The Poisonwood Bible

by Barbara Kingsolver
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In the Poisonwood Bible, what do we learn about social and other differences between Africa and America?

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Through the events and descriptions of the Price family, we learn a great deal. The underlying theme is the effect of colonialism on the African people, and the Price women tell us about this theme through their stories.

Life in the Congo is harsh. The Price family lives where the women are bare-chested, and the children are naked. They are made to feel ashamed of their nudity. The houses are little mud huts inhabited by "tired thin women". They fight diseases, such as malaria, on a daily basis. To survive, they must hunt in the dangerous jungle, fish where crocodiles swim, and plant crops that can be washed away during the rainy season. There's no way to preserve food, so survival is a daily struggle. The people believe in more than one god and fear the gods will become angry and punish the village when the missionaries come. Religion is a part of their daily lives. Ants attack the village, destroying everything in their path. Even with these obstacles, they have an interdependent, well-integrated community  life.

All of the beliefs of the Africans are opposite of American ideas of religion, politics, agriculture, and economics. The U.S. thinks it's superior in every way, wanting to dominate Africans. American backed Mobutu, a corrupt tyrant. We exploited their gold and diamonds while forcing the villagers to labor. A democratic election brought chaos to a village that talked about issues at length before making a decision.

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