The novel is told from five points of view—Orleanna Price, the mother, and her four daughters: Ruth May, Leah, Adah, and Rachel. The chapter headings are marked accordingly, but the uniqueness and strength of the "voices" means that we could recognize them without being told, which is why Kingsolver is...
The novel is told from five points of view—Orleanna Price, the mother, and her four daughters: Ruth May, Leah, Adah, and Rachel. The chapter headings are marked accordingly, but the uniqueness and strength of the "voices" means that we could recognize them without being told, which is why Kingsolver is able to start chapters "in medias res" (a literary term that means "in the middle of things") without confusing us.
The individuality of these characters is demarcated through their diction (the words they use) together with the syntax (sentence structure) Kingsolver employs. For example, Orleanna uses sophisticated words and metaphors and longer, complex and compound sentences, unlike Ruth May, Leah, and Rachel. Orleanna looks back at her terrible experiences in the Congo and says, "I had washed up there on the riptide of my husband’s confidence and the undertow of my children’s needs." Here she uses aquatic metaphors, which suggest something sinister and difficult, for a riptide is dangerous and can kill and an undertow drags you down. Ruth May’s diction is simple and childlike because she is very young; it has an innocence and charm, which builds pathos in the reader. She uses simple sentences and lists names and items as children tend to do. For example, "God says the Africans are the Tribes of Ham. Ham was the worst one of Noah’s three boys: Shem, Ham, and Japheth."
Rachel often muddles her words (malapropisms); she is snobbish and conceited but not very perceptive, and this is reflected in her simple sentences, colloquial language and Americanisms, such as "Man oh man, are we in for it now." In contrast, the clever but rather bitter Adah enjoys symbolism, poetic description, and complicated language choices and ideas. She relishes her differences, "I see it through my Adah eyes it is a flat plank [she is describing a road in Congo], clipped into pieces, rectangles and trapezoids, by the skinny black-line shadows of tall palm trunks." This syntax is complex and doesn’t conform to the normal sentence structure a young person would use, highlighting her differences. Kingsolver has crafted Leah’s language, on the other hand, as straightforward, somewhat artless, and open, reflecting her nature. Her humor endears her to us: "We came from Bethlehem, Georgia, bearing Betty Crocker cake mixes into the jungle."
It is noticeable that there is no male narrator in this novel; Nathan is not a narrator!