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Free Study Guide for The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver BookNotes

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The Things We Didnít Know: Kilanga, Sept. 1960 (Continued)


(Cluster 3: Orleanna begins to recuperate although Ruth May remains sick. Brother Fowles and his African wife visit, Tata Ndu makes a bid to add Rachel to his household as another wife.)



Rachel has been bravely trying to cook decent meals but is not willing to listen to her sisters. Consequently, she usually builds the fire too hot and burns their food. She has just finished throwing the spatula after burning the last of their eggs when Mother appears in the door and calmly returns the spatula to her. Orleanna reminds Rachel that she has brought her predicament on herself through sixteen years of refusing to have anything to do with household tasks, including cooking. The next day, Orleanna, who has finally gotten well enough to pull herself back together, begins teaching Rachel how to cook. Her illness appears to have changed her, however; she is more defiant toward their father, more determined to find a way out of Africa. Leah is torn, for she wants to believe in her fatherís mission, yet she also blames him for failing to take care of the family.



Brother Fowles and his wife pay an unexpected visit. He and Nathan bandy Bible verses back and forth for a while with Brother Fowles getting the best of Nathan in his application of Biblical principles to the Africansí situation and culture. Nathan finally runs out of patience and dismisses them without inviting them to supper. The Fowles spend the rest of the day visiting the villagers who are surprisingly fond of him. Before leaving, they take the Price women to their boat where they give of their own supplies and medicine. They tell Orleanna that they too decided to stay in the Congo when independence was declared and that they are living at a mission upstream.



Adah comments on the summer hardships and lack of food during the hot months. When Tata Ndu begins bringing gifts of food and trinkets, they mistakenly believe that he is attempting some sort of reconciliation. After several visits, Nelson explains that Tata Ndu sees the needs of the white people and is trying to help them by exchanging gifts for one of the girls-specifically Rachel because he is fascinated by her pale skin and platinum blond hair. He wants her for another of his wives.

When Orleanna fails to understand why Tata Ndu would want Rachel, Nelson tries to explain it. The chief thinks Rachelís strange color would cheer up his other wives. Also, he has seen that the girls are all thin and sick. He knows that Nathan Price would not accept help from the Congolese, so he is trying to bargain, man to man.


The familyís failure to recognize that Tata Ndu was not just bringing goodwill gifts is a further mark of how little they have learned about the culture in spite of being there for over a year. In spite of his differences of opinion, Tata Ndu attempts to show Nathan the respect of one man for another in his own way. Rachelís excessively fair complexion is regarded as a novelty. Nelson says that she "doesnít have any proper skin" and says that people think she was born too soon, "before she got finished cooking."

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Ruff, Karen DA. "TheBestNotes on The Poisonwood Bible". . 09 May 2017