The novel opens with the meditation of a white woman, Orleanna Price, addressed to her favorite child, on Africa. Kingsolver uses this as her opening because it introduces setting, character, and most importantly, theme: what has white colonization done to Africa?
The setting is Africa, and Kingsolver immediately shows us whites as alien invaders, if—at this point—gently so: the mother and four daughters in their "shirtwaist" dresses, traveling on a path through the jungle to have their picnic lunch. They are out of place amid the spiders, ants and monkeys, and Kingsolver uses these females to introduce and foreshadow her theme of the incompatibility of the Western world with Africa and the damage the encounter has wrought: she calls these Americans "doomed blossoms" that invite our sympathy, but immediately warns us to "be careful" where we assign our sympathies.
Having lyrically and vividly set the scene of this American...
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