What kinds of captivity and freedom does Kingsolver explore in The Poisonwood Bible?

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bmadnick eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Captivity and freedom is shown in two ways. First, it's shown in how Nathan treats the Africans, representing what happens when one country imposes its beliefs on a foreign culture. It's also shown in how Nathan treats his family. Both situations reflect the theme of free will.

Nathan tries to force his beliefs of Christianity upon the villagers, but he never attempts to understand their culture. He misuses their language and sees them all as heathens. He never considers things from their perspective. He represents the corruption of America's colonization and its participation in overthrowing governments for their own interests. The villagers are able to resist Nathan because they've already established their spiritual and cultural views.

Nathan's family is held captive because he controls their lives. He's never allowed them to establish a strong sense of themselves outside of the family. The freedom of his wife and daughters comes at a very high price. Orleanna, his wife, finally gathers enough courage to break away from Nathan when her daughter Ruth dies. Leah becomes independent when she joins Anatole and stays in Africa. Adah eventually rejects her cynical views and feels sympathy for the poverty-stricken lives of the natives.

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Another way capitivity and freedom is represented is in the form of physical deformity.  Adah is deformed and in the USA she is the object of scrutiny for her deformity...she is trapped in a body that will not perform to her orders.  In the Congo, however, everyone has some sort of deformity as a byproduct of life.  Their neighbor lost her legs in a fire and scoots around on her behind using her arms as most use their legs.  Because of this, Adah feels "free" here.  The only reason people stare at her here is because she is white...not because of her deformity.

Also, Methuselah, the parrot, is freed from his cage where he had lived through three missionary families.  However, because he had been in the cage for so long, he never leaves the area.  It is as if he has forgotten how to fly.  He lives in the nearby tree by day and the latrine by night until the cat kills and eats him, thus "freeing" him from life in the Congo.

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The Poisonwood Bible

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