
    dreary day, is there?
  25. insecticide

    a chemical used to kill bugs
    Beneatha, in dungarees, with a handkerchief tied around her face, is spraying
    insecticide into the cracks in the walls.
  26. idle

    not in action or at work
    Travis, the sole
    idle one, is leaning on his arms, looking out of the window.
  27. bastion

    a stronghold for shelter during a battle
    Travis (Safely behind the
    bastion of Mama) That's right look out, now!
    In this case, the body is viewed as a shield.
  28. dejection

    a state of melancholy depression
    Ruth comes in forlornly and pulls off her coat with
    dejection.
  29. quizzical

    perplexed
    Beneatha (Turning to him, not laughing) Yes (Her face is
    quizzical, profoundly disturbed)
  30. incredulity

    doubt about the truth of something
    Beneatha (With
    incredulity) You—you sent all the way home for me?
  31. liberated

    free from traditional social restraints
    Asagai: It's how you can be sure that the world's most
    liberated women are not
    liberated at all.
  32. evade

    use cunning or deceit to escape or avoid
    Beneatha: You're
    evading.
  33. haphazardly

    in a random manner
    She sets the headdress on
    haphazardly and then notices her hair again and clutches at it and then replaces the headdress and frowns at herself.
  34. exasperation

    a feeling of annoyance
    Ruth (turns to her, with kind
    exasperation): You've gone and got yourself upset.
  35. frantically

    in an uncontrolled manner
    Walter (sits down and grasps it close and counts off the zeros) Ten thousand dollars (He turns suddenly,
    frantically to his mother and draws some papers out of his breast pocket) Mama, look.
Created on February 9, 2013
(updated July 30, 2018)