Context: I would like to talk about how a book questions the reader's traditional, conservative values about family structures. I want to say we are introduced to a shared household wherein there isn't a typical nuclear family structure, the children are not trained in table manners and everything is loud, lively and disorganised. This contrasts the presumed reader (at the time)'s traditional beliefs that a house should have a nuclear family, children should be taught table manners, etc.

The sentence I want to say is, "The reader is positioned to feel [insert word], as their beliefs are subverted and challenged."

Words I've tried so far:

  • Unsettled
  • Uneasy
  • Disturbed

These are the closest words I could find but I feel like they have a more negative association, and creates a malaise in the reader. I feel that the effect of the book is more subtle and just lightly 'shocks' the reader, positioning them to just take notice of their preconceived beliefs, rather than evoke a negative reaction.

  • Destabilise
  • Bewildered

These words suggest that the representation of these households are completely weird and confusing, however, that is not the case. It's not so weird that a reader wouldn't comprehend it, these households are just different to the mainstream households.

Source for definitions: Google dictionary

  • Would "surprised" work? Something which is not expected happens.
    – dubious
    May 17 at 8:30
  • Unsettling or disturbing are commonly used for art which challenges or disturbs the viewer; it's only a negative thing if you don't want art to be challenging. (Googling unsettling art etc will give a lot of examples)
    – Stuart F
    May 17 at 9:18
  • 1
    How about "jarred" or "jolted"? I don't think these have a necessarily negative connotation, and they work well with adverbs like "somewhat", if you're willing to use those. May 17 at 9:31
  • what about "disconcerted" (which implies an upsetting of equanimity or assurance producing uncertainty or hesitancy) ?
    – Graffito
    May 17 at 9:54
  • 1
    disoriented... May 17 at 14:08

2 Answers 2



Dismayed: experiencing or showing feelings of alarmed concern or dismay : upset, worried, or agitated because of some unwelcome situation or occurrence.


Have you considered "enlightened" or "illuminated" if you would like positive connotations? Or maybe a two word phrase using something like "acutely" would do better: eg. "acutely jarred", "acutely disturbed" or "acutely disrupted".

As a note; upon verifying the definition of acutely, it seems to be defined as "completely or extremely". However, in my experience it can refer to something that is nuanced and requires perception. This is backed up by one of Google's definitions being "in a way that shows a perceptive understanding or insight". A less ambiguous word might be "subtly" but it lacks the connotations of a broadening world view.

The word "exposed" can be defined as "uncovered so that it can be seen" and seems to give the intended feel, but I'm not sure how you'd work it into your sentence without a restructuring.

[note, have just read another comment and "challenged" seems suitable too]


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