What is the significance of the opening scene in The Poisonwood Bible? What does it mean, and why does Kingsolver choose it to be the opening?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

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...

(The entire section contains 2 answers and 470 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team