Most critics consider The Poisonwood Bible to be Barbara Kingsolver’s most ambitious and serious work. The book’s narrative develops out of Kingsolver’s conviction that life is political on all levels. Her other novels showcase social or political wrongs on a small scale. The Poisonwood Bible is global in its perspective and involves matters of faith, cultural negation, colonial power, psychological and physical domestic abuse, and American interference in the internal workings of a nation neither cared about nor really understood by these same Americans. All these themes intersect in the lives of one family from Bethlehem, Georgia, who arrive in Africa with a misguided sense of their importance and mission.
Critics agree on the political commentary in the novel, but they differ in their assessments of how significant that commentary is in the end. To highlight how Kingsolver uses her characters to generate ideas about the colonial presence of Westerners in Africa, it will be helpful to consider the members of the Price family, and the story’s male characters, individually. In addition to furthering the plot, each character contributes a perspective that suggests wider implications for the story as a whole.
The four Price girls represent a range of responses to life in Africa. The self-centered approach of Rachel, the eldest daughter, leads her to exploit every circumstance or person to make her own life more...
(The entire section is 1340 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of The Poisonwood Bible Critical Essays. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!