The Characteristics of Three Daughters in Barbara Kingsolver's Novel "The Poisonwood Bible"

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Barbara Kingsolver flawlessly uses voice to characterize each of the Price daughters in the novel, “The Poisonwood Bible.” She utilizes voice in a few ways to differentiate each of the sisters. Each sibling uses a different type of language that creates their own unique style when describing their lives. The Price daughters’ interpretations of events also contrast because of bias and other factors. To start, Rachel is the oldest sister and has a self-assured tone.

However, her language lacks intelligence and is filled with incorrect grammar. She is characterized as someone who does not want to improve themselves and is entirely reliant on her physical beauty. Her diction phrases such as “Man oh man,” “Oh, brother,” and “Jeez oh man” show her immaturity and the undeveloped language. However, Leah is very pious and the reader can tell through her diction usage and tone. She uses religious phrases and describes her father a lot. This shows that she has the most respect for him and has the most in common with Nathan. In this quote, she says, “If only I could never bring forth all that I knew quickly enough to suit Father,” (Kingsolver 37). This supports her characterization of trying to please her father and devoted to the Lord. The other sister is Ruth May. She is the youngest Price sibling and does not have a sophisticated vocabulary or language usage. It shows in her perspective that she mostly relates to the less important events compared to the main plot. Because of her age, she simply explains the events instead of interpreting them and voicing her opinion.

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For example, “The man in the church said they’re different from us and needs ought to keep their own. Jimmy Crow says that, and he makes the laws…. Their day for the zoo is Thursday. That’s in the Bible,” (Kingsolver 20). This quote shows Ruth May’s young ignorance and her reciting what she hears exactly without analysis. Lastly, Adah is highly intelligent and engulfed in the English language and its grammar. She is the only one in her family to truly appreciate and understand the true nature of the Kikongo language. She describes events and people in great depth and is proven to have an expansive vocabulary in the way she speaks. As she says, “Leah and Adah began our life as images mirror perfect. We have the same eyes dark and chestnut hair. But I am a lame gallimaufry and she remains perfect,” (Kingsolver 26). Also, Adah’s syntax strongly dictates her voice in the novel because her thoughts are more expansive and well thought out. For example, “The rest of her seemed unalive, like a pale wax model of my mother: the woman who could not fight fire with fire, even to save her own children,” (Kingsolver 140). I would say Adah’s voice is the most compelling to me because her mind works completely different in comparison to the rest of her sisters. Adah’s voice is also compelling because of her strong tone. Her tone throughout the novel is honest, however, it is not dominant and assertive. She is the most open-minded individual in the Price family nonetheless and this is mostly to contribute to her limp and nondiscriminatory personality. Adah’s pureness and natural grace may be the root of jealousy on why Rachel despised her all along. It could be that Rachel realized that Adah’s intelligence is one trait that she could never possess.

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