Blood:Water Book Club: “The Poisonwood Bible,” Section 4

ThePoisonwoodBible-01

Summary

In the second half of Book Three: The Judges, Tata Ndu offers to marry Rachel, so the Prices arrange an agreement with Eeben Axelroot to make people think he and Rachel are engaged. Even Nathan has learned that when Tata Ndu presents an idea, it has already been decided upon by the entire village and to go against it would be offensive to them all. Anatole explains that the practice of discussing ideas until everyone agrees is the reason an election where nearly half the population could potentially disagree will never work.

Through the arrangement with Axelroot we learn of President Eisenhower’s plan to have President Lumumba murdered. This makes Leah and Adah question the place they consider home and their idea of where safety is found. As Leah begins to grapple with this in addition to her growing doubts about her father’s teachings, her relationship with Anatole deepens. She recognizes that their family could not have survived without him. While it’s true that Anatole has done much for them, when Leah voices the realization that they never should have come to Kilanga, Anatole agrees but shares that none of the villagers desire their demise and have secretly been doing things to help them along the way.

Finally, when ants swarm the village, everyone must flee, revealing or reaffirming the character of each member of the Price family. Leah quickly escapes but is overcome with guilt for leaving her family, particularly Adah, behind. Rachel, as usual, is only concerned with herself. Ruth May focuses on the safe place Nelson told her to think of when it is time for her to disappear: transformation into a mamba snake. Adah realizes she values her own life and has a desire to live, but when her mother doesn’t choose to save her and she is left to be trampled, her life shifts to a downward slope toward death. Orleanna chooses to save Ruth May over Adah. And, true to form, Nathan sermonizes about the plague, continuing to try to convert villagers even as they try to save him and his family.

Themes

Cultural guilt; Survival; Doubt in home and religion

Powerful Lines*

  • There was an unspoken feeling of danger, which we couldn’t discuss but felt we should be attending to at all times. (Leah, 320)
  • In Congo, it seems the land owns the people. How could I explain to Anatole about soybean fields where men sat in huge tractors like kings on thrones, taming the soil from one horizon to the other? (Leah, 340)
  • Our Father tries to make them understand the batiza is no fetish but a contract with Jesus Christ. If baptized, the children would be in heaven now. And the mothers look at him slant-eyed. If my daughter were in heaven could she still watch the baby while I work in my manioc? Could she carry water for me? Would a son in heaven have wives to take care of me when I am old? (Adah, 359)
  • “Don’t blame God for what ants have to do. We all get hungry. Congolese people are not so different from Congolese ants…When they are pushed down long enough they will rise up. If they bite you, they are trying to fix things in the only way they know.” – Anatole (Leah, 370)

Questions to Ponder

  1. Ruth May believes she is sick because of sins she has committed. What does this reveal about Nathan Price’s teaching?
  2. Adah realizes she believed her life worth saving. Why is this realization so surprising to Adah? How does this change Adah?
  3. In this section, the five Price women begin to assimilate more and more to the local culture as a means of survival. How is this change reflected in each of them?

*Quotes cited according to 2003 HarperTouch edition.