Perkins is a professor of American and English literature and film. In this essay, she examines the theme of survival.
The threats to the Price family's physical survival in The Poisonwood Bible are obvious and immediate. They must find enough food to eat, stay away from poisonous snakes and tarantulas, and guard against dysentery and malaria. Less obvious but more complex are the personal obstacles that they face. One such problem is created by Nathan's religious fanaticism, fueled by his own insecurities, which prevents him from successfully adapting to his surroundings. His inability to overcome this obstacle ultimately destroys two lives—his and Ruth May's. The rest of the Price family are able to cope with many physical and personal trials during their time in the Congo. Yet, like the malaria that lingers in their systems long after their escape from Kilanga, emotional damage remains, which has a profound effect on the next three decades of their lives.
As they are taught by the villagers to keep external dangers at bay, the Price women learn how to evade, to adapt, and to confront internal obstacles to their survival. Initially, they face a profound sense of culture shock compounded by their homesickness after their relocation to a foreign, often dangerous world. Their first response is to try to hold onto their American identity. They bring with them artifacts from American culture, like Underwood deviled ham, Band-Aids,...
(The entire section is 1533 words.)
Elaine R. Ognibene
In the following essay, Ognibene discusses the author's elucidation of how a dominating culture shrouds the truth about greed and power in the "scriptural rhetoric" of "righteous zeal and religious reckoning" while exploring the complexities of "clashing cultural views."
In his history of the Congo during the reign of Belgium's King Leopold (1876–1909), Adam Hochschild tells a riveting and terrifying story of greed and terror, as well as what he terms the "politics of forgetting" the hard truths that have emerged over the last hundred years or so. He shows how a dominant European and American technique for diverting attention from the truth involved a language of righteous zeal and religious reckoning, a scriptural rhetoric used to hide the real story of imperial greed. Several scholars from contemporary critical schools—deconstructionists, Marxists, and post-colonialists address the issue in a similar fashion. In the words of Phillipa Kafka, they work at "(un)doing the missionary position" in literature, advancing new notions of "exclusionary identity, dominating heterogeneity and universality or in more blunt language, White supremacy" (1997, xv), Relying on Henry A. Giroux's words, Kafka defines the missionary position as "monolithic views of culture, nationalism and difference" (xvi).
In The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver illustrates the hypocrisy of religious rhetoric and practice that sacrifices the many for the...
(The entire section is 7126 words.)