Analysis of Book Titles in the Poisonwood Bible Essay
1313 WordsFeb 2nd, 20136 Pages
AnalysisPart II: Analysis of Book Titles
Just like the first book in the Bible, the first book of The Poisonwood Bible is named Genesis. As well as the beginning, Genesis can also mean rebirth. When characters arrive in the Congo they realize the things they brought with them are changed by Africa and can no longer be as they once were. In this way, Genesis symbolizes the process of becoming their new selves. For instance, the first chapter in The Poisonwood Bible, narrated by Orleanna, strongly shows the guilt that the Congo had left her to live with after the death of Ruth May. Likewise, Eve, the first woman in Genesis, forced all of mankind to shoulder the guilt of eating the forbidden fruit.
“I trod on Africa without a…show more content…
“At last it is Independence Day, for Methuselah and the Congo” (185).
The Judges The Book of Judges is the hardest title to analyze as far as relation to the text goes. However the quote from the Bible at the beginning of this book in The Poisonwood Bible gives a hint as to why Kingsolver might have chosen this name. It says, “And ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; ye shall throw down their altars…” (187). This quote, in the biblical sense, shows that God does not want the Israelites to associate themselves with the Canaanites or practice their beliefs, the main theme of the Book of Judges. However, the Israelites continue to practice pagan beliefs and intermarry with the people of Canaan while the Judges come back time and time again to save them. This situation is akin to Nathan’s relationship with the Price woman, especially Leah who stops believing in Nathan and God and builds her new religion from Anatole. This period in the book is when the girls no longer believe in Nathan, and therefore God, just like the Israelites after they conquered Canaan.
“There’s a great holy war going on in my father’s mind, in which we’re meant to duck and run and obey orders and fight for all the right things, but I can’t always make out the orders or even tell which side I’m on exactly” (244).
“I felt the breath of God grow cold on my skin” (310).
Bel and the Serpent Barbra Kingsolver made a few obvious connections to Bel and the
October 16, 1998
BOOKS OF THE TIMES'The Poisonwood Bible': A Family a Heart of Darkness
By MICHIKO KAKUTANI
THE POISONWOOD BIBLE
By Barbara Kingsolver.
546 pp. New York:
Harper Flamingo. $26.
The novel's central character, a fiery evangelical missionary named Nathan Price, is part Roger Chillingworth, the coldhearted, judgmental villain of Hawthorne's "Scarlet Letter," and part Ahab, Melville's monomaniacal captain who risks his own life and the lives of those closest to him in pursuit of his obsessive vision.
On the surface, certainly, "Poisonwood" might seem to have little in common with Ms. Kingsolver's earlier work ("The Bean Trees," "Pigs in Heaven," "Animal Dreams," "Homeland and Other Stories"), fiction set for the most part in the American South and Southwest and dealing, most memorably, with the plight of single mothers trying to sort out their lives.
These previous works, however, also grappled with social injustice, with the intersection of public events with private concerns and the competing claims of community and individual will -- some of the very themes that animate the saga of Nathan Price and his family and their journey into the heart of darkness.
Narrated in alternating chapters by Nathan's wife, Orleanna, and their four daughters, Rachel, Leah, Adah and Ruth May, "The Poisonwood Bible" begins with the arrival of the Price family in the remote Congolese village of Kilanga -- a tiny cluster of mud houses devoid of all the ordinary amenities of life back home in "the easy land of ice cream cones and new Keds sneakers and We like Ike." Here, there are plagues of killer ants, hordes of malaria-carrying mosquitoes and unseen parasites, and lions and tarantulas and snakes -- a fearsome world of nature whose perils are magnified by political and racial tensions.
Moving fluently from one point of view to another, Ms. Kingsolver does a nimble job of delineating the Price girls' responses to Africa and their father's decision to uproot them. At 15, Rachel, the whiny would-be beauty queen who "cares for naught but appearances," can think only of what she misses: the five-day deodorant pads she forgot to bring, flush toilets, machine-washed clothes and other things, as she says with her willful gift for malapropism, that she has taken "for granite."
Steven L. Hopp/ HarperFlamingo
All this while their mother, Orleanna, struggles with the hardships of daily life -- toting and disinfecting the family's water, scrambling to make ends meet and trying to protect her family from the myriad terrors of the bush.
Orleanna's misgivings about her husband mount as his hubris and utter selfishness become more and more apparent. Although the local people are reluctant to abandon their traditional deities (and fearful of baptizing their children in the crocodile-infested waters of the nearby river), Nathan vows to convert them. He proves equally oblivious to the welfare of his own family when he refuses their entreaties to leave -- even in the face of illness and escalating violence against whites. Indeed he will end up sacrificing the life of one of his daughters to his self-righteous beliefs.
Nathan, of course, is meant to represent the patronizing attitude of white colonialists toward Africa -- and the devastating legacy of violence they bequeathed to regions like the Congo. Such efforts by Ms. Kingsolver to turn the story of the Price family into a social allegory can be heavy-handed at times, transforming many of her characters into one-dimensional pawns in a starkly lit morality play.
Orleanna, it's clear, is a symbol of the not-so-innocent bystander, whose own passivity keeps her from speaking up against the crimes of others; Rachel is a symbol of the selfish pragmatist, who puts her own desires before the needs of others; and Rachel's lover, a white mercenary and diamond smuggler named Axelroot is a symbol of foreign meddling in the Congo. Even the Prices' pet parrot, Methuselah (long accustomed to living in a cage and eaten by a wild animal once it is released), becomes a symbol of the Congo's newly won independence -- independence that swiftly devolves into violence under the dictatorial rule of the Cold War strongman Mobutu Sese Seko.
One of the things that keeps "The Poisonwood Bible" from becoming overly schematic and lends the novel a fierce emotional undertow is Ms. Kingsolver's love of detail, her eye for the small facts of daily life: the Betty Crocker cake mixes, carefully carried to Kilanga, that won't work in Orleanna's primitive African kitchen; the Clorox bleach, "measured out like the Blood of the Lamb" to wash the local produce; the endless bargaining the Congolese, under Mobutu's regime, must conduct for everything from a kidney-stone operation to a postage stamp.
In addition, Ms. Kingsolver endows two of her narrators, Leah and Adah, with a sympathetic intelligence that reveals both their girlish difficulties in coping with their family's plight and their maturing need to make sense of the world for themselves.
In watching these two Price sisters grow up -- one will become a doctor in America; the other, the wife of a Congolese activist jailed for opposing Mobutu -- the reader is made to understand not only the ways in which a father's sins are visited upon (and expiated by) his children, but also the ways in which private lives can be shaped and shattered by public events.
As Leah will observe many years later, "We've all ended up giving up body and soul to Africa, one way or another." Each of us, she adds, "got our heart buried in six feet of African dirt; we are all co-conspirators here."
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