Mentally "stepping over the border lines of the map" like a game of emotional hopscotch, Maya, returned by train without explanation to the "Southern bitter wormwood" of Stamps, fears that she will drop off the edge of the earth. Sensitive to scrutiny since her brutal St. Louis experience, she rejects Uncle Willie's pity as the sympathy of a cripple. Unmoored from past security, she allies herself spiritually and academically with Mrs. Bertha Flowers, a mannerly, gossamer presence "sweet-milk fresh," whose "lessons in living" introduce her to the refined art of recitation. The boost in self-esteem is the lifeline that Maya needs to carry her through post-rape trauma. Inexplicably, Momma Henderson, a perpetual enforcer eager to carry out her interpretation of scriptural decree, shatters Maya's upbeat mood by forcing her to her knees and whipping her for (unknowingly) slighting God. The senseless violence to Maya's spirit, although not on a par with Mr. Freeman's rupture of her tender body, epitomizes the children's complete powerlessness at the whims of adults.
double entendres expressions which carry two possible interpretations, one of which is often coarse or obscene.
moors grassy wastelands, often the misty, mysterious settings in Gothic fiction.
scones and crumpets biscuits and cakes usually served with tea.
morocco-bound covered in fine leather.
two last names divided by a hyphen the European custom of naming a child both the father's and mother's surnames.
French seams a method of doubly securing two pieces of cloth by folding over the edges of a seam and sewing a second time.
Pride is a sin . . . it goeth before a fall a paraphrase of Proverbs 16:18.
brother would turn against brother an approximation of Mark 13:12.
a gnashing of teeth a frequent New Testament image, found in Matthew 8:12,13:42, 22:13, 24:51, 25:30, and Luke 13:28.