The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

September 23, 2012
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Foster said to think of “Every trip as a quest,” even when it did not seem to be. After reading the first chapter of How to Read Literature Like a Professor, it became clear that the Poisonwood Bible consisted of the 5 components of a quest. Nathan Price, a determined Baptist minister, father of four, and husband, faithfully served his own ‘moral code.’ He was followed guilt ever since he was a soldier. In World War II, Nathan escaped the Battaan Death March and cheated death. Since he was one of the few to survive, Nathan viewed himself as a coward and thought that God hated him. As a result, Nathan vowed to save as many souls as he could. To keep his promise, Nathan took his family to the Congo to ‘enlighten’ the souls of the Africans living there. From this information, we could already see the first three components of a quest. Nathan served as the quester, his place to go was the Congo, and his reason to go was to save the souls of Africans. Already, Nathan was faced with the challenge of escaping his own guilt, and after arriving in the Congo, the reader can see that Nathan had bigger challenges. Converting the Congolese to Christians was the overall challenge that he had to face. Clinging to the illusion that he was a force of good and authority, Nathan tried many things in hopes of enlightening the Congolese. He made a “demonstration garden” to teach the natives to provide for themselves. Every day, he scrounged through the village, trying to talk to the natives in hopes of “saving” them. He also tried baptism. But no matter how much effort Nathan put in, the people were not going to change, “You always think you know more about their kind than they know about yours, which just goes to show you” (253). The reader could soon figure out that Nathan was not a good man at all; actually he was a sexist, egotistical man that was so consumed in his own purpose, he completely forgot his family and the reason why he was there: to save souls. Like what Rachel said in the beginning, “We are supposed to be calling the shots here, but it doesn’t look to me like we’re in charge of anything, not even our own selves” (22), Nathan was doomed. Instead of saving the souls of the Congolese, we find the real reason why Nathan is there. Himself. He is not a hero but a coward.





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