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Free Study Guide for The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver BookNotes

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What We Carried Out (Continued)


(Cluster 2: Leah hides in a convent while her fiancé, Anatole serves time in prison and Rachel schemes for a new lover).

Leah Price: Mission Notre Dame De Douleur, 1964


When Leah awoke from her bout with malaria, she could see that her very presence was a danger to everyone in Bulungu as Mobutuís army was unpredictable and merciless to anyone who may have had sympathies for Lumumba. She had begged Anatole to take her someplace where she wouldnít be a danger to others, but he had insisted that she had nothing to be ashamed of and that they would go together when she was well enough.

They had received help from friends including some of the men from Kilanga. Tata Boanda brought Belgian francs that he claimed were owed to Nathan Price along with the remnants of the hope chests that had been found in the house. Anatoleís students who had strongly supported Lumumba were involved in skirmishes with the national army. Nathan Price was living in a hut in the woods, still trying to create converts to a new religion of his own.

The money had helped Leah and Anatole get to Stanleyville, but they were inflamed by merely the sight of white skin. Anatole had hidden her in the back of a truck, covered with manioc leaves, and had brought her to the mission deep in the jungle where the well known neutrality of the sisters might enable her to hide for a while.

Leah explains that she and Anatole had expected to be apart for six to eight weeks while Anatole worked with the Lumumbists to reassemble a sense of peace and prosperity. However, Anatole had been detained by Mobutuís police and is imprisoned in Leopoldville. While waiting, Leah learns to speak Lingala and works to help the nuns. She often struggles to understand how they are able to conduct their work without animosity or resentment toward the various political factions that bring so much injury and death to the country.

Rachel Axelroot, Johannesburg 1964


Rachel seems content with her life in South Africa. She has modern conveniences and wealthy friends. Occasionally she thinks about her family, but they are far from her both physically and emotionally-a condition symbolized by a tiny picture in a locket that is usually left unopened in her dresser drawer.

Rachelís primary problem is with her husband, Axelroot, who uses her as a toy and ridicules her intelligence. She plots revenge by way of snaring the French Ambassador or "attache," Daniel DuPree. DuPree is already married but rumor has him being reposted to Brazzaville. Rachel thinks his wife would never survive even if she were willing to move; furthermore, she thinks that she has information about the DuPreeís pending breakup, and she is poised to take advantage of it. She whispers seductive secrets to DuPree at one of the Templeton parties and implies that she has been successful in getting him into her bed.


The pace of the last two books of the novel is pushed into fast forward, detailing only the major changes of each girlís life as they occur. Anatole had promised Orleanna that he would send Leah wherever she wanted to go as soon as she was well enough to travel. She thinks that she chosen him, and that he would have sent her home if she had let him. However, he was in love with her as well; given her background it is logical that he would have left it to her to choose to stay in Africa. Any influence on his part could have opened the door for future discontent if things did not go well.

Rachel finds her own world, going from worthless husband to fickle boyfriend. It is to her credit, however, that she does not try to find anyone to blame for her situation, but finds ways to manipulate her life to her own liking. She is self-centered and vain, but also independent and more capable than her family may have realized. Itís ironic that in spite of the influence of the Baptist doctrine in her early years and her fatherís preaching in her teen years, she is more of a rebel than any of the rest of them and can shed morals as easily as an old jacket.

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