- Part 1 ***(scroll down for part 2)
In Barbara Kingsolver’s novel The Poisonwood Bible, four characters caught my attention for their distinct personalities: Nathan Price, Adah, Leah,and Ruth May. Nathan Price, the father of the girls, is a devout baptist preacher who reminds me of the Great Awakening Preacher Jonathan Edwards (Text to Itself). Jonathan Edwards is best known for his sermon entitled “sinners in the hands of an angry God.” You can listen to Edward’s sermon at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4m-uR7RumaA. Jonathan Edwards basically warns people of the danger in becoming too attached to wordily things, and reminds all of the burning fires that are never ending and consuming. His method of conversion is to strike fear into people, and to speak forcefully as a pose to gently. Nathan Price is more severe than Edwards, and goes as far as to beat his wife and children if they enjoy something as simple as the feel of grass under their feet or a warm bath.
Albert Achabe is famous for his African culture novel Things Fall Apart. http://www.bookrags.com/essay-2005/4/19/191947/415/. The main character in this story is a man named Okonkwo – he is the strongest man in his village and takes his duty as leader very seriously.Nathan Price and Okonkwo have much in common despite their far different cultures (Text to Text). Okonkwo’s determination to show his strength and never appear weak, may seem like typical male psychology, but the reader later learns what’s hiding behind his cold outer shell. Okonkwo’s father was poor and lazy, the entire village hated him and thought Okwonkwo would grow to be a disgrace of a man like his father; this is the reason Okonkwo refused to back down in an argument had to show his dominance, didn’t show love to his children, and acted with force and agression- all the characteristics of Nathan Price. I began to wonder what secret past Nathan Price was hiding that made him tough to hide his soft spot. Nathan Price retreated in war, and he could never escape the feeling of being a weak coward. The similarity in the behavior between these two men caused me to wonder if what appears to be male dominance and ego is truly a latent reaction to a fall that he is trying to defend himself from.
Edward C. Tolman (1886-1959), was a pyschologist who proposed the Latent Learning Theory http://www.lifecircles-inc.com/Learningtheories/behaviorism/Tolman.html which states that sometimes in life, behavior at the time of learning (in childhood) may not be present, but can develop later when a certain circumstance appears that requires a specific response. (Text to world). The Latent Learning Theory can be effective in describing the reason for the behavior of Nathan Price,who has developed a sharp personality in response to a hardship in life. Tolman would probably describe Nathan Price as being driven by a significant goal that caused him to sacrifice not only himself but also his family. This goal is psychologically driven and used to repair Nathan’s subconscious guilt and shame at leaving his troop to die in the war.
Adah is Leah’s crippled twin, but despite her handicap, her mind is far greater than any of her sister’s. Adah is the odd one out, or the black sheep of her family because of her deliberate seclusion, and her deep insight that far surpasses her age. Often times in literature, the blind and the lame “see” better than any other character, as is the case with Tiresias, in Oedipus the King (Text to Text). Tiresias is a blind seer (http://vccslitonline.cc.va.us/oedipusthewreck/blindness.htm) who’s advice and prophicy, which by the way are true, Oedipus dismisses and mocks. Adah with her acute brilliance can not walk fast, speak clearly nor has the endurance of her peers, yet she makes note of every detail, values life more than the others, and recognizes truths her sisters can not.
Adah serves as the exact opposite of her twin sister Leah, and constantly makes note of the tension between the girls. Once when the twins were walking through the forest on an errand assigned by their mother, Leah left Adah behind, not caring what peril may come to her crippled sister. Adah returned home late and until her arrival was believed to be dead. In a sense, Leah indirectly killed her sister, which can be related to the tale of Cain and Abel (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+4&version=NIV) (Text to Text) . Cain was jealous of his brother’s intelligence and superiority in their father’s eyes- although Leah is her father’s favorite.
Similarly when their mother sent them on a chore, Cain, overcome by jealously, murdered his brother Abel. Leah can be compared to Cain because her intentions were to forget her sister, or at least that is how Adah describes it. In a sense, the image of Cain and Able are present in both Leah and Adah because both sisters envy each other, compete for their father’s attention, and bash one another in their journals. The rivalry between Leah and Adah holds Biblical imagery, although it is not specifically stated in the novel.
Leah is different from her sisters- she is a tom boy, active, with a love for nature. Leah’s pet parrot Methuselah brought back memories of my turtle Timothy. My father made me get rid of him when he grew too big for his case, as did Nathan Price when Methuselah became unable to keep as a house pet. Methuselah stands for a distorted symbol of freedom, showing that not even the native species are unable to escape Africa alive, as the parrot is later eaten. Page 82 “When he hurled the bird up at the treetops, it didn’t fly at first but only sailed across the clearing like a red-tailed badmitten.” Methuselah never left the Price’s yard, after becoming dependent, and it was hard for Leah and Ruth May to release him. My turtle was initially a wild turtle, as was the case with Methuselah- the lesson that had to be learned was not to take a wild animal out of its habitat because nature will provide for the wild who are trusting, but not the domestic who are not. (Text to Self). This shows the fate of taking a species out of it’s natural home, and a parallel can be drawn between Methuselah leaving his avocado tree, and the Prices leaving Georgia. It also shows how the families in Africa trust that nature will provide and know how to live off the land, as do the other wild animals- the Prices do not.
Ruth May is the youngest sister, around age six when the novel begins. When spying on the local African rebel army, Ruth May climbed to the top of a tree, fell, and broke her arm. When I was eight years old, my cousin and I were “spying” on our grandparent’s neighbors, and I too fell out of a tree, straight onto my back. Luckily though, nothing was broken. It always brought to mind the old saying “curiosity killed the cat.” I read a poem by Alastair Reid called “Curiosity” http://www.poetryarchive.org/poetryarchive/singlePoem.do?poemId=11921, and the poem disagrees with the statement regarding the cat. Instead, Reid claims that curiosity inspires of to live, to grow, and to learn. The poem also suggests that because children are curious, it is what drives them to ask questions that allow them to mature. I agree that curiosity brings maturity, and as a child, I always believed in taking risks because I thought it better to try to know, than to never have known at all. (Text to self).
Barbara Kingsolver’s description of a child’s perspective told my Ruth May is similar to Harper Lee’s perspective through Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird. Little Ruth May is perhaps the most comical of the characters with her innocent view point, and childish analogies, all of which remind me of Scout (Text to Text). Ruth May and Scout are both younger sisters, were born and raised in the south in similar time periods, use similar diction, and are about the same age. More so, both little girls enjoy climbing trees, and playing outside with boys. Scout’s father tries to defend an African man in a time of prejudice, while Ruth May’s father tries to save the souls of an entire African village. Because of this, both little girls are aware of prejudice feelings, and other adult issues that the children describe with their own thoughts and take on the event. To Kill A Mockingbird has always been my favorite novel because it condenses a complicated and controversial subject into small pieces a child can recognize love, hate, right, wrong, and play. Ruth May and Scout both take elaborate ideas and condense them into meaningful truths that only a child can see. Scout and Ruth May are used to contrast the values between adults and youth and show the corruption of the adult world through the eyes of a child. http://www.directessays.com/viewpaper/1589.html
Although Leah is not a young child, her viewpoint still holds innocence, but more understanding than that of Ruth May’s. On page 232, Leah compares the distribution of wealth by noting the luxury house of the other Baptist family, the Underdowns, compared to the African families. Leah states “I thought of the Underdown’s home in Leopoldville, with its Persian rugs, silver tea service, and chocolate cookies, surrounded by the miles of shacks and shanties.” In the novel, the Congo is in the middle of a revolutionary war, and the Africans are burning down the homes of the white ministry families. The uprising in the African villages is like Shay’s Rebellion http://shaysrebellion.stcc.edu/, when poor early American colonial farmers burned down the House of Burgess in Virginia
the rich mansion where the governor lived. The farmers were angry about their state of poverty, and how the king’s workers were living in luxury without providing for their people (Text to World). As American resentment was turned towards the British in the 1700′s, the Congo resents Belgium in 1960′s.
More so, the African families in the Congo were angry that Belgium was basically stripping the land and using the goods to benefit Europe. Anatole expalins this to Leah on page 229 when he states ” Diamonds yes, and cobalt and zinc. Everything your country has that my country wants.” Anatole explains how Belgium took over the Congo for the goods on the land, and with no concern for the people. This is the same reason why the United States annexed Hawaii and the midway islands, in order to have control of the sugar and fruit plantations, and to establish ground for naval basis. Both the US and Belgium have annexed countries for imperialistic purposes. (Text to World).
- Part 2 **links are embedded into words