The PoisonWood Bible Essay

The PoisonWood Bible Essay

When The Price family arrives in the village of Kilanga, the food the Africans consume is repulsing to the reverend Nathan, and his family. Rachel, the daughter of Nathan found it very hard to devour the food cooked by the Congolese people; “I sat breathing through my nose, holding in my mouth the pure, awful slavor of something on fire and bristle of stiff hairs from the burnt hide of dead goat. i shut my eyes tight, but even so, the tears ran down.” (Kingslover 29) The Prices, knowing only American, processed food, found that the meal prepared for them was barbaric, and they were in need of fruits and vegetables. They lived in Kentucky and from their past, “It only took five days in hot weather for a Kentucky Wonder bean to gather up its vegetable willpower and germinate.” (64)

What Nathan failed to realize as he started planting the seeds into the African ground, was that the geography of the two lands differed. When Nathan and his daaughter, Leah begin planting seeds into the flat ground, Mama Tataba, a missionary helper to the Prices, had an all-knowing presence. As a woman who lived in the Congo for most of her life, she knew the outcome of trying to build a garden upon flat African grounds. She warned Nathan about African Poisonwood; “‘That one, brother, he bite’ she said, pointing her knuckly hand at a small tree he was wrestling from his garden plot. White sap oozed from the torn bark. My father wiped his hands on his trousers. ‘Poisonwood,’ she added flatly, emphasizing the descending syllables as if she were equally tired of all three.” (39) Mama Tataba was growing irritant by the arrogance of Nathan Price, who, “woke up the next morning with a horrible rash on his hands and arms, presumably wounded by the plant that bites. Even his good right eye was swollen shut, from where he’d wiped his brow. Yellow pus ran like sap from his welted flesh.” (39-41) Even Nathan’s physicality is harmed by Poisonwood because he refused Mama Tataba’s advice not touching the Poisonwood. He even denied Mama’s Tataba when she told him what must be done to the dirt in order for his garden to thrive. Mama Tataba grew intolerant of Nathan’s superiority towards her; “Mama Tataba kicked the dirt with her flat, naked sole and looked disgusted. ‘He won’t be grow. You got to make hills’ she stated.” (40) The hills would provide the seeds Nathan planted from the Poisonwood growing beneath and above the soil with protection so that they could grow and thrive in the African environment. The garden that was supposed to propose a miracle for the Congolese as a gift of freshly grown fruit failed to thriv, because of Nathan’s arrogance towards Mama Tataba, and her knowledgeable advice to him.

Similarly, the mamba snake, native to the Congo land, is used to foreshadow the failure of the Price family to thrive in Africa, as consequence of their arrogance. Ruth May, the youngest and most innocent of the Prices died from the mamba snake’s venomous bite. Her death marked a very important realization of the older Prices in the novel. They became part of African culture after her death because they realized that arrogance, which they accumulated from living in the Western part of America, had an effect on their daughter. Ruth May, much like the snake, hid among the nature in Africa; “ Every day mama said, You’re going to crack your head wide open, but no sir. I broke my arm instead. How I did it was spying on the African Communist Boy Scouts. Way up there in the tree I could see them but they couldn’t see me.” (116) Back at home, hiding out inside a tree might have been harmless other than the chance of breaking bones. But, the Price family failed to acknowledge that the geographical impact of trees in Africa compared to their home in Kentucky, differed. Numerous accountancies occur throughout the story as records of appearances of the mamba snake. (quote on snakes )The discovery of her dead sister lead to the change of character for the Price family. Rachel, the oldest sister expressed how her sister’s death affected her; “The whole world changed then, and nothing would ever be all right again. Not for our family. All the other people in the whole wide worlds might go on about their business, but for us it would never be normal again.” (166)

The Price family recognized their arrogance towards the Africans. I they had payed any attention to the danger of the snakes in the environment, things could have turned out differently. Adah, the second oldest girl in the family was inspired the changes of her heart as a result of her sister’s death; "In the world, the carrying capacity for humans is limited. History holds all things in the balance, including large hopes and short lives." (441) History revealed that cultural arrogance could result in the failure to thrive as a family. Towards the end of the novel, the three sisters, decades after Ruth May’s death, have a reunion. They had been separated no long after their sister died, and their failure to stay connected, as a family was a result of her death. Rachel explains that their connection to each other would remain the same forever; “ This was the first and absolute last time I am going to participate within the reunion of my sisters.” (475) Africa remained part of each one of the sisters even after their parting from one another. Leah Price married a boy she met while on her family mission trip to the Congo, and they moved to another African city of Kinshasa. Adah is a renowned epidemiologist working for the Center for Disease Control in Africa, and Rachael also remains in another part of Africa working as a business manager.