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Poisonwood Bible

Barbara Kingsolver

Bel and the Serpent

The Judges,continued

Bel and the Serpent, page 2

page 1 of 2

Beginning until the Fire Hunt


Until now we have only heard Orleanna discuss her guilt over her personal loss in Congo, but now she turns toward the task of making sense of all that happened there on the political level. She learned of the political events years after they occurred, when in 1975 a group of Senators took it upon themselves to look into the secret operations in Congo, and here she reports them to us. In August 1960, Allen Dulles head of the CIA, sent a telegram to the Congolese station chief, Lawrence Devlin, ordering him to replace the new Congolese government as soon as possible. Devlin arranged a military coup, and installed a greedy Congolese man named Joseph Mobutu at its head. On September 14, the army, under Mobutu's command, took control of the Republic of Congo, and placed Patrice Lumumba under house arrest. On November 27, Lumumba escaped. However, while he was on the run he was recognized by a man on the street and pulled into the crowd to give an improptu speech. Among this crowd was a mercenary pilot with a radio, who immediately contacted the authorities. The army recaptured Lumumba, and put him in prison where he was beaten to death.


Leah now brings us back to the very personal events unfolding in Kilanga at the same time as these historic events are playing out. Tata Ndu shows up in church one day and, after listening patiently for a while to Reverend Price's sermon, stands up and demands an election. The election, he says, is to determine once and for all whether the people of Kilanga want Jesus to be worshipped in their village. Nathan calls this approach to religion blasphemy, but has no choice but to submit to the vote. Jesus loses eleven to fifty six. Ruth May is the only Price woman to cast a vote.


The famine has reached desperate proportions, and to secure food for the village, a traditional fire hunt is called. A large fire will be set in front of the jungle, forcing the animals out. As the animals try to escape their burning home, the men of the village will follow them with bow and arrows and shoot them down. A tremendous dispute breaks out over the possibility of Leah partaking in the hunt. Anatole argues on her behalf, pleading that such a good marksman could be very useful to them. Chief Ndu and Tata Kuvundu strenuously object, claming that the old customs cannot be flouted so egregiously by letting a woman partake in the hunt. The issue is put to a vote and it is decided that Leah will participate in the hunt. Tata Kuvundu is enraged and warns that because the villagers have overturned the natural way of the world, the animals will rise up against them in the night. Everyone is terrified by this pronouncement.

At home Nathan reprimands Leah for her part in this dispute and forbids her from taking part in the hunt. Leah openly declares that she will disobey him, and stomps off into the night. Nathan tries to go after her, swinging his belt menacingly, but she is too fast for him. As he lashes at trees, the remaining women lock themselves in the girls' room by pushing the beds up against the door. Orleanna spends the night there, and Leah comes in through the window near dawn. The next evening Anatole finds an evil sign outside his hut, and the following morning he awakes to find a mamba snake curled up next to his bed. Luckily, he sees it before putting his feet down, and so he is saved from certain death. The entire village is convinced that Tata Kuvundu's warning is coming true.


At the fire hunt, Adah, Orleanna, and Ruth May stay with the women, gathering up whatever insects and other crawling creatures are burned, and skinning the meat off the downed animals. Adah watches the mass death solemnly, reflecting on the fact that this horrific slaughter is the only means by which her neighbors can remain alive.

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Corrections and Ideas

by GrammarJunkie18, July 11, 2013

Corrections: There are several mistakes in this article, from plot-related to grammatical. The ones I can think of off the top of my head are: a) Adah's right side, not her left, is crippled, b) the author used "effect" as a verb, and c) it's wringing, not ringing, near the end. Someone should probably look over this sometime. Also, the article presents Nathan Price as a completely flat character; however, he has his moments of uncertainty (for example, when he reshapes his garden into mounds, or when he reacts to the news of the little girl... Read more


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by coolshava, November 19, 2014

I feel that Nathan is not shown as a real protagonist. He isn't even a main character, as the book isn't about his actions, but how the females in his family respond to his actions. He would be more considered an antagonist, if he were more central.

Ruth May

by frmgro615, May 13, 2015

Maybe I'm missing it, but I don't see any analysis about Ruth May...

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