The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
No other continent has endured such an unspeakably bizarre combination of foreign thievery and foreign goodwill.
The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it—from garden seeds to Scripture—is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family's tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa. (www.amazon.com)
References & Allusions
- Introduction, pages 1-34 (Book of Genesis, first rotation of characters): Read the first rotation of voices in the novel (Orleanna, Leah, Ruth May, Rachel, and Adah). Record initial observations and annotations about these characters on the Character Matrix handout.
- As you read the ENTIRE NOVEL: Annotate! Take notes that will help you understand the novel as one of literary merit. Bring ideas back to class for discussion.
- After reading Book Four: Writing about Nathan: Nathan Price in Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible can easily be criticized for his overbearing, ignorant, and fanatical nature. Write a preface to the book from Nathan’s perspective that gives voice to his COMPLEX character. Do NOT let him off the hook! Your characterization must demonstrate your understanding of Kingsolver's characterization of him and be an extension of that creation. If he had his say, what would it be? Format: Please limit your response to ONE (1) double-spaced page. Use space wisely. Punctuate any quote you may use in MLA format. The heading should only consume one line of the page and should be “Your Name – Your Title - Date.” For example, I would write “Amy Carter – Nathan’s Preface – 22 August 2012.” (In other words, don’t sacrifice three additional lines of content with the other three elements of the heading.
- After reading Book Six: The Poisonwood Bible is told in a unique way. Rarely, does an author choose to tell the same story from the points of view of five narrators. Additionally, her story is divided into significant sections. In one to two (1-2) pages, discuss significant aspects (that’s plural) of the narrative structure and explain their effects on the author’s message. Bring a hard copy to class and submit a digital copy to turnitin.com.
- After reading Book Six/Class Activity: Complete the assignment called "Adah's Poetry." I will assign you to a group. Take a look at my example using William Carlos Williams' The Red Wheelbarrow.
- Final discussion and character analysis: The class will be broken into six groups. Each group will represent one of the following characters: Nathan, Orleanna, Adah, Leah, Ruth May, and Rachel. As a group, please research and be prepared to present the following information. Use textual support as often as possible. Be prepared to present your information to the class. Please turn in one product with all group members’ names on it. 1) Character’s description and significance from at least two other characters' points of view, 2) The three most significant quotes from or about your character – be prepared to justify your choices, 3) Your character’s major conflict in the book, 4) A symbol for your character, 5) Your character’s reaction to the Congo, 6) The reaction of the Congo to your character, and 7) Your character’s redemption
BBC World Book Club: Interview with Barbara Kingsolver
From the BBC World Service: "Harriett Gilbert and readers talk to bestselling writer Barbara Kingsolver about her internationally acclaimed novel The Poisonwood Bible.
Having sold four million copies around the world, Kingsolver's most ambitious novel paints an intimate portrait of a crisis-ridden family amid the larger backdrop of an African nation in chaos.
In 1959 an overzealous Baptist minister Nathan Price drags his wife and four daughters deep into the heart of the Congo on a mission to save the unenlightened souls of Africa.
As his plans unravel in tandem with the country's dreams of becoming an independent democracy, the five women narrate the novel, each in their own inimitable voice."
"Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend"
Anatole was born up around near Stanleyville, but at a tender age with his mother being dead got sent to work on the rubber plantations near Coquilhatville, where more opportunities both good and bad present themselves—that was his way of putting it when he told us his personal life autography at dinner. He also spent some time at the diamond mines down south in Katanga, where he says one-quarter of all the world’s diamonds come from. When he spoke of diamonds I naturally thought of Marilyn Monroe in her long gloves and pursey lips whispering “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.” My best friend Dee Dee Baker and I have snuck off to see M.M. and Brigitte Bardot both at the matinee (Father would flat-out kill me if he knew), so you see I know a thing or two about diamonds. But when I looked at Anatole’s wrinkled brown knuckles and pinkish palms, I pictured hands like those digging diamonds out of the Congo dirt and got to thinking, Gee, does Marilyn Monroe even know where they come from? Just picturing her in her satin gown and a Congolese diamond digger in the same universe gave me the weebie jeebies. So I didn’t think about it anymore. - Rachel (pp. 126-127)
The Inga-Shaba Power Line
Yertle the Turtle by Dr. Seuss
As you watch "Yertle the Turtle," consider which characters from novels and plays of literary merit are like him. Who can you name? How are they alike? How do they fit the pattern of this type of character? What is this type of character? What if Yertle actually won or was successful? (Irony) Which characters from your reading fit that pattern? As we read The Poisonwood Bible, look for Yertle's archetype.