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Free Study Guide-The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver-Free Summary
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KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS

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SETTING

Most of the novel takes place in Africa from 1959 to the late 1980's. Nathan Price takes his family to the Congo as missionaries just prior to the Congo’s historic declaration of independence and the election of the first native prime minister. As the prime minister was ill-prepared, the move to independence led to disaster, political instability and unsafe conditions for Europeans and Americans.


Kingsolver takes advantage of the historical crisis by placing the Price family in Kilanga, a province of the Congo where the Congolese men were beginning to get involved in a nationalist movement that had started in the 1920s. Refusing to listen to caution, Nathan keeps his family in Africa even when others leave and the mission board cuts off the meager financial support. The family experiences the same privation that the African people live with. The death of the youngest child, Ruth May, finally drives Orleanna to walk her way out of Africa, taking Adah with her.

The African continent affects each member of the Price family in a different way. Thus, from books 5 through 7, events take place in Georgia, in the Congo and in South Africa, depending on which narrative voice is engaged.

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