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Free Study Guide-The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver-Free Summary
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21) "What happened to us in the Congo was simply the bad luck of two opposite worlds crashing into each other, causing tragedy. After something like that, you can only go your own way according to what’s in your heart. And in my family, all our hearts seem to have whole different things inside." Rachel, pg. 465.

Rachel survives on her own terms because she is capable of realizing that no one in her family every really had anything in common with any of the others. Her father was involved with his self appointed mission, and her mother was trapped in trying to see that they survived to adulthood. There was no one left to build real relationships or to develop common interests, so each of her sisters grew up under the name of family but with ideas that were uniquely diverse to each. Rachel made a life for herself by simply "picking up her feet" and letting life carry her along the path of least resistance. In different words, she agrees with her mother- that it was destiny, and humans can do little to control it and will accomplish nothing by taking the blame for it.

22) "The King of Kings aroused the anger of Antiochus against the rascal. And when Lysias informed him this man was to blame for all the trouble, he ordered them to put him to death in a way that is customary there. For there is a tower there, seventy-five feet high, filled with ashes, and there they push a man guilty of sacrilege or notorious for other crimes to destruction. By such a fate it came to pass that the transgressor died, not even getting burial in the ground." Adah, 487.

Adah quotes a verse from the Apocrypha, a favorite section of the Bible for Nathan although most churches did not recognize it as a valid part of the Bible. Adah had been made to copy the section numerous times as punishment and recognizes the irony. According to the stories they have heard, their father perished in a tower that had been set on fire. The end he received was one he had quoted, preached on, and inflicted metaphorically on others.

23) "Betrayal bent me in one direction while guilt bent her the other way. We constructed our lives around a misunderstanding, and if ever I tried to pull it out and fix it now I would fall down flat. Misunderstanding is my cornerstone. It’s everyone’s come to think of it. Illusions mistaken for truth are the pavement under our feet. They are what we call civilization." Adah, pg. 532.


Adah reaches a final understanding of the misconceptions that were a part of her entire family. Each person had her own misconception of guilt or responsibility. Each had their own belief about the way things ought to be, and their beliefs did not coincide with their father’s or any one else’s. In fact, Adah realizes that illusion was not limited to her family. The Congo people thought they were about to get independence and received dictatorship. Lumumba thought he was to be prime minister and was assassinated. Her own mother thought she was at last freeing herself from Africa but found herself driven to continuously gaze over the ocean in that direction as if pieces of her were still trapped in the Congo. Perhaps freedom itself is intertwined with a people’s success or failure in living out their misconceptions.

24) "My baby, my blood, my honest truth: entreat me not to leave thee, for whither thou goest, I will go. Where I lodge, we lodge together, Where I die, you’ll be buried at last." Orleanna, pg. 382.

In an interesting reversal of a passage of the Bible from the Book of Ruth, Orleanna acknowledges that although she buried Ruth May, she never let her go. In this she is taking on an additional burden of guilt, for she feels Ruth May’s spirit and feels that she has forced the child to remain a part of her world. In her mind, when she dies, Ruth May will then die with her. She does not understand the muntu.

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