Christian Themes (Masterplots II: Christian Literature)
Barbara Kingsolver calls The Poisonwood Bible a political allegory. Her choice of the missionary Prices as a lens for life in the Belgian Congo creates a frame to consider Western exploitation of Africa. The attitudes of the Price women, from disgust to acceptance, and their observations along with Nathan’s complete lack of respect for the Congo’s human or social conventions present a spectrum of Western culture’s attitudes about Africa. The morality of imposing Christian religious values on people one does not know or respect becomes an issue as the family interacts with villagers.
Insensitive responses to need and village custom undercut Nathan’s spiritual authority, while his daughters Leah, Adah, and Ruth accept both friendship and help from neighbors. Rachel remains self-centered throughout, resentful toward her father and Africans alike. Her insensitivity is not personal; it is based on a feeling of entitlement and her assumption that whatever she wants is right. She comes close to being amoral, since her desires form the core of her values. Orleanna becomes complicit in Nathan’s excesses by failing to object to his private or public cruelty. Her mother-love is undercut by a weak defense of herself and her daughters. In contrast, the African neighbors of the Prices treat them humanely, saving their lives on several occasions and thereby raising the question of which society is more morally grounded. In their lives in Kilanga,...
(The entire section is 528 words.)
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