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Free Study Guide-The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver-Free Summary
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12) "You still think youíre the epicenter of a continent, donít you Princess?" Axelroot, pg. 293.

Rachel is trying to play the game invented by her father and Axelroot, designed to keep her from having to marry Tata Ndu. She thinks she can play it according to her own rules and persuade Axelroot to take her family out of Congo. He is well aware of her intentions and of her arrogance. His analysis of her is remarkably accurate in one sense, but in another she is emotionally a child with sisters who seem to be more intelligent and more loved than she is. Rachel, however, does not let her need get her down, but continually schemes to acquire the importance she craves.

13) "Why why why, they sang, the mothers who staggered down our road behind small tightly wrapped corpses, mothers crazy-walking on their knees, with mouths open wide like a hole ripped in mosquito netting. That mouth hole! Jagged torn place in their spirits that lets the small flying agonies pass in and out. Mothers with eyes squeezed shut, dark cheek muscles tied in knots, heads thrashing from side to side as they passed." Adah, pg. 296.

A description of the expression of grief from Kilanga mothers who have lost children to malaria and dysentery. The description reads like poetry and could perhaps be called a "found" poem. Yet it is also a subtle foreshadowing as the mothers will one day be singing their mourning song for her family.

14) "Not my clothes, there wasnít time, and not the Bible-it didnít seem worth saving at that moment, so help me God. It had to be my mirror." Rachel, 301.


During the invasion of the ants, Rachel goes back into the house to try to salvage one "important" thing. The choice of the mirror is on the surface a reflection of her vanity, but could also be considered an attempt to hang onto the image she has of herself, a need to preserve some aspect of the privileged teen that she wants to be. The mirror itself is symbolic of priorities.

15) "Live was I ere I saw evil. Now I do not wonder at all. That night marks my lifeís dark center, the moment when growing up ended and the long downward slope toward death began. The wonder to me now is that I thought myself worth saving. But I did....And if they chanced to look down and see my
struggling underneath them, they saw that even the crooked girl believed her own life was precious. That is what it means to be a beast in the kingdom." Adah, pg. 306.

During the attack of the ants, Adah sees her mother carry Ruth May to safety. She thinks she sees her mother hesitate as if trying to decide whom to save and then choosing the more perfect Ruth May. Although that isnít exactly what is in her motherís mind, Adah spends several years believing that she had been left behind as not worth saving. She also sees that although she was in the process of being trampled, even she struggled for life. The "beast in the kingdom" is a metaphor for the value of every living thing and is echoed later on when she sees once again that the price of survival is always the death of some other living being.

16) "Donít expect Godís protection in places beyond Godís dominion. It will only make you feel punished....when things go badly, you will blame yourself....Donít try to make life a mathematics
problem with yourself in the center and everything coming out equal. When you are good, bad things can still happen. And if you are bad, you can still be lucky." Anatole, pg. 309.

Leah interprets Anatoleís words as an indication that he thinks her faith is childish. Rather he is simply trying to get her to understand that regardless of a personís religion, the processes of the earth take place and effect all life unevenly. It is senseless to try to find a religious or personal cause for everything that happens. Anatoleís words are the exact opposite of the teachings of Nathan Price; according to Nathan, God rewards the just and punishes the unjust. Leah will eventually decide that Anatoleís view makes more sense.

17) "The death of something living is the price of our own survival, and we pay it again and again. We have no choice. It is the one solemn promise every life on earth is born and bound to keep." Adah, 347.

After watching the outcome of the hunt, Adah echoes her summation on life from the night of the ants.

18) "For women like me, it seems, itís not ours to take charge of beginnings and ending...I only know the middle ground where we live our lives....To resist occupation, whether youíre a nation or merely a
woman, you must understand the language of your enemy. Conquest and liberation and democracy and divorce are words that mean squat, basically, when you have hungry children and clothes to get out on the line, and it looks like rain." Orleanna, pg. 383.

Orleanna attempts to explain why she waited so long to leave Nathan and why she didnít act earlier to prevent some things from happening. Women, to her way of thinking, were not given a part in the decision making, but were expected to complete more than their share of the labor that resulted from whatever decision was made. She was too busy trying to feed hungry mouths to ask how she arrived in that situation or whether she ought to do anything to change it.

19) "If you are the eyes in the trees, watching us as we walk away from Kilanga, how will you make your judgement? Lord knows after thirty years I still crave your forgiveness, but who are you? A small burial mound in the middle of Nathanís garden, where vines and flowers have long since unrolled to feed insects and children. Is that what you are? Are you still my own flesh and blood, my last born, or are you now the flesh of Africa? " Orleanna, pg. 385.

Orleanna is unable to answer her own questions even though she senses that somehow the spirit of Ruth May is not gone. An awareness of and her search for forgiveness from an entity she canít quite find support the "muntu" concept of the unity and interconnectedness of life.

20) "My little beast, my eyes, my favorite stolen egg. Listen. To live is to be marked. To live is to change, to acquire the words of a story, and that is the only celebration we mortals really know. In perfect stillness, frankly, Iíve only found sorrow." Orleanna, pg. 385.

Orleannaís words echo the sentiment of American Indian N. Scott Momaday who said, "In the end, the words are all we really have." The theme of story telling as healing is the underlying thread of the entire novel.

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