What makes this story part of our lives today?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Kingsolver's work has relevance to our lives through its messages and warnings.  One such admonition would be in the character of Nathan.  The head of the family is committed to his belief system, convinced of its authenticity.  However, it becomes clear that no value system justifies the oppressive and dominant way he controls his family.  While Nathan might believe that his path is the correct path, he ends up losing his children and his wife in the process.  They gradually gain voice and free will to stand up to Nathan and leave him.  Nathan's condition is a reminder to us that the ability to ensure that people's voices are heard in the midst of our own zeal prevents our pursuits from becoming self- destructive realities.

The lesson of resiliency becomes one of the most important lessons that the novel demonstrates.  The women in the novel are survivors.  They are able to rise above challenges and have their voice authenticated, while keeping an eye on the social maintenance of the world.  Orleanna is able to act in defense of her children.  While she is haunted by her perceived mistakes and will never shake the guilt she feels about Ruth May's death, she does not allow her function to be smothered by her surmise.  She shows resiliency and strength for the children who seek guidance from her.  Adah learns not to live in total martyrdom, committing herself to education and studying viruses that impact life in Africa.  Leah commits herself to actively helping those in the Congo, in a manner that is more tolerant and compassionate than her father.  Rachel displays resiliency in the path that her life takes, as well.  The lesson of internal fortitude and strength becomes something that is integral to the womens's narratives in Kingsolver's work. 

robyn-bird96 | Student

I also agree with what akannan said, but I also wanted to point out that through this novel, we are somewhat forced to reevaluate our own lives and our own culture. Is our culture the best for everyone?  By comparing Nathan to Brother Fowles, as both were missionaries at Kilanga, we can explore how cultures should be integrated, not coerced.  Brother Fowles, Nathan's predecessor, understands the culture of the villagers and instead of forcing them to follow Christ, he goes around to let the spirituality of their ways mingle with the spirituality in Christianity.  He married a local woman and respects the forest. Brother Fowles lives happily.  Nathan, on the hand tries to stamp out the heathen-ness of the village and bring it into the glory of God and civilization. He does not try to understand the people and their customs.  Nathan, eventually, would get run out of town and burn to death.  

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The Poisonwood Bible

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