2013 presentations for major works review/Poisonwood Bible Presentation pd 7.pptx

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2013 presentations for major works review/Period 1 AP Lit poisonwood bible powerpoint.pptx


The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver - student outlines 2013

Liz M.

An Anthem to the Oppressed

Prompt: 1983

In Barbara Kingsolver’s novel, The Poisonwood Bible, the tyrannical Nathan Price is a static character whose potential for growth is obliterated by his narrow-mindedness. Nathan exploits others in his self righteous pursuits and leaves in his wake a broken family, a dead daughter, and a stepped on culture that never invited him in the first place. Nathan, a microcosm of the brutal western impact on the Congo, is the ultimate villain – who’s foul fingers have picked apart a culture and a family and left the pieces too jagged to ever fit right again. Through points of view, macrocosm and microcosm and Nathan’s own comments, Kingsolver illuminates the theme that the villain does not get the last word; Kingsolver examines both the scorches that Nathan leaves but also the human capability and resiliency to rise up from the ashes.

1.      Kingsolver uses the commentary of the Price women and their unique opinions of Nathan to convey his cruel and manipulative nature, as well as to give the oppressed their own voice.

·         Orleanna comments on the vindictive way Nathan has tainted her family and her life, saying that Nathan can “see no way to have a daughter but to own her like a plot of land,” she remarks that “You can shield them with your body and soul, trying to absorb that awful rain… Without cease, they’ll bend to his light.” These comments show the danger of tyranny in naïve children, the listless job of the oppressed protecting the oppressed and Nathan’s manipulative way of polluting the soil of perfect innocence.

·         Nathan’s evil is compounded as Kingsolver shows readers it through the eyes of the young, and vivacious Ruth May, she comments “Mama, I hope he never comes back,” which shows the struggle and will of the oppressed to be set free, however, she follows it with “Baby Jesus knows what I said about wishing Father would never come back anymore, and Father is the preacher. So God and them love him best.” The latter statement shows that villains such as Nathan have a way of contaminating young thinking, which feeds their power. Ruth May’s comments are perhaps the most disheartening to readers, a little girl who already understands that “Daddy’s Little Girl” is not a role she wants to play.


2.      Nathan’s role as the microcosm of the western influences highlights how dangerous unchecked tyranny can be, whether it oppresses a family or an entire country.

·         Nathan’s belief that sending women to college is useless mirrors the Belgian’s rule that restricts Nelson from going to school past age twelve, this oppression shows that the way such villains maintain power is by restricting knowledge. If Nathan is a self proclaimed “superman” surely his kryptonite is education of the oppressed. In his daughter’s reflections back in their adult lives when they have escaped his tyranny, it is then they recognize “He was mean as a snake. There’s nothing he got that he didn’t deserve.”

·         Nathan’s resort to violence, such as running after Leah with the belt or smashing Orleanna’s vase, is a shame; the western’s resort to violence is a holocaust. Kingsolver uses the torture and murder of the Congolese at the hand of the western countries in pursuit of rubber to illustrate the capabilities of Nathan’s evil on a larger scale.


3.      Kingsolver uses Nathan’s own comments as self-incriminating evidence so to speak, as his words compound his role as the villain and reveal his sexist nature; Nathan’s cruel comments about his daughters are ultimately proved wrong and serves to show that the own real power a villain has is the power to discourage, not to determine.

·         Nathan’s comments to his daughters that sending a girl to college is like pouring water in your shoes, or that “not marrying veers from God’s plan,” shows how the cruel way he belittles his own children and refuses to recognize them as having potential to prosper independently. While such comments add to Nathan’s villainous role, perhaps they reveal something greater about his daughters; Adah never married and Adah and Leah attended college while Rachel ran the equatorial all by herself. In their own way, all of them prospered despite the admonition by their father that they would not.

·         Rachel relays “Father informed her [Leah] that God showed no mercy upon those who flouted their elder sand that he, Reverend Price, had washed his hands of her moral education…He stated that Leah was a shameful and inadequate vessel for God’s will…” this scene is ironic because it is an immoral man calling his daughter immoral – the daughter who chooses to live in poverty and to be an activist in the Congo, as well as teach other’s how to survive through her farm commune. Leah’s success disproves Nathan’s condescending words and illustrates that it is the will of the oppressed, not the hand of the oppressed, that determines their future.


The Poisonwood Bible is not the story of Nathan Price; it is an anthem of the oppressed. Though Nathan plays his role as villain to a tee – malicious, manipulative and sexist, more importantly the Price women play the role of hero – resilient, determined, and capable. Nathan may have planted the seed of evil within his family, but Kingsolver reminds us that seeds cease to exist once we bloom. The Price women hear his taunts, his insults, but they do not listen to them, for they are living proof of Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous words, “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.”

Martha V.

Martha Van Den Oever, Period 1

Prompt: 2005 B

                One of the strongest human drives seems to be a desire for power. Write an essay in which you discuss how a character in a novel or a drama struggles to free himself or herself from the power of others or seeks to gain power over others. Be sure to demonstrate in your essay how the author uses this power struggle to enhance the meaning of the work.


                Thesis/Intro: It is often said that knowledge is power, and for many people this hold true. In Margaret Edson’s play W;t, Dr. Vivian Bearing strives for this power of knowledge. But it is through her success that we see power’s corruption. Dr. Bearing, a successful and powerful woman, highly regarded in her profession, discovers what might be even better than her books as she travels through her experience with stage-four ovarian cancer. Edson shows us that, even more than power or knowledge, kindness is the greatest thing you could ever achieve.

Dr. Vivian Bearing has spent her entire adult life striving for “success” and in the process has almost dehumanized herself.
        + I could draw so much from the poems. I could be so powerful”
Vivian equates knowledge with power – as she blatantly states. Her classes are comprised of     lording her knowledge over her students and overall making life hard for them – claiming all the              while that she is “teaching them a lesson.” Though it might be harsh to judge her this way it      becomes fairly obvious that her obsession with mastering John Donne has inhibited her social           actions and her thought process. <see Ashford scene when she is told to go out and have fun>
        +Don’t tell me. Your grandmother died.”
        You’re not having a lot of visitors are you?
        None, to be precise.”
Not only does Vivian herself not have any human relations, she doesn’t appreciate them either.              Denying a student the right to go to his grandmother’s funeral. Never having a single person visit          her while she’s dying  all relates back to her cold nature, one that developed through her self-            ostracizing studying habits and screwed up priorities.

Similarly, it is through Vivian’s cancer, (her very distinct loss of power and control), that allows Edson to express her message of kindness, when Ms. Bearing experiences a transformation.       
        + I’m a scholar. Or I was when I had shoes, when I had eyebrows.” “just the specimen jar”
        “I thought being extremely smart would take care of it.”
I can’t figure things out. I’m in a… quandary, having these… doubts.”
Once a grand professional is now reduced to nothing more than a test subject (special thanks to              Jason Posner). She is put, fairly quickly, into a place where she no longer has control or even          influence. While formerly, she ran the entire show. This drastic change creates in Vivian doubts              that soon lead to the softening of her heart.
        + Susie? You’re still going to take care of me, aren’t you?”
        “Now is a time for, dare I say it, kindness.

        It is through her experience with cancer, through falling so far from the pedestal she put herself              on, that Vivian sees the errors of her ways. She even craves the kindness of others in a way that       she previously did not. And so the message of Edson is emphasized effectively. Knowledge is    power. Power corrupts. But kindness is goodness and should be shown to all people.

Through Edson’s character Jason Posner, who is pretty much a parallel to Dr. Bearing, we can also see the same effects of power on an individual and its most unfortunate outcome.
                + “Psychological depression.” “No way.”
                “Lower the dose? No way. Full dose. She’s tough. She can take it.” “I really have not got time for               this…” “Colossal waste of time for researchers” “Just cut the crap, I say.”

                In the story Jason and Vivian are parallels with different outcomes. Jason, in the same as Vivian,               is completely socially inept and uncaring – striving only for power and knowledge which, in his       case, comes in the form of mastering cancer. What makes Jason the “bad guy” is his lack of                movement that Vivian experienced when she was subservient. Jason, throughout, is constantly a terrible person.
                + She’s Research!”
                The final scene, (and Jason’s most disgraceful scene), shows when Jason completely disregarded            the direct request of DNR and tried to reclaim his “test subject.”  He is offered a chance at               redemption though when he exclaims “I made a mistake” and perhaps will receive the same                 chance that Vivian did and make that transition into being a kinder human being.

Conclusion: The final scene for Vivian, however, is one that is uplifting and full of grace. Edson tells us through Dr. Vivian Bearing’s passing that though being strong is not a bad thing, strengthening yourself  with kindness, rather than with something even as worthy as knowledge, will always be the most noble of goals.


Joslynn C

1980. A recurring theme in literature is the classic war between a passion and responsibility. For instance, a personal cause, a love, a desire for revenge, a determination to redress a wrong, or some other emotion or drive may conflict with moral duty. Choose a literary work in which a character confronts the demands of a private passion that conflicts with his or her responsibilities. In a well-written essay show clearly the nature of the conflict, its effects upon the character, and its significance to the work.


                In the novel The Poisonwood Bible by Barbra Kingsolver, Orleanna Price has emotional drive and passion that is tempered by love for her family.  Throughout the novel, Orleanna has been tempted over and over again to forsake old ideals in favor of new ones, possibly at the expense of the well being of her parents, husband, or children.  However, by showing that Orleanna ultimately does cast off the outward pressures being placed on her, Kingsolver shows that even the most unstoppable forces can be overcome through personal strength.

1.       Orleanna vs. Family:  Orleanna struggled to be the daughter her parents wanted her to be, as well as the non-conforming “wild child” she choose to behave like.

a.       Orleanna choose to attend “revivals” and ran around the countryside living a passionate lifestyle. 

                                                               i.      This shows Orleanna clearly disobeying the social norm for that time period and her families will for her.  She is a nonconformist by nature, but it is her duty to adhere to her family’s standards of behavior.

b.       She marries a preacher, which satisfies her parents, but she falls into her marriage and is unsatisfied.

                                                               i.      This shows that her emotions did not win out over her moral sense of duty and that the consequences of her actions are a poor quality of life and an unfulfilling situation. 

2.       Orleanna vs. Nathan:  Orleanna also struggles with her abusive husband who she wishes to leave, but cannot because of her children.

a.       In the dinner scene, Nathan emotionally abuses Orleanna and verbally puts her down so that she will not fight back against him.

                                                               i.      Orleanna has a fighting spirit, but she suppresses it in order to conform to societies wants for her and to her children’s needs.

b.       She finally chooses to leave him and lives her own happy and fulfilled life without him.

                                                               i.      This shows that when she leaves the oppression and chooses to make her own way through life that she does not need a guiding force other than her own will.  The struggle between her inner self and outer self is over as she lets herself be the woman she is on the inside.

3.       Orleanna as the Congo:  Orleanna’s personal struggles in the microcosm are an allegory for the struggles the Congo faces in the macrocosm.  The victory Orleanna has over her outer self and her subservience to Nathan shows the new light and life the Congo may have had if it threw off the western oppression it faced.

a.       The cultural norm to have many children and large families in the Congo created a problem of having too many mouths to feed.

                                                               i.      This situation is similar to the situation faced by Orleanna.  She wants to be free and to do things when she wants to, but is unable to because she bears responsibility to her children.

b.       The resources of the Congo are used by a “superior force”, in the same way that Orleanna is controlled by her husband.  Throwing off this control is what the Congo aims to do with Lumumba, but it is unsuccessful.

                                                               i.      The Congolese people attempted to rise the “moral” expectations that were placed upon them, but in their failing show that people are not always free to express their will in a newly democratic society.

Conclusion:  Overall, Orleannas internal desires fighting against her moral responsibilities prove successful, showing that internal strength can give anyone the ability to overcome.  The fact that we stopped the Congo from realizing its full potential by forcing it to continue in its old ways leaves readers with no conclusion other than that we were wrong.

Rachel P.

Rachel Phillips


1979. Choose a complex and important character in a novel or a play of recognized literary merit who might on the basis of the character's actions alone be considered evil or immoral. In a well-organized essay, explain both how and why the full presentation of the character in the work makes us react more sympathetically than we otherwise might. Avoid plot summary.


Intro: The character, Rachel, in the novel, The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver could easily be mistaken for someone who is self-centered and immoral. Between her acts of self-interest and her superior attitude she may not seem likeable on the surface. However, by looking past her arrogance and snobby exterior it is possible to see that Rachel isn't evil at all just understood. Rachel is a young girl who has had everything taken from her and who is also not very intelligent. While at first she may appear fairly egocentric, Rachel's ignorance and more emotional side make her a sympathetic character who can just as easily be pitied as criticized for her lack of understanding of the world and its inhabitants. 

Topic Sentence 1: Many of Rachel's actions can fairly be considered selfish or even immoral, but they are good reminders that none of us are perfect.

·         “Hey Ade, Leah, aren't you glad you use Dial? Don't you wish everybody did?”

     Rachel not only shows her cultural unawareness, but she shows her stuck up attitude by ridiculing the Congolese for not keeping up with their hygiene. Her comment isn't necessarily evil, but it is offensive. However, all the Prices may have been thinking it, Rachel just verbalized her thoughts.

·         “I only had time to save one precious thing. Something from home. Not my clothes... not the Bible... knowing what I had to do. I grabbed my mirror.”

     Instead of caring for her family or others around her, in the midst of disaster she only looked out for herself. Her acts show her arrogance and self-importance.

Topic Sentence 2: Rachel's ignorance also plays a major role in the unlikeable side of her character. However, it also makes her pitiable and it is easier to have sympathy for her.

·         “How did somebody get all the cuts to line up so perfect like that? What did they use, a pizza-pie cutter or what?”

     Again, Rachel shows she does not understand the Congolese or their culture. Unintelligent comments show her immaturity, but she can be forgiven when her new surroundings and age are considered. She is more pathetic than evil.

·         “I swear, my kitchen help can't remember to use the omelet pan for an omelet! For God's sakes, Leah, you should know as well as I do how they are.”

     However, in her later years he age is no longer an excuse and her lack of understanding for “them” (her Congolese workers) just shows she is an ignorant person. But like so many other cases of discrimination, it is easy to pity the discriminator because he or she is so oblivious to reality.

Topic Sentence 3: A major point of sympathy for Rachel comes when she reveals her true emotions. Whether she is crying over being stranded in the Congo or fretting over her 16th birthday, Rachel is just a girl and her vulnerability makes her understandable.

·         “I wept for the sins of all who had brought my family to this dread dark shore.”

     The strongest points of sympathy come for Rachel when she does show what she is feeling inside. It is a reminder that she has a heart and she is still a person with emotions as well. The scene when they first arrive in the Congo and she is forced to eat the stew made me feel sorry for her because it was probably all very over-whelming and the newness of everything likely frightened her.

·         “Tears ran from my eyes and I couldn't swallow. This was going to be the start of a real crying jag... for a girl whose only hopes for the year were a sweet-sixteen party and a pink mohair twin set.”

     Rachel's innocence and child-like nature is revealed when she discusses her hopes for her birthday. She is like any other teenager who just wants to have fun and live life happily and many can sympathize with her on this issue.

Conclusion: Rachel's displays of self-importance make her shallow, but the complexity of her emotions mixed with her surroundings and naivete develop her into a character who warrants sympathy and reminds us of how imperfect we all are.

Taylor G.


2010, Form B. “You can leave home all you want, but home will never leave you.” —Sonsyrea Tate

Sonsyrea Tate’s statement suggests that “home” may be conceived of as a dwelling, a place, or a state of mind. It may have positive or negative associations, but in either case, it may have a considerable influence on an individual. Choose a novel or play in which a central character leaves home yet finds that home remains significant. Write a well-developed essay in which you analyze the importance of “home” to this character and the reasons for its continuing influence. Explain how the character’s idea of home illuminates the larger meaning of the work. Do not merely summarize the plot.



                In Barbara Kingsolver’s novel, The Poisonwood Bible, she successfully creates the idea that one’s home is not always where one lives. Each character in The Poisonwood Bible has their own individual idea of “home” whether it is a literal residence or an emotional state. The characters of Leah, Orleanna, and Adah Price each have a specific interpretation of what they consider their home after their time spent in the Congo.


1. Leah comes to the Congo, eager and ready to spread the word of Jesus, but never did she think that she would ultimately choose to stay in the Congo long-term. The Congo formulates into Leah’s idea of home because of her love for Anatole and the beauty/simplicity of the Congo.

                a.) Leah says, "It’s a heavenly paradise in the Congo, and sometimes I want to live here forever."  (pg. 104) Leah is overwhelmed by the beauty and life of the jungle; this statement foreshadows her future decision to stay.

                b.)   Anatole is an obvious factor in Leah’s decision to stay in the Congo rather than move back with Orleanna and Adah. ”I felt the breath of God go cold on my skin.” Leah utters this line after the ant invasion. Leah murmurs Anatole's name over and over feeling that, "it took the place of prayer." Her love for Anatole becomes her new anchoring force, and is eventually the main reason she stays.


 2. Orleanna’s home is wherever she finds herself happiest, or in other words, where she can get her mind off of Ruth May’s death.

                a.)  It was difficult for Orleanna to view the Congo as home in the way Leah did because the death of Ruth May occurred there. "If you are the eyes in the trees, watching as we walk away from Kilanga, how will you make your judgment? Lord knows after thirty years I still crave your forgiveness." The Congo reminds Orleanna of the grief and guilt she was overcome with after Ruth May’s death. In fact, it could be a possibility that Orleanna’s idea of home is in the past when Ruth May was still living.

                b.)  After returning to American with Adah, Orleanna find her true home. She begins gardening and becomes active in Civil Rights. Orleanna’s character raises the question, how do we aim to deal with it? In Orleanna’s case, the “it” can be guilt. By being away from the death scene and focusing on new activities, it provides a safe haven for Orleanna.


3.      Adah does not discover her “home” until she starts attending college. It is there that she begins to find herself and transform into a new human being.

                a.)    Adah begins attending medical school and while she’s there a neurologist helps walk without a limp and encourages her to regain her speech. “I have made plenty of my own mistakes. I just made them on the inside.” Adah recognized that she was thinking of herself wrongly and that it may not be such a bad idea to alter herself a bit.

                b.)   “My work is to discover the life histories of viruses, and I seem to be very good at it. I don’t think of the viruses as my work, actually. I think of them as my relations.” Adah has found her calling. Readers feel a “proud-mother-moment” here. From the beginning of the book, one would not imagine that Adah would make it this far. She is happy with her transformation and it would not have happened if she had not pursued her desire to go to medical school.



The characters of Leah, Orelanna, and Adah all end up right where they belong. For Leah, it’s in the Congo where she can admire the beauty of the Congo, live with her husband, and give back to the Congolese people. For Orelanna, it is in American where she can keep her mind off of Ruth May. This is where she can aim to live with her guilt. And for Adah, it is at medical school and the hospital, where she can do her research and discover new insights. These are their homes. It is where they feel a sense of belonging, as well as content and relief.






Cora M.

1983. From a novel or play of literary merit, select an important character who is a villain. Then, in a well-organized essay, analyze the nature of the character's villainy and show how it enhances meaning in the work. Do not merely summarize the plot.

In Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible the cruel and arrogant Nathan Price uses his domineering presence to control the Congolese people and his own family. Nathan’s character serves as a representation of the cultural arrogance of the west through his belittling religious tactics and forcefulness he imposes on those who he looks down upon.

I.                   Nathan Price uses his strong, forceful mindset to control his family and maintain his power over them.

A.                When Anatole questions Nathan and his preaching Nathan takes his anger out on Orleanna, smashing her serving platter. The platter was the only thing Orleanna had cherished during her stay in Kilanga. Nathan felt her obsession was ridiculous and was seemingly threatened by the idea that Orleanna did not live solely for him – smashing the platter gave him even more control over her. Represents the Belgium and American authorities and their need to feel superior to the people of the Congo – Kills individualism and anything that threatens them – Patrice Lumumba.

B.                 When Nathan stubbornly refuses to let his family leave the Congo even though their safety is at risk he denies the danger and values his own morals above his families – acting as a bully, not realizing the potential catastrophe that could happen because of his dictatorial authority. Directly related to the Belgium and American governments not letting the Congolese make their own decisions – invading their lives and culture, believing that western ways are best.

II.                Nathan also uses his powerful mindset to convert the Congolese to his own western values.

A.                When Nathan first arrives in the Congo he immediately is chastising the Congolese with a “fire and brimstone sermon” when they are celebrating the Prices arrival. “Nakedness” and “Darkness of the soul.” He preaches at them to change because their norms are different from his. Western cultures are always trying to influence non-western cultures to be more “advanced” and have “moral values.”


B.                 Nathan’s “demonstration garden” is a prime example of western arrogance and ignorance. He denies any help from Mama Tataba and claims he know best by planting western plant species in Africa. Western cultures can help and influence people from non-western cultures only once they get to know everything about the culture and not trying to take over like America and Belgium because then it just ends in failure.

III.             Nathan’s need for dominance over both his family and the Congolese prove to be destructive to himself and all who he reaches out to.

A.                Nathan’s character drives his own family to leave him. Orleanna takes their daughters away from his influence and their past in Kilanga forever. Nathan dragging his family to the Congo resulted in the death in his youngest and most innocent daughter and his daughters and wife abandoning him. Western cultures often abuse and overuse their power – eventually the people of those countries (America and Belgium) see the faults in their actions but often once it’s too late and the damage is done – the past is haunting like Ruth Mays spirit.

B.                 Nathan’s actions lead to his own death. After his family leaves him he remains in Africa and essentially goes insane. His attempts to create a new denomination result in him being chased down and burned to death in a tower. Nathans death represents the fall of western control over Africa. It also represents a new era for the Congolese and the end of control and power of the west.


Nathan Price’s villainy throughout The Poisonwood Bible magnifies the many wrongs of western cultures influences and attitudes towards non-western cultures.



Sara A.

What prompt: Show how the author’s techniques convey the impact of the experience on the main character.


In the novel Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver allows the story of the Price family’s attempt to civilize the people and spread Christianity across the Congo to unfold. The first of the five narrators, Orleanna, periodically has poetic confessions that express guilt and the lesson to be learned by the main characters. Through each of Orleanna’s recount of her life-altering experience, Kingsolver poses the question “How do we aim to live with it?” and uses imagery and first person as a way to illuminate the intense guilt of the main character.


Topic Sentence:

Orleanna’s introduction reveals what once was in her family and the Congo; the picture of family blindly following a disillusioned father in a country that once had their freedom shows the change Orleanna has undergone.


1.”Single file on the path, comes a woman with four girls in tow, all of them in shirtwaist dresses... doomed blossoms, bound to appeal your sympathies.” (imagery)

The image that Kingsolver paints helps readers visualize Orleanna’s daughters blindly following their mother, not knowing what the Price family has gotten themselves into.


2.”What would Africa be now? All I can think of is the other okapi, the one they use to believe in. A unicorn that could look you in the eye.” (rhetorical question)

The okapi, paralleled with the Africa in this rhetorical question, was once a legend yet in Orleanna’s presence has changed dramatically—a guilty plea.


Topic Sentence:

The impact the Congo had on Orleanna is evident as she copes with living with allowing her children to suffer and realizes that most choose to ignore their mistakes.


1. “How do we aim to live with it?” (rhetorical question)

The overall theme of the novel is posed by main character, Orleanna, proving that the Price family needed help coping after the damage they had done to the Congolese people, as well as, to themselves.


2. “Some of us know how we came by our fortune, and some of us don’t, but we wear it all the same.” (generalization)

Learning from her time in the Congo, Orleanna has been lead to believe that everyone entitled acts as though they had earned their fortune causing them to think they have the right to invade. 


Topic Sentence:

The eternal conflict of guilt Orleanna faces is as she muses whether or not she is Nathan’s accomplice to theft in the Congo—an unforgivable crime.


1.”What is the conqueror’s wife, if not a conquest herself?” (rhetorical question)

Yet another rhetorical question with no easy answer in reach to refute shows that Orleanna’s experience in the Congo has her question her judgment, choices, and morality as Nathan’s wife.

2.”You’ll say I walked across Africa with wrist shackles with my white skin, wearing some thread of the stolen goods: cotton or diamonds.” (2nd person address)

Due to her experience and poetic nature, Orleanna proves to be a character of wisdom that is comfortable enough with a confession that directly addresses her audience.



In using rhetorical questions and pathos, Kingsolver manages to convey the true regret and sorrow behind the words of a mother desperate for the restoration of peace in her family that had gotten lost in the Congo.


Grace E.

Prompt: 2006. Many writers use a country setting to establish values within a work of literature. For example, the country may be a place of virtue and peace or one of primitivism and ignorance. Choose a novel or play in which such a setting plays a significant role. Then write an essay in which you analyze how the country setting functions in the work as a whole.

Intro: In Barbara Kingsolver’s novel, The Poisonwood Bible, the setting of the Congo in the 1960’s plays a vital role in the development of the characters. Uprooting from the south in the United States to a small village in Africa presents a culture shock to the entire Price family. Three of the Price sisters take their brand new situation to broaden their horizons and minds, or stew in their own self-righteousness.

            At such a young age, Ruth May came into the Congo free of discrimination and with an open mind. Her ability to adapt so well into the small, rural village shows her capacity for love and acceptance of all people.

·         When Ruth May died, all of the local children gathered to mourn her loss. Even though they were separated by language, Ruth May was able to connect with the natives through kindness and fun, showing that no circumstances would hold back Ruth May from spreading her love and spirit.

·         Free of the social barriers that limited how a girl should act in America, in the Congo, Ruth May acted as a boy and climbed trees just as well as any other little boy. The rural village that the Price’s lived in allowed for Ruth May to blossom and behave in the ways SHE wanted, free of worry about the social norms.

Always the kiss-up, daddy’s little girl, Leah Price not only experienced a culture shock when moving to the Congo, but also a personal shock within herself. The foreign lifestyle, and foreign people opened up Leah’s eyes to a new, more open-minded and accepting point of view on the world.

·         Despite her father’s stubborn self-entitlement and childish treatment of the natives, Leah becomes friends with a native boy, Nelson. In her nearly isolated setting of the small, rural village, Leah becomes friends with Nelson almost out of necessity, but later turns into an acceptance of the Congolese as a whole.

·         Against her father’s wishes and the protest of the students, Leah helps the local teacher, Anatole at the school. Leah’s new freedom due to a new land that isn’t the sexist south, gives her a desire to help others and try to make a difference.

While the small village in the Congo provides a new place for Leah and Ruth May to blossom and find themselves, Rachel Price enters their new home with a pessimistic attitude and pre-conceived notions. Rachel’s unwillingness to try and understand a different perspective causes the Congo to be a torturous time for her, allowing her hate and close-mindedness to grow.

·         Living in an isolated village, the native Congolese of that area had never seen Rachel’s kind of white-blond hair before. As the natives touched and stroked and unknowingly irritated Rachel more and more, Rachel tried less and less to understand what the Congolese were thinking and instead allow her annoyance of different groups of people grow.

·         While Leah and Ruth May and Adah all formed relationships with the Congolese, Rachel separates herself from other people and becomes more self-absorbed. Rachel isolates herself in their little isolated village and makes up radio and television advertisements rather than bonding with another person. Her unwillingness to bond with the Congolese people shows her self-righteousness and self-obsession.

Conclusion: Living in a small, isolated town in the middle of the Congo, three of the Price sisters take their life situations to both better themselves and others by learning about other people, or solidify their current closed state of mind through their own self-righteousness.


Mica S.

1991. Many plays and novels use contrasting places (for example, two countries, two cities or towns, two houses, or the land and the sea) to represent opposed forces or ideas that are central to the meaning of the work. Choose a novel or play that contrasts two such places. Write an essay explaining how the places differ, what each place represents, and how their contrast contributes to the meaning of the work.


            Whether it was the dense forests of the Kilanga, winding through the heart of the Congo, or the suburban street corners of Georgia, complete with streetlights and signs, the Price family had to adapt. In Barbara Kingsolver’s masterpiece The Poisonwood Bible, we follow the journey of 5 women as they migrate from their comfy American lifestyle, to a breathing jungle of chaos and corruption in the Congo of Africa. Throughout the story, the contrasting places push further and further away from each other, as Kingsolver highlights the growing disparity between two nations. This use of comparing two locations drives home one of the central themes of the meaning as a whole: How do we aim to live with it? Kingsolver directly compares the tattered nation of the Congo to America’s paranoid paradise, in order to reveal the injustice inflicted upon the people of Africa, and force a privileged people to look in the mirror.


            While the book discusses many socioeconomic inequalities, the description of the contrasting nature between Georgia and Kilanga is perhaps the most powerful method.

·        When the Price family arrives in Kilanga, they find a dense jungle capable of swallowing them whole. The mixture of disgust and surprise reveal their introduction to a completely different lifestyle.

·        As Nathan Price attempts to take control of the soil and plant a Georgian style garden, the untamed nature of the Congo fights back. He found that the seeds were completely washed away, and those that remained became entwined with the wild plants latching on. This simple scene helps to convey the differences between the two places in the micro as well as macrocosm.


Although Kingsolver explains the contrasting worlds with paragraphs as complex as Kilanga’s backyard, she also utilizes simple dialogue between characters to drive home the 1st world vs 3rd world corruption.

·        Leah and Anatole have a discussion about grocery stores. To Anatole, it seems more like an absurd concept, because he can’t imagine that much food in one place. This highlights extreme differences between Leah’s home and the new world of scarcity and poverty.

·        Another conversation between the two dissects the idea of democracy from different perspectives. Anatole believes that voting means half of the people are still upset, which is why the Congo never votes. While Leah begins to see some truth to that, she’s used to the American way of democracy. This conveys further distance between the two places, as their own ideological foundations are built facing away from each other.


Kingsolver forces readers to question their own responsibility regarding the privilege given to them as Americans through comparisons of a safe haven and the destruction of the Congo.

·        After Adah and Orleannna escape to Georgia during the outbreak of the war, Adah comments on the purpose of a street curb. She deemed it unnecessary and wonders why it existed. Because of the primitive lifestyle in the Congo, she’s amazed at what random things exist in America.

·        Leah visits home with Anatole, and both are blown away by the grocery stores. They decide to leave because neither can bear the thought of so much food at people’s disposal, while many in the Congo are struggling to find clean water.


The disparate states of the two places described in Kingsolver’s novel serve to enforce a sense of justice owed to the people of the lost kingdom. The Congo was a war stricken area unable to stay on its feet after the powerhouses of the world, including American, stole all it had to offer. Through the contrasting places, we can see the privilege handed to many 1st world countries. Kingsolver delivers a truth that many, after reading, must learn to live with.


Anna U.

Prompt:  2008 College Board authorized practice test: In many works of literature, a main character has a mentor or mentor-like acquaintance whose influence dramatically changes how the character views not only himself or herself, but the world as well. Choose a novel or play in which a mentor exhibits such a strong influence, either beneficial or harmful, on one of the main characters. Then, in a well-organized essay, discuss the nature of the mentor's influence and its significance to the work as a whole.


Intro:  While Leah begins the story as a 14-year-old who always seeks praise from a close-minded, self-righteous father that feels “makeup and nail polish are warning signals of prostitution” and aims to bring to the Congo the “Word of God—which fortunately weighs nothing at all,” she begins to see her family, the Congo, and the world in a different perspective as Anatole, the local schoolteacher, begins to mentor and shape her evolving view on society.  Anatole’s impact doesn’t only affect Leah; rather, it affects both Leah and the reader, revealing that with love, there are no cultural, racial, or religious barriers.  Once love takes root, it has the opportunity to “change everything” (399).


Topic Sentences:

Because of Anatole’s upbringing in the Congo, he brings valuable cultural knowledge and advice that expands Leah’s understanding of the Congolese people, causing her to see faults in her father’s obstinate way of thinking.

-“The Belgian foremen would bring baskets full of brown hands back to the boss, piled up like a mess of fish. Could this be true of civilized white Christians?” Leah asks Anatole about his personal experiences—from what she has learned/read about the history with the “white Christians” and the “rubber plantations” she begins to question the validity of the holiness/righteousness and honesty of the Christians—foreshadows her lack of respect for father

-“Mangwansi beans are high in the marché,” he pointed out. “Because of the drought. All the gardens are drying up.” This ties back to the incident with Nathan attempting to “cure” malnutrition by teaching the villagers how to farm. Despite advice by locals, Nathan refuses to listen and ends up failing miserably. When Anatole provides Leah with this tidbit of information regarding the beans & the growing season, Nathan’s ignorance is highlighted—Leah’s respect/trust for her father goes down while her respect/trust for Anatole increases


When Leah falls in love with Anatole, she also falls in love with the Congo, lighting within her a desire to take care of and help those born into a “nation of the poor,” such as the Congolese.

-“The old blue hopelessness invades my sleep and I’m crossing the river, looking back at the faces of children begging for food, ‘Cadeaux! Cadeaux!’”Leah recalls the time when her family left the Congo—her nightmares of leaving the “children begging for food” reveals her desire to help them rather than abandon them—this dream comes after her children are gone, and it’s just her and Anatole—even after all of the years, abandoning the children of the Congo is one of her nightmares

-“…and I stand her appraising the end of the world. Wishing like hell we hadn’t come back from Atlanta.” After living in the U.S. for some time, Leah gives in to Anatole’s wanting to come back to the Congo. She sacrifices the comfort and commodities of the American society for the “discomfort” of living in an African village—but because Leah has the inner desire to fight for justice, she agrees with Anatole to come back… despite the drawbacks—gives up own/personal desires for the betterment of the Congo


Due to her fascination with Anatole, Leah asks him many cultural questions, allowing her to learn more about their way of thinking and expanding her views on why the Congolese act in the manner that they do.

-“When someone has much more than he can use, it’s very reasonable to expect he will not keep it all himself.” In this quote, Anatole is responding to Leah’s question about why the Congolese think that America should share their money. He suggests that when we have much of something, we should share so that others may benefit as well—contradictory to American culture—Leah seems to adopt this philosophy & way of life in Congo

-“’…Diamonds, yes,’ Anatole said. ‘Also cobalt and copper and zinc. Everything my country has that your country wants.’” Anatole slams America in a sense—shows Leah that because of the materialistic American society and the demand for luxuries, the Congo pays the price—the validity of American society & its organizations (such as religion) are put into question considering its integrity in the diamond business (ie. Blood diamond)


Because of Anatole, Leah is liberated from the constricting views of her father’s religion while maintaining her idealistic views and growing passion for social and political justice.  It is “by Anatole that [Leah] was shattered and assembled” and it is “by way of Anatole [Leah] is delivered not out of [her] life but through it.”


Meg K.

1972. In retrospect, the reader often discovers that the first chapter of a novel or the opening scene of a drama introduces some of the major themes of the work. Write an essay about the opening scene of a drama or the first chapter of a novel in which you explain how it functions in this way.

In the first chapter of the Poisonwood Bible, the main character Orleanna foreshadows how they will be changed by their experience in Africa.


As an example of foreshadowing Orleanna describes her daughters as “four girls compressed in bodies as tight as bowstrings, each one tensed to fire off a woman’s heart on a different path to glory or damnation.” This gives the reader a hint that there are going to be dramatic changes in the girls’ lives, both good and bad.

The author also gives us a glimpse of the girls’ hunger for food and for attention. As an example, “after months of modest hunger the children now forget to complain about food.. Always there is someone hungrier than our own children.” This emphasizes the neglect found later in the book as we find the girls are looking for both physical and emotional attention.


We also learn in the first chapter that Orleanna has issues with her marriage, “And my husband, why, hell hath no fury like a Baptist preacher. I married a man who could never love me, probably. It would have trespassed on his devotion to all mankind.” This is foreshadowing how Orleanna’s husband was more dedicated to his work than to his wife or family.

Ruin to come

We know there are bad things to come as she describes how she is writing this as an older woman, “I stir in bed and the memories rise out of me like a buzz of flies from a carcass. I crave to be rid of them, but find myself being careful, too, choosing which ones to let out into the light…As much as I’ve craved your lost, small body,” gives us the impression that she lost one of her children, which we know will happen later on in the story. Later on in the chapter she describes “I’d slide this awful story off my shoulders..” letting readers know that this story is not a good one.

Conclusion: In my opinion, the last sentence of the first chapter ties everything together. “We can only speak of the things we took with us and the things we took away.” What they carried with them to the Congo was their existing dysfunction as a family. What they took away was how the experience in the Congo changed each one of them.  Their experience in the Congo magnified the family’s dysfunction in a way they couldn’t escape.


Allison H.

2009. A symbol is an object, action, or event that represents something or that creates a range of associations beyond itself. In literary works a symbol can express an idea, clarify meaning, or enlarge literal meaning. Select a novel or play and, focusing on one symbol, write an essay analyzing how that symbol functions in the work and what it reveals about the characters or themes of the work as a whole. Do not merely summarize the plot.

            In the novel, The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, the author uses many symbols to represent the macrocosm that Kingsolver is trying to portray through her characters. An example of a symbol is the bird Methuselah, which in turn represents the Congo.

Topic Sentence: Methuselah’s imprisonment reflects how the Price girls and Orleanna are kept in the Congo against their will by Nathan. Methuselah is kept in a cage and is kept captive in the Price home.

Textual Evidence: Methuselah has spent most of his life “caged away from flight and truth” (page 211).

Explanation: Much like Methuselah, the Congolese people have been forced to believe what they are told, both by Nathan and by their leaders.

Textual Evidence:  “He has no muscle tone in his wings…” (page 137)

Explanation: Both the parrot and the Congolese have lost the ability to both care and think for themselves. They are completely reliant on Nathan or other higher powers.

Topic Sentence: Nathan seems to think that he has all of the power, over Methuselah, the Price women, and the Congolese.

Textual Evidence: Nathan had to “let the parrot go” (page 87) because its language was not acceptable and against the strict set of rules that Nathan had given.

Explanation: Because of this ‘power’, Nathan assumes the authority to decide the fate of each individual.

Textual Evidence: “But no. In a burst of light Methuselah opened his wings and fluttered like freedom itself, lifting himself to the top of our Kentucky Wonder vines and the highest boughs of the jungle that will surely take back everything once we are gone.” (pg. 82)

Explanation: In letting Methuselah go (which was originally intended as a punishment), Nathan, ironically, was the one to grant Methuselah his freedom.


Topic Sentence: Methuselah, much like the people of the Congo, lost his ability to take care and fend for himself since he was denied personal freedom for so long.

Textual Evidence: “Methuselah, like me, is a cripple: the Wreck of Wild Africa… He has no muscle tone in his wings. They are atrophied, probably beyond hope of recovery.” (page 137)

Explanation: Even after Nathan frees him, Methuselah remains close to the house, relying on the Price family for food. He is no longer able to care for himself, and will forever be dependent upon someone else.

Textual Evidence: “Set upon by the civic cat… only this and nothing more…”

Explanation: Because of Methuselah’s vulnerability, he was caught by a predator and killed. Shortly after, the Congo is also granted independence and, much like Methuselah, the weak nation will crumble.

            The long confinement of the parrot Methuselah is directly related to the fact that he cannot fly on his own immediately after being freed just as the Congo is incapable of standing on its own after its liberation from Belgium. The bird was caught and killed just as the Congo was snatched once again by Mobutu.

Paige M.

 1983 – From a novel or play of literary merit, select an important character who is a villain. Then in a well-organized essay, analyze the nature of the character’s villainy and show how it enhances meaning in the work. Do not merely summarize the plot.


In the novel The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, Nathan Price is seen as the villain character. Nathan represents the dominating, overpowering attitude of the Western Civilization.


Nathan’s domineering attitude towards the Congolese people shows that he is not willing to acknowledge their culture, and insists that he teach them of both western ways and about Christianity.


Nathan also shows a need for dominance in his own family. He uses violence and punishment as a way to maintain his power within his family.

·         When Anatole comes to visit the Price family for dinner, he tells them that they should leave before they get into trouble. Nathan does not take well to this, and gets into an argument with Anatole. After the dinner, Nathan breaks Orleanna’s platter saying that she “worshipped” it too much. Nathan’s mocking tone towards his wife and violence toward his family shows that he does not care about loving them, he only wants to “do God’s work” in the Congo, and to assert his power over them.

·         Nathan uses the writing of scripture to punish his daughters. He would choose a rather long verse in accordance of their crime, and make them write it 100 times. This shows that he demands to have power over his family, and he believes this is the proper way to punish his daughters for petty crimes.

Nathan is a character who is demanding of control and is demeaning of his family and of the Congolese people. However, it is seen that in the end of the novel he gets what he deserves for the way he treats his family and his congregation.


Due to Nathan’s domineering attitude towards his family and the Congolese people, we see that his attitude eventually causes his family to leave him, and ultimately causes his demise. 

Devon F.

Prompt 2005, Form B: One of the strongest human drives seems to be a desire for power. Write an essay in which you discuss how a character in a novel or a drama struggles to free himself or herself from the power of others or seeks to gain power over others. Be sure to demonstrate in your essay how the author uses this power struggle to enhance the meaning of the work.


                In the novel The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, the Price family moves to the Congo and has to learn to adapt to the lifestyle of the Congolese and their own conflicts in their family. Nathan Price is a pastor and tries to instill the Christian religion and lifestyle into the people of the Congo. While doing so he hurts his family and loses any respect he could have had from the Congolese. He tries to achieve power over the Congolese and the town because he feels as though he is superior and Kingsolver uses this struggle for power to show the arrogance of western culture and no matter how hard Nathan or America tries to change the Congo, it will not happen.

                Topic Sentence: Nathan Price is a very arrogant man who tries to convince the Congolese that his views and ways are the right ones and anything else is wrong.

·         One of the first things that Nathan does when they get to the Congo is build a garden to try and show the Congolese how to make food for themselves the ‘right way’. Mama Tataba tries to tell him it won’t work but as true to his character, Nathan doesn’t listen and his garden ends up being washed away in a rainstorm. Nathan tires to blame the outcome on the people of the Congo and basically everyone else besides himself. His failed garden ends up looking like a grave, so instead of bringing growth and life Nathan brings death.

·         The entire time the Price family is in the Congo, Nathan tries to control the way the Congolese worship and their religious beliefs. In the scene where Anatole is invited over for dinner at the Price’s house, he tries to warn Nathan that it is not a good idea to try and change the deep and old customs and culture of the Congolese. But Nathan, stubborn as ever, refuses to listen to him and kicks Anatole out of his house. In the process of this Nathan also breaks Orleanna’s beloved china dish. She becomes upset and Nathan is quick to scold her on how she shouldn’t get attached to objects. He takes out his anger on his wife and daughters especially when something is actually his fault. This scene emphasizes how Nathan, in his path to gain power, hurts those around him.

Topic Sentence: The Christian faith that Nathan tries to instill in the Congolese is not perfect by any means, but Nathan believes it is and will challenge those who think otherwise.

·         One example of this is when Nathan tries to baptize the Congolese children in the water. Despite their protests and obvious terror, Nathan proceeds with trying to get them to go to the river. He will not give this up and this emphasizes how much Nathan needs to be right and have power because if he doesn’t and people don’t listen to him, he goes crazy.

·         Another example is when Nathan tries to challenge Tata Kuvundu and take over the church. They get into a very heated argument about what religious beliefs should be taught at the church and Nathan believes that his view of the bible and what it says is the only interpretation. While Tata Kuvundu is open to other possibilities and looks into the nature side of things. This scene highlights Nathan’s need for power because when Tata Kuvundu wins the vote of the Congolese, Nathan deems them all ignorant and senseless even though he is the one that is being ignorant in not being able to even listen to the views of others.

Topic Sentence: Nathan never truly gives up his fight to teach the Congolese the Christian religion, and his vigilance for power ends up being his downfall.

·         Nathan at the end of the book is still in the town in the Congo where he and his family first lived and is still trying to baptize the Congolese and make them listen to him. At his last attempt to get them to the river the Congolese run him into the forest where he climbs a tower. The tower is set on fire and he ends up being burned to death. His fiery demise highlights just how far Nathan will go to have power and to be right. Nathan never gives up even when he has nothing.

·         One example of this in the macrocosm is how America tries to take control of the Congo and Lumumba. Americans believe they know what is best for the Congolese, but in actuality they end up doing the worst things for the Congo. When Lumumba tries to seek help elsewhere after America turned him down, America is all of a sudden very interested in him because they think what he does will directly affect them. America’s attempt to control the Congo ends up back firing as they kill Lumumba and the Congo self-implodes and has so many problems they can’t even begin to make a dent in it all.


                Nathan Price, like America, tries to impose his own views and beliefs on the Congolese and this arrogance of the western culture ends up only hurting and destroying the Congolese.


Kindra S.

1991. Many plays and novels use contrasting places (for example, two countries, two cities or towns, two houses, or the land and the sea) to represent opposed forces or ideas that are central to the meaning of the work. Choose a novel or play that contrasts two such places. Write an essay explaining how the places differ, what each place represents, and how their contrast contributes to the meaning of the work.

        I.            Introduction: In Barbara Kingsolver’s novel, The Poisonwood Bible, she uses the contrasting countries of the Congo and the United States to develop one of the central ideas within. Through the contrasting views of the Western society and the small traditional views of the Congolese people, the idea of Western arrogance comes into play, predominantly by means of Nathan Price and his attempts to change the people of the Congo, as well as their way of life.

      II.            Body

a.       One of the main problems with missionaries, such as the Prices’ and other families, they don’t understand the ways of the Congo and it’s people, and therefore struggle to teach them adequate ways to develop into a “better” people and county.

                                                               i.      Nathan Price believes a simple solution to the lack of food in the village is to plant food and grow a garden. Yet even though he was told countless times it wouldn’t grow, he continued to try. Eventually his plants grew, but bore no fruit/vegetables. He didn’t realize that planting American plants wouldn’t grow into food. So his “simple solution” shows just how unknowing he is of the Congo.

                                                             ii.      In the Congo, each person has their own god that they pray to and seek help from. Nathan Price disregards their beliefs and intends on installing his own Christian faith on the people. Yet people became scared, for their leader believed that once his people began attending this church it was the cause of the village’s new issues and death of children. Instead of a slow and cautious transition from an old faith to a new one, Nathan forced the word of God down the throat of these villagers.

b.       Not only did Nathan and others not understand the way of the people, but he was unyielding in his attempts to morph those of a western society, even though this poor country lacked the technology and resources to become such.

                                                               i.      Nathan was always attempting to have the Congolese people take part in a baptism, one that would be held in the river. The village however, refused, time after time. Once a little girl had been eaten by a crocodile and since then they tended to stray from going in the river. Nathan though didn’t seem to find this a worthy reason to refuse baptism, and stayed strong in his attempts. Eventually he baptized children in a rainy downpour one day. To this minister, the only way was his way.

                                                             ii.      The Price family was supposed to be in the Congo for a year. Though as time passed his father showed no intent of leaving, even when the revolution swept through the country and white people were warned to leave before things got bad. This didn’t stop Nathan though, and he refused to let his family leave. He didn’t believe that his God assigned duty was finished. Eventually his youngest daughter, Ruth May, dies, and even this isn’t enough to convince him to leave. Orleanna takes her remaining daughters and tries to leave the country on foot. Nathan lost his whole family due to his arrogance and undying attempts to make the Congo conform.

c.       While Nathan Price only seems represents one mans Western concepts being forced upon a village of the Congo, he is much more. Nathan Price shows the force and arrogance of the United States and their role in shaping the Congo.

                                                               i.      Nathan Price feels as though he has the right to tell the villagers what god to believe in, because that’s what is correct. However the Congolese have survived just fine thus far in life, without the Western Religion. This represents how the United States believe they have the right to assassinate a leader who intended to free the Congo and make it a better place. This wasn’t what the Western thought would be best for them, so they took matters into their own hands.

                                                             ii.      Not only did these to parallels wish to give the Congo new leaders, but also a new way of life. They wanted them to completely change to a Westernized Society, but not for the right reasons. These changes weren’t looked at through the eyes of the Congolese, only through the eyes of an American Supremacist, who sought to change these people for their own God. Nathan wished to fulfill his religious duty and America to harvest natural resources and have allegiance with the Congo.

   III.            Conclusion: Nathan Price is used as a political allegory to depict how the United States came into the Congo, with very little knowledge about it’s ways, and sought to change in no matter what.  


Rachel A.

2008 College Board authorized practice test: In many works of literature, a main character has a mentor or mentor-like acquaintance whose influence dramatically changes how the character views not only himself or herself, but the world as well. Choose a novel or play in which a mentor exhibits such a strong influence, either beneficial or harmful, on one of the main characters. Then, in a well-organized essay, discuss the nature of the mentor's influence and its significance to the work as a whole. 


Introduction: In Barbara Kingsolver’s novel The Poisonwood Bible, the character of Anatole changes the way Leah Prices views her spirituality, her family and her purpose in life. Through a budding romance and time spent devoted to teaching Leah his way of life, Anatole mentors Leah in a way that has a positive impact on her life.

Topic Sentence: Anatole changes the way Leah views her spirituality.

·         "I grew up with my teeth clamped on a faith in the big white man in power—God, the President, I don't care who he is, he'd serve justice!” (Exodus) -As a child Leah held on to the thought that the world was devoid of injustice, that is was a happy place of absolute fairness and equality. However after spending time in the Congo her eyes are opened to cruelties of the world such as poverty, hunger and disease. Her times spent with Anatole further helps her see the areas of the world that are in need of her help, as well as the ones that God’s presence doesn’t exist. After losing her faith in God, Leah decides to devote her life to trying to bring justice to the parts of the world in which she walks, with Anatole by her side.

·         After spending time with Anatole Leah starts to veer away from her father’s hand and graces. Even though Anatole translated every sermon preached by Nathan Price, he respectively declined to agree with the messages. This sparked something in Leah that Nathan wasn’t always right, and that he’s not the god she made him out to be all her life. Through Anatole’s life lessons and wisdom, Leah turns away from the doctrine of her past and adopt a new one of simply helping the helpless.



Topic Sentence: Anatole changes the way Leah views and lives her life.

·         Leah and Anatole converse about the differences between America and the Congo. Leah tells Anatole all about supermarkets and the way that crops are grown in the country and shipped to the cities where every family has a car and some have two. Anatole can hardly believe any of what she tells him. He explains that the Congolese do not like white people is because they cannot understand why a nation with so much cannot give it away to those that need it, just like the Congolese people do. He tells her that many white people have come to their village, some bringing tools or learning or Jesus, and the Congolese simply have to determine which of these things is the most useful. He tells her that her nickname, Beene, means "as true as the truth can be."- This interaction enlightens Leah to the way the Congolese view her world. It embarrasses Leah and makes her want to do more to help and stop being selfish in the way of worldly possessions.

·         In the last narrative of “Exodus” Leah informs readers that she has become used to the languages of her neighbors and the intonation it so heavily depends on. She learns the customs and ways of the Congo for Anatole, which shows the impact of value Leah places on him. Leah’s understanding of the language indicates Leah's successful acculturation into the Congo. The subtlety of the local language is something that all the Prices struggled with enormously throughout their stay in the Congo. Rachel consistently and unapologetically misuses words. Adah read everything backward and forward did nothing to help her spoken accent. Ruth May even invents her own language in order to communicate with the local kids because she has given up on the real one.  Leah uses French and Lingala lessons to fully understand the language, which serves as a show of respect as well as an excuse to spend time with Anatole.

Topic Sentence: Anatole helps Leah discover her purpose in life.

·         When the Price women flee after Ruth May’s death, Leah comes down with malaria and is forced to stay in Bulunga with a few of Anatole’s friends as she recuperates. Once Anatole arrives in Bulunga he cares for her and nurses her back to health. This process of healing brings the two together and helps them take the final plunge into falling in love. When Leah is well enough to travel again, she no longer wants to leave the Congo. She decides to stay and become Anatole's wife. (Exodus) –As readers well knew Leah had a crush on Anatole, however thoughts of a life with him didn’t occur too much in her mind. For example, Leah thought Rachel was ridiculous when she slaved over her hope chest, Leah thought the act impractical. Little did she know that once she got to know Anatole and the kindness and compassion he had for people how her thoughts would change. Anatole’s existence changed the way Leah planned her life, instead of going off to do something in the U.S., she decides to simply become a wife and mother with the man she loves.


·         After three years of imprisonment Anatole is released from prison and marries Leah. The two of them move to Bikoki. Anatole works as the headmaster for the regional high school and Leah volunteers at the clinic and teaches a nutrition class. Many years later the couple and their 3 sons travel to the United States so that Leah can study agricultural engineering and Anatole political science and geography.- Anatole’s presence in Leah’s life helped her realize her potential. She knew she was a smart girl, but lacked in confidence and direction. When Anatole allowed Leah to help teach some of the village school boys it was a major stepping stone in Leah’s development as an adult. The good she did in the village of Kilanga propelled her to help more people; she learned the languages of the Congo, as well as the customs in order to do her part in the gain of justice for the country. Furthermore, The two lovebirds I believe push each other to better themselves by getting a higher education in the U.S.



            All in all Anatole has changed the way Leah viewed every aspect of life. Leah thought the world was one big happy family while living in America, but once she moved to the congo and met a man who valued freedom over slavery, her view of the world changed. However, Anatole isn’t entirely responsible for all of her changes, some were because of Nathan’s cruel actions and opinions and others were simply the everyday things in life that altered her to her inner core, for example, the poverty that struck the village. Nevertheless, Anatole served as a guide for Leah’s transformation, instead of trying to be just like her father, Leah strives to be just like Anatole, a fearless man who stand up for what he believes in. The changes Leah experiences all make her a better person. She escapes the cruel doctrine preached by Nathan, the selfishness of American ways, and discovers her calling in life; to help the needy by providing knowledge and any other resource at her disposal. Leah and Anatole I believe come to inspire each other to work for Congo’s freedom and liberation. Anatole served as a friend, mentor and husband to Leah and lead her in a direction in life that fulfilled her desire to help people in a world full of suffering.

 Emily K.

2006, Form B. In many works of literature, a physical journey - the literal movement from one place to another - plays a central role. Choose a novel, play, or epic poem in which a physical journey is an important element and discuss how the journey adds to the meaning of the work as a whole. Avoid mere plot summary.


I.                   In the novel The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, the character Leah Price travels with her family from America to the Congo where her father would act as a missionary to the native people in their village. When she arrived in Africa she initially held the attitude that her American ideals would rescue the natives around her. However her journey across the Atlantic had a profound impact on her and by the end of the novel she realized that American values were not as flawless as she initially believed them to be.

II.                At the beginning of her journey, Leah desired to bring American items and values with her to Africa.

a.       “We came from Bethlehem, Georgia, bearing Betty Crocker cake mixes into the jungle.” (page 1)

                                                              i.      The first sentence of the book directly address the Price’s initial desire to bring traditional American items like cake mix with them to Africa.

b.      “Father had the job of his life cut out for him, bringing the Word to a place like this” (page 40).

                                                              i.      In the beginning of the novel, Leah firmly believes that the duty of the Price family was to bring American ideals to the Congo and reform their native society. This is evidence by the quote above that shows how she believes it is necessary to bring the Word to the Congo.

III.             Eventually, the surroundings of the Congo began to change Leah and her condescending attitude towards native African culture was replace with an attitude of respect.

a.       “What I knew was Anatole had helped us in more ways than my family could ever keep track of” (page 308).

                                                              i.      Leah initially held the villagers in contempt, but over time as it became clear that her family was extremely vulnerable in the extreme African environment, she gained respect for those around her who helped her family survive.

b.      “In the long run, people will persist happily here only if they return to the ways of ancient Kongo” (page 525).

                                                              i.      Leah eventually believes that the Congolese people have a far greater understanding of how the area should be governed than European or Americans do.

IV.             Not only does her journey change her opinion of the Congo to be more favorable, but it shifts Leah’s opinion to America to be one of cynicism instead of blind trust.

a.       “’You may do so in America,’ said Tata Ndu ‘I will not say you are unwise. But in Kilanga we can use the same house for many things”’. (page 332).

                                                              i.      The village of Kilanga did not follow the same traditions of democracy that they practiced in America. Seeing that democracy may not be perfect led Leah to notice other ways in which Kilanga has replaced and American system with their own.

b.      “Then he was murdered and the CIA replaced him with a Mobutu, a capitalist who believes in dictatorship. In the Punch and Judy program of American history, that’s a happy ending” (page 479).

                                                              i.      As Leah continues to try to aid the Africans around her, she notices the faults in the way Americans were trying to benefit the Africans and she openly begins to resent the country she adored so much before her journey.

V.                Before she made the journey across the Atlantic, Leah Price saw herself as a savior who will rescue the morally depraved Africans with her American values. However, once she spent some time in the Congo and observed a different culture, her values changed to be more favorable to native Congolese and cynical to the American society she was initially so proud of.


Laura A.


. “And, after all, our surroundings influence our lives and characters as much as fate, destiny or any supernatural agency.” Pauline Hopkins, Contending Forces
Choose a novel or play in which cultural, physical, or geographical surroundings shape psychological or moral traits in a character. Then write a well-organized essay in which you analyze how surroundings affect this character and illuminate the meaning of the work as a whole. Do not merely summarize the plot.

Intro:  In Barbara Kingsolver’s novel The Poisonwood Bible, she creates the dramatic character of Leah who is changed by the new culture in the Congo that she becomes immersed in.

Topic 1:  When Leah first arrives in the Congo, she is closed-minded and judgmental of the new culture.

·         Leah works hard to please her father, attempting to plant a garden and listens to his lectures and criticisms.  Leah’s views mirror her father’s views.

·         Leah, along with her family, judges the villagers and the naked women, unlike Ruth May, who almost immediately adapts.

Topic 2:  Leah begins to lose her religion and question her father’s beliefs because of influence from others around her.

·         When the ants invade the village, Leah questions God’s reasons.  Anatole gives her an explanation and explains his own religious views, and Leah listens with an open mind.

·         Leah begins to understand the different beliefs of the villagers and how their religion is the way of nature.  She appreciates the logic and the simplicity of the new religion.

Topic 3:  Leah renounces her old beliefs and her old stubbornness.

·         Leah abandons her father.  She realizes that his ways are extreme and she no longer wants to impress him.

·         Leah marries Anatole and, although she still aims to help the Congolese, she no longer wants to convert them.  She has completely renounced her old beliefs.

Conclusion:  Leah comes to the Congo with the belief that she and her father would help the Congolese people by converting them.  However, because of the events she witnesses in the Congo, and because of the people and culture she became surrounded by, she loses her former religious views and changes her outlook on life.  Although Leah is still Leah, eager to learn and to please, part of her character is further developed by the culture she is surrounded by in the Congo.

Kiri J.

2005, Form B. One of the strongest human drives seems to be a desire for power. Write an essay in which you discuss how a character in a novel or a drama struggles to free himself or herself from the power of others or seeks to gain power over others. Be sure to demonstrate in your essay how the author uses this power struggle to enhance the meaning of the work. 

       I.            Most novels contain characters who face a problem which needs fixing and changing. In the end, the character inevitably changes themself and is molded into who they ultimately become.  In Barbara Kingsolver’s novel The Poisonwood Bible, Leah begins her journey in the Congo as a young and naïve child who blindly believes every word her father seeks and transforms to a wise and respected woman. As she matures she opens her eyes, struggling to free herself from the cruel and undermining ways of her father.

    II.            Toward the beginning of the novel Leah obeys her father, even when everyone around her is getting hurt by his cruel and harsh words.

a.       “My father witnessed the progress of every new leaf and fat flower bud. I walked behind him, careful not to trample the vines” (Kingsolver 64). This quote illustrates a real life representation of Leah’s unwillingness to part or to disappoint her father in fear that he would become disappointed in her. As the first sentence shows, she watches every move he makes, so that she can follow in his footsteps. This shows that she has yet to grow into herself and her beliefs.

b.      “I know that someday, when I’ve grown large enough in the holy spirit, I will have his wholehearted approval” (42). At this point in the novel Leah is still fixated on the fact that her father and God are one. She believes that if she is Christian enough, her father will love her more. This quote goes to further show how she needs her father’s support in everything.

 III.            As the book gradually progresses, Leah remains a follower of her father but begins to wonder why the perspectives of the people are different than that of her father.

a.       “My father thinks the Congo is just lagging behind and he can help bring it up to snuff. Which is crazy” (284). This is significant because for one of the first times throughout the novel, Leah is questioning her father’s wisdom and ability to do what is right for the people. She is beginning to question his ability to handle the power he has in order to help the citizens in the Congo.

b.      “I used to pray to God to make me just like him. Smart and righteous and adequate to His will… Now I don’t know what to wish for. I wish I were more like everyone else” (285). This is a transitional zone for Leah, as she isn’t quite showing signs of rebelling, yet she is starting to question her father and his ethics. She is beginning to realize that some of the facts and realities of life that her father talks about day in and day out are not the actualities that encompass them every minute of every day. She is beginning to realize that some of the people in the Congo, who have less education than she and the rest of her family, are more enlightened on the events of the current day world than they are.

 IV.            As Leah develops into her own, and fills her life with those who truly care for her such Anatole, she realizes that the beliefs that her father carries are wrong.

a.       “I crave to stop bearing all the wounds of this place on my own narrow body. But I also want to be a person who stays, who goes on feeling anguish where anguish is due. I want to belong somewhere damn it. To scrub the hundred years, war off this white skin till there’s nothing left and I can walk out among my neighbors wearing raw sinew and bone like they do” (474). This quote shows how Leah has now progressed to her own person. She now has her own beliefs and feelings toward life and what happens in it. It is because of this that Leah now has an undefeatable power which gives her the will and courage to stand up for what she believes in and to stand against the wrong doings that surround her.

b.      “If I could reach backward somehow to give father just one gift, it would be the simple human relief of knowing you’ve done wrong, and living through it. Poor Father, who was just one of a million men who never did catch on. He stamped me with a belief in justice, then drenched me in culpability, and I wouldn’t wish such torment even on a mosquito” (525). Leah shows the reader her wisdom and fulfillment in life through these final words which relay all the colors of her emotions throughout the duration of the novel. They show that she is the one who ultimately has the power to influence people for the better because she realizes the flaws in all yet does not wish for even them to feel the hurt she experienced from her father.

    V.            Power is not the ability to control people, but rather the ability to triumph over all odds in the pursuit of self-purpose.

Jonah S.


2005, Form B. One of the strongest human drives seems to be a desire for power. Write an essay in which you discuss how a character in a novel or a drama struggles to free himself or herself from the power of others or seeks to gain power over others. Be sure to demonstrate in your essay how the author uses this power struggle to enhance the meaning of the work.



In the novel The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, Leah struggles to free herself from the emotionally and physically abusive dominion of her strictly religious father, a plot that subtly shares a message about a larger power struggle between the people of the Congo and corrupt leaders who control them. Leah’s free-spirited personality and her desire to live a life larger than the carefully controlled one set out for her by her father sheds light on the necessity for all to have personal freedoms and the right to shape their own destiny.


Topic Sentence

The author introduces readers to the domineering personality of Nathan, Leah’s father, from the outset of the novel to build tension and eventually bring the power struggle between father and daughter to a head.


“If his decision to keep us here in the Congo wasn’t right, then what else might he be wrong about? It has opened up in my heart a sickening world of doubts and possibilities, where before I and only faith in my father and love for the Lord.” 

Leah pg. 244

-Leah first begins to see beyond the limitations the imposition of control can enforce, and she loses some trust in the judgement of her father.

“We aimed for no more than to have dominion over every creature that moved upon the earth. and so it came to pass that we stepped down there on a place we believed unformed, where only darkness moved on the face of the waters.” Orleanna

-This early quote from Orleanna gives insight into the perspective of the colonists that took over the Congo as well as the perspective of Nathan in his missionary endeavors.

Topic Sentence

The strained relationship between Leah and Nathan can be viewed as a microcosm for the historically strained relationship between the Congolese people and the foreign government which inhabited their lands.


“I’m going with the men and that’s final.’

Father went crazy. We’d always wondered what would happen if we flat-out disobeyed him. Now we were fixing to see. He lit out after her with his wide leather belt already coming out of his pants as he stomped through the dirt. But by the time he got to the edge of the yard she was gone. She’d vamoosed into the tall grass, and off she was headed for the jungle, where it was plain to see he’d never find her.” Leah pg. 340

-Leah’s rebellion is a microcosm for the rebellion of the Congolese people and speaks to the inherent desire for liberty each of us feels.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the Congo who have fought for the independence won today, I salute you!” Patrice Lamumba pg. 182

-Like Leah, Lamumba spoke out against the injustice of those who controlled his people because he saw something better for himself and his brothers and sisters.


Topic Sentence

Leah’s freedom from her father’s suffocating influence gives hope to readers for the future of the Congolese.


“After a lifetime caged away from flight and truth, comes freedom,”  Adah pg. 186

-Having ones potential stifled for an extended period of time makes the justice of freedom sweeter. Like Methuselah, Leah hit her stride when she found the courage to stand up to her father.

“But in my dreams I still have hope, and in life, no safe retreat. If I have to hop all the way on one foot, damn it, I’ll find a place I can claim as home.” Leah, pg. 506

-In freedom Leah found love and meaning. Even though it wasn’t easy and there were periods of difficulty, freedom brought happiness and prosperity. The author suggests that independence could do the same for the Congolese.



The struggle for control between a strictly religious father and his free-spirited daughter sheds light on the plight of shackled peoples around the world and gives readers insight into the crippling effect of spiritual and emotion imprisonment. 


Skye D.

2009. A symbol is an object, action, or event that represents something or that creates a range of associations beyond itself. In literary works a symbol can express an idea, clarify meaning, or enlarge literal meaning. Select a novel or play and, focusing on one symbol, write an essay analyzing how that symbol functions in the work and what it reveals about the characters or themes of the work as a whole. Do not merely summarize the plot.


Gardens have represented life, success, and connectedness with nature since the beginning of time.  However, in the novel, The Poisonwood Bible, Kingsolver presents Nathan Price’s Demonstration Garden as a negative reflection of the Prices’ experience in the Congo.  Kingsolver suggests the garden to be a symbol of the Prices’ inability to assimilate to Congolese culture, Nathan Price’s harmful ignorance, and his misguided understanding of Christianity, therefore suggesting that the cultural ideals of the Western world will not blossom in the Congo.


Nathan plants his garden in order to attempt to show the Congolese how to grow their own food, while he plants his family into the Congo in order to show the Congolese how to live Christian lives; yet, both wind up mangled, unsightly, and some even end up dead.

·         “Some of the bean vines had wound themselves all the way into the treetops, striving for light” Nathan is oppressing both the plants and his family, the oppression of the plants illuminates the oppression of his family members as they strive for light under his unbearable rule. They feel trapped and like they don’t belong.

·         “But my father needs permission only from the Saviour, who obviously is all in favor of subduing the untamed wilderness for a garden” Leah brings to light the Western ignorance that Nathan and his family bring as Nathan fails to teach with his demonstration garden. The plants and the family both serve as outsiders unable to help the Congolese people.


Nathan believes that by planting his garden, he is bringing new ideas to the Congolese people, thus emphasizing his arrogance and self-concluded superiority – traits that permeate the entire novel and result in complete failure.

·         “The Lord helps those that help themselves” Nathan Price believes he is doing all of Africa a good deed by demonstrating how they should be feeding themselves.  The fact that Nathan thinks that the African people are too dim-witted to think of this themselves supports that he is blind to the country and culture in which he now lives.

·         “How did this curse come to me, when it’s God’s own will to cultivate the soil!” Nathan ignored Mama Tataba’s warning about the poisonwood and now suffers the price.  He exclaims that he doesn’t understand why God would do this to him, but the answer was right in front of his nose.  He believes he can do no wrong, and that any pain or criticism from God is undeserved.


In the Bible, Adam and Even sin in the Garden of Eden, driven by a quest for knowledge, while Nathan sins in his demonstration garden, driven by a self-appointment to do what he considers to be God’s work; consequentially, he ends up harming the Congo more than helping it.

·         “He has been singled out for a life of trial, as Jesus was” Leah worships her father and compares him to Jesus.  She is not to blame, for this is how he presents himself to her.  This conceit is misguided as Nathan continually fails, yet he never blames himself.

·         “It falls upon father to deliver penance” Nathan Price is in power over the Congolese much like the entire Western world is in power over the Congolese.  Both believe it is their duty to enlighten and punish; yet, they end up benefiting and the Congolese find more struggles than before.


Through the symbolism of Nathan Price’s demonstration garden, Kingsolver emphasizes the arrogance and harm he and the Western world bring to the Congo as attempts to instill Western values fail over and over again.