Struggle Towards Freedom in The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
In the novel The Poisonwood Bible, the author Barbara Kingsolver uses the journey of the price family in the congo as a juxtaposition to convey a deeper political struggle of the congo from its oppressive ruler. The author establishes this through Nathans’s characterization by showcasing his relationship between his daughters and Orleannaa as an extended metaphor to the power struggle between the congo and the imperialist powers. This power struggle for Nathan to gain power over his family is the underlying theme of the book, In which it explores the struggle of the colonized vs the colonizer and the powerless against the powerful to be free.
Nathans’s characterization throughout the novel juxtaposes that of the US and Belgium in the congo. Nathan’s oppressive and authoritarian characteristics and his desire to seek power over his family and the people of Kalinga through force only leads to the destruction of his family and the people around him. Orleana mentions Nathan is something devastating that happened to the price family. Nathan is seen as a conqueror from his own family and by the people of the congo. His arrogance represents the west and their need to seek power over Africa despite the damage already done by them. Leah mentions “He stamped me with a belief injustice, then drenched me in culpability, and I wouldn’t wish such torment even on a mosquito. But that exacting, tyrannical God of his has left me for good.”This reveals the dangers of power and its desire to oppress, exploit and rule. Nathan imposition of belief and religion was only a form of oppression to keep his family obedient to his orders. This struggle of an oppressed family and a country to be free from tyranny is the deeper power struggle expressed in the book.
While Nathan represents the west his family serves as an extended metaphor of the congo under the imperialist regime. Ruth May comments “Mama, I hope he never comes back,” to Orleana about her father, revealing the true emotion she has on her father as an abusive ruler. The submissive nature of Orleana leads to the death of her daughter Ruth May and the guilt finally gives her the courage to revolt against Nathan. While Adah and Leah try to gain control over their life by rebelling against their father to avoid the same fate as their mother. The Price women characterization has a profound meaning in the novel. Under Nathan rule their freedom is limited and their rebellion against their abusive father is the allegory of the Congos fight against its oppressive ruler. The path taken by each of the price women serves as the journey to liberation from its abusive ruler. The congo also takes the same path but its journey for liberation is for more complex and dreadful.
The congo is exploited and ruined by the west using white man’s burden to justify their actions while Nathan uses religion to justify his actions and the book reveals the Price family emotion of guilt about their own experience in the congo and at the end each character chooses a path to overcome their guilt.
The author Barbara Kingsolver uses power dynamics between characters to achieve this deeper meaning in the book. The book’s main theme focus on the journey for liberation which leads to a fragmented family and a torn country but the fight between the powerless against the powerful leads them to true freedom.
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