Poisonwood Bible

by: Barbara Kingsolver

The Revelation, continued

Summary The Revelation, continued

Analysis

Though The Poisonwood Bible traces the emotional development of all five Price women, Leah's maturation occupies a central place. Her trajectory is most interesting largely because it is spans the widest breadth. She is not only the woman who starts out most closely identifying with her father and his mission, she is also the one who ultimately comes to understand and embrace Africa most fully. In this section, we see her awakening to the allures of Africa, especially the allure of Anatole, even if she has not yet come to doubt her father and his faith.

Given that Leah is beginning to awaken to the culture around her, it is significant that her father punishes her for the sin of pride. Pride is closely tied to autonomy and freethinking, which is precisely what Leah is gravitating toward, and precisely what Nathan most wants to prevent in his family members. There is also another reason why Leah's punishment for the sin of pride is significant. Nathan himself is the one who exemplifies excessive pride, and his hubris is both the cause and the result of his inability to open himself up to and appreciate the culture around him. Leah, then, is moving away from pride, at least of her father's sort.

Leah's attitude toward the hope chest project is also significant, especially in contrast to Rachel's. While Rachel eagerly works away at her needlepoint, thinking merrily about being somebody's wife, Leah feels that there is little point in putting effort into her work since she does not want to get married. Yet it will be Leah who eventually finds part of her salvation through matrimonial love, while Rachel weds and leaves a series of men before deciding that she is better off on her own. While it might seem that their respective attitudes toward the hope chest indicate that their success and failure at love would be reversed, in some sense their attitudes point to precisely what does occurs. Rachel is captivated by the simple idea of being in love, an idea that seems to revolve mostly around the possibility of someone loving, or rather worshipping, her. Any actual relationship she enters, therefore, is likely doomed since real love cannot be one-sided. Leah, on the other hand, we have already seen is passionate and loyal, and while she speaks of not wanting a husband, she simultaneously dwells on the pleasures of having a family of her own. We can tell immediately that when she does fall in love, this love will be substantive and lasting. Her imagined conversations with Anatole give us some hint of where this love might soon be directed.

Nelson also serves as a nice contrast to Leah. Like Leah he is intelligent, active, and practical. Yet because he was born into such different circumstances, his possibilities in life are highly circumscribed. Though he excels at school, he is forced to quit at age twelve due to a Belgian law barring Congolese from pursuing education past that age. Instead of putting his mind to books, as he seems to want to, and because he is always asking for lessons from the Price girls in various subjects, he is forced to think primarily about his survival.