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Poisonwood Bible and Religion Shapes

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There are five point of views in The Poisonwood Bible. These five include Orleanna Price, Leah Price, Adah Price, Rachel Price, Ruth May Price and it is all in 1st person. Kingsolver does this to get the persepective of their life as well as their perspective on the village in Congo to see their true identity in it all.

As its title would suggest, The Poisonwood Bible studies the way that religion shapes—and at times imprisons—its characters. Nathan Price, the hypocritical patriarch of the Price family, is almost a mascot for all the ways that religion can go wrong. Yet the novel doesn’t condemn religion altogether (it is, after all, a book about missionaries who travel across the world to help the suffering). One could say that Kingsolver is offering two nuanced accounts of what it means to be religious: religion understood as a set of codes, rules, and regulations for human behavior, and religion understood as a kind of “faith”; i.e., a sense of mysticism, selfless love, and connection to others. By contrasting many different forms of belief, the novel comes to suggest that religion—or rather, “faith”—is an inescapable part of life.

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The magazine The Nation argues that The Poisonwood Bible is, fundamentally, a book about the struggle for freedom in all its different forms. (One could say that Freedom is the overarching theme of the book, while the 4 themes listed below are particularly important cases of the struggle for freedom.) As Kingsolver sees it, everything aspect of humanity—individual people, countries, etc.—participates in a natural process of growth and change that is the essence of human freedom. And yet this natural process of growing, or coming-of-age, is always under attack. In order to understand this, we’ll have to ask: 1) whose freedom are we talking about? and 2) under attack from whom or what?

Methuselah the Parrot is a simple yet perfect symbol of a description of Congo. The Parrot is always in its cage and never let out and only eats when forced to. It represents how Congo has almost zero freedom and dependeds on others for help. The bow and arrow are a traditional symbol of female empowerment (dating all the way back to the ancient Greeks, who worshipped Artemis, the bow and arrow-toting goddess of the hunt). Thus, it’s appropriate that Leah Price gets a bow and arrow around the same time that she’s also learning to distance himself from her overbearing father, and to become her own independent self.

The first—and last—important symbol in the novel is the okapi; the strange animal that Orleanna witnesses during her walk through the jungles of the Congo. As befits such an important symbol, it resists easy interpretation: at first, it seems that the okapi—an exotic African mammal, once thought to be mythical—is a symbol for the Congo itself, in all its mystery and strangeness. But as the novel goes on, and Kingsolver keeps returning to the animal, it begins to seem that the okapi is more like a symbol for the lives of the characters.

The English-speaking characters in Poisonwoodlearn a number of Congolese words, such as “bangala.” But “bangala” can mean two different, even opposite things: pronounced one way, it means “good,” but pronounced slightly differently, it means “poisonwood.” Thus, when Nathan Pricepreaches to the Congolese, he inadvertently makes them think that Jesus is a dangerous person.

There’s no better symbol for the fallacies of imperialism than the hills of soil that Mama Tatababuilds for the Prices’ garden in Kilanga. Mama Tataba knows from personal experience that the best way to grow hearty crops is to arrange the seeds with little piles of soil around each one, so that the seeds can withstands the heavy rains. But because of his arrogance, Nathaniel Price refuses to listen to Mama Tataba, and re-arranges the garden as soon as Mama Tataba is done with her work. When the rains come and Mama Tataba is proven correct, the hills of soil become a sinister symbol for the foolishness of the Western colonizers who arrived in Africa and ignored the African people’s experiences and ideas altogether.

Barbara Kingsolver uses a very unique was to tell the story which is very important. The five voices that are used throughout the story told in a first person point of view give us context and different perspectives from each of them which is super important. All four girls besides Orleanna describe their personal reflection of what is happening at that moment in time. But Orleanna’s is described from the past and her rememberence in Congo and what all happened there. Because the reader is able to see all sorts of different view points, we get such a deep perspective into all of them. Lots of the Poisonwood chapters also correlate to many main books in the bible to reflect on them.

One flaw that I belive is in The Poisonwood Bible is the repetition of nonsense that really doesn’t do anything to the story besides just make it longer. If these parts were shortened but still gives the detail, it would make me grasp on to the text more and really be interested in it. With it being so long I was never full committed to it because I felt like it just kept going on and on. The detail is still really great and gives us so much to have a perspective of, I just believe Kingsolver could have shortened it by quite a bit

Each character’s narration is her own coming of age story. The first several sections of the novel depict the family’s, specifically the girls, struggles in the Congo. Each daughter deals with the life as a missionary’s child in her own way. As three of the girls grow into women, The Poisonwood Bible begins to take a more political tone, focusing on the society and government of South Africa.       

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