What, if anything, do you take from the Poisonwood Bible?

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bmadnick eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are many things we can learn from this novel. When given a question like this, look at the themes, for these are the messages that the author wants her readers to take from literature. Also, since reading is personal, ask yourself after reading a book, what the characters and events mean to you.

The major theme is how colonialism affected the lives of the people in the colonized country. We learn how Europe and the U.S. exploited Africa's resources, taking the gold and diamonds while forcing the native people into labor. We learn from these historical events that we should not let this happen again and that we must get involved so it doesn't happen again. We must learn from our mistakes in the past to protect the future.

We also learn what happens when one culture tries to force its beliefs and values on another culture. One country's ideas of religion or politics doesn't work for another country, especially when it already has its own rich, traditional customs and values.

Family relationships are also explored in the novel. Nathan is willing to endanger his whole family because he's mentally disturbed due to his experiences in the war. It takes the death of her child before Orleanna has the strength and courage to get the rest of her children out of Africa.

You should also write down what you liked about the book and what you feel you got from reading it. What life lessons do you take from it? That's how we learn the real value of reading literature.

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I loved this book!  What did I take from it?  First, I notice the differences between the African culture in the Congo and the colonists--The Belgiums, especially.  The Africans were extremely angry at the way they had been treated and repressed, as well they should be.  One example was the rubber plant plantations and how the worker's hand was cut off if the amount of rubber in the container at the end of the day was not sufficient.  Yikes!

Political and social upheaval, and a difference in religious practices are two more cultural differences and reason for miscommunication and distrust.

Above all, the beauty and poetry of the language of this book made me happy.  It is wonderful reading, and I absolutely loved the difference in tone and diction (word choice) from the point of view of each character.  Ada's character is much more poetic and observant than say, Rachael's.  Nonetheless, the reader learns so much from taking the same story from different points of view and eeking out the truth of the matter.

Wonderful read, hope you love it, too!

ihatebullshit | Student

hmm... ugh... I was bored the first few chapters, then got excited until halfway through.... and then the story starting to end, then it did, but the book kept going on and on even though the events were well over. Okay, I get how it is neccesary and a good idea to tell about how the characters were doing after decades, but do you really have ramble so much and add in every single, little detail, and more?


Anywho, I guess there is something to learn from this book:

1). Being superstitious is bad luck(literally). Both the Price family and the congolese were poisoned by superstition. Without superstition, all the tragedy in the book would not have happened. The Price wouldn't have went to Africa to preach, and the Congolese wouldn't do such dangerous, unhealthy, unhygeienic, unhumane things to each other and themselves if it weren't the superstitions, (like putting newborn twins in the forest so they can die... because it's bad luck not to do so!)

2). There's almost always two sides of a story, even though it seems very unlikely so.



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The Poisonwood Bible

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