Poisonwood Bible Snapshot

By Khunal Parkash

MLA Citation

Kingsolver, Barbara. The Poisonwood Bible. New York: First Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2005. Print.

Novel Settings

Bethlehem, Georgia.

The Price's leave Georgia for the Congo. It is a major part of what the girls talk about.

Kilanga, Congo.

The main location for most of the book. This is the village where the Price family has their "mission".

Johannesburg, South Africa.

This is where Rachel Flees to with Eben Axleroot.

Kinshasa, Congo.

This is where Leah resides with Anatole after Orleanna and Adah leave her.

The Equatorial.

The hotel Rachel owns and resides at.

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Motif: Bible Quotes and Passages

Throughout the book many of the chapter titles and section titles are allusions to the bible or direct quotes from the bible. This of course is due to the fact that the Price family came to the congo as missionaries. But even when the girls leave their father and their religion behind this motif continues to remind us of where the characters came from.

Major Plot Points

  1. The feast upon the arrival of the Price Family
  2. The first meeting with the Underwoods
  3. Lumumba is elected as president
  4. The Price family's stipend is lost
  5. Nelson starts working for the family
  6. Ruth May gets malaria
  7. Ruth May dies from a snake bite
  8. Adah and Orelanna leave the country
  9. Rachel flees with Eben Axelroot
  10. Leah stays and raises kids in the Congo

Textual Character Web

Nathan Price - Male leader of the Price Family married to Orleanna.

Orleanna Price- The mother of Ruth May, Adah, Leah and Rachel.

Ruth May - The youngest of the Price Family who dies the earliest.

Adah - The crippled twin of Leah, she is a daughter of Nathan and Orleanna.

Leah - The twin of Adah and the daughter of Nathan and Orleanna price. She befriends Nelson and marries Anatole

Nelson - The household aid for the price family and student of Anatole

Anatole - School teacher and political activist who marries Leah

Rachel - The eldest daughter of Orleanna and Nathan Price. She marries Eben Axelroot.

Eben Axelroot - A pilot with ties to criminal activity.


Biblical - Bel and the Serpent is an allusion to "Bel and the Dragon" which is a passage about idol worship.

Historical - The book takes place in the congo during a time of actual upheaval such as the murder of Patrice Lumumba.

Literary - Ruth May reads Donald Duck Comic Books and references to Robin Hood.


The most important connection is the connection to the historical period. The entire plot of the book reacts to the historical events that are taking place such as the election and assassination of Patrice Lumumba.

Symbol + Meaning

Methuselah - He is a basic indicator of the trouble that the price family will face.

The Poisonwood Tree - Even the most pleasant looking thinks can and will hurt you.

Crocodiles in the river - The Congo's rejection of the Price Family and the religion they preach.

Nathan's failed garden - The world does not always submit to one man's will.

Rachel's Shattered Mirror - The mirror that Rachel attempts to take with her on the escape from the village shatters to show the weakness of vanity.

Thematic Subjects

The crippled are not always the most broken. - Even though Adah is crippled she is possibly the most successful and well-adjusted of the entire Price family.

Innocence does not survive. - The innocent of the Price Family is the first to die. The naive thoughts that the Price family had when coming into the nation quickly changed.

The beliefs you hold are not always true. - The Daughters of the Price family all quickly change their ideas on religion, the congo, and on their family.

Meaningful Quotations

"We can only speak of the things we carried with us, and the things we took away." - Genisis, prologue, Orleanna

"In a burst of light Methuselah opened his wings and fluttered like freedom itself" - Genisis, Things we carried, Leah

"In the beginning we were just about in the same boat as Adam and Eve." - Revelation, The things we learned, Leah

"Feathers at last at last and no words at all." The Revelation, The things we learned, Adah

"You can't just point to the one most terrible thing and wonder why it happened." Bel and the Serpent, What we lost, Leah