Free Study Guide for The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver BookNotes|
BOOK SUMMARY - THE POISONWOOD BIBLE BY BARBARA KINGSOLVER
BOOK TWO: The Revelation
Orleanna recalls the release of the parrot and loss of Mama Tataba. Unable to grow familiar vegetables, she learned how to cook manioc, a rather tasteless root that is the staple of the African diet. Mama Tataba had not only cooked and cleaned for them but had also saved them from the consequences of their own mistakes, such as using poisonwood twigs for kindling. The smoke alone from the poisonwood would have killed them.
Nathan did not hear her fears of snakes or pay any attention to her worries about food. His conviction was that as they had come to Africa to do the will of God, they would also have Godís protection.
Orleanna remembers Tata Ndu as their primary adversary, warning people away from the church on the grounds that the preacher would feed the children to the crocodiles. Nathan agreed to a meeting with Tata Ndu and attempted a reconciliation. The chief had agreed to baptism by sprinkling but was offended by Nathanís insistence that the chief have only one wife at a time. The chief says it would be a shame-faced chief who could only afford one wife.
Nathan became obsessed with his understanding of his "mission" and with the notion that he had failed God. He blamed himself for compromising with the natives, even for having yielded to building mounds in his garden.
Orleanna acknowledges that in spite of her efforts to escape Africa, it still claims her soul. Small things remind her unexpectedly of scents and sounds of the Congo. She had tried to be one of the women, believing she could be one of them and still be Nathanís wife, but they rejected her, seeing her small mistakes as a violation of their traditions. She recalls the struggle just to stay alive, the way in which she was forced to bargain for everything including their mail. Once Mama Tataba left them, Orleanna learned to appreciate the travail that was required to produce three meals a day for her family.
She tolerated her husband, marveling that life could be so simple for him. He had played football in high school with great success, so he apparently expected his entire life to be a winning season. Yet, she tried to be a supportive wife to him, holding him in her arms at night and listening to his private anguish over a failure to establish an agreement with Tata Ndu who would finally allow a "sprinkling" baptism but would not concede to one wife for himself. Orleanna says that she saw her husbandís soul "turn to ash" and that he was reborn with a stone in place of his heart. She suffers because of the needs that Nathan never saw in his own family, but also blames herself for too much "looking back."
The Things We Learned. Kilanga, June 30, 1960
(Cluster 1. Leah develops an appreciation for the Congo language and people, Ruth May breaks her arm and discovers that Eben Axelroot is smuggling diamonds, Rachel sees Anatole as a moderator between the people and her father, and Adah brings a scare and a triumph to her father when she unwittingly escapes a lion attack.)
The girls have learned the names of many African plants and animals and have virtually memorized guidebooks left behind by former missionary Brother Fowles. They and their mother receive a bit of pleasure from the recognition of trees like bougainvillea and hibiscus, which also grow in Georgia.
Leah gets acquainted with some of the people, recognizing most of them by their clothes. She believes her fatherís teachings and finds herself at odds with Tata Boanda who has two wives. She has been taught that polygamy is sin, but there seems to be no solution that would be fair to Tata Boanda and his wives as well. The older wife is already "too sad" for him to kick her out, and the young one has babies who need their father.
Poinsettias bloom prolifically in July, making Leah wish that she could live in the Congo forever. She covets the Congo language, noting that Adah "ran away with the prize" for learning foreign languages when she mastered French ahead of everyone else. Leah is supposed to babysit Ruth May, but she often uses terrifying stories to frighten her little sister into staying at the house, thereby escaping to explore the jungle and spy on Eben Axelroot.
Leah longs for a way to communicate with the African children, but Ruth May gets the jump on her in that regard by teaching the children to play "Mother May I" one day when Leah has left her behind at the house. After the game, a boy named Pascal stays behind and soon becomes the childrenís first real friend . He teaches them more Kikongo words and cuts sugar cane for them to chew. Leah realizes the extreme distance between their priorities and Pascalís and feels embarrassed at his ease in building a six-inch house made of twigs.
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