In The Poisonwood Bible, how does Kingsolver use diction and syntax to create a unique voice for each of the five female characters?

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teachertaylor | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Kingsolver's use of diction and syntax to create unique narrative voices in The Poisonwood Bible is one of the highlights of her writing.  The novel shifts between the voices of Orleanna, Leah, Adah, Rachel, and Ruth May, and each chapter is labeled with the character's name.  However, the distinct voices speak for themselves and after the reader becomes acquainted with each character, he/she recognizes the voice of the narrator.  Ruth May is the youngest of the five, so Kingsolver manipulates grammar to make her voice sound more child-like.  For example, when Ruth May describes the toys she was allowed to take to the Congo, she says, "I only got to bring me two toys:  pipe cleaners, and a monkey-sock monkey.  The monkey-sock monkey has done gone already."  The slight grammatical mistakes are ones that a young child would likely make, yet are not bad enough to impede understanding.  Similarly, Kingsolver uses highly sophisticated diction an syntax to develop Adah's voice which is ironic because the most intelligent character in the novel chooses to remain silent.  So, Kingsolver uses the traits of each female character to characterize her narrative voice.

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