The Poisonwood Bible Reflection

Madelyn Schroeder

Why do the mother and her daughters want to go back to Kilanga?

Orleanna and her daughters travel back to Kilanga to visit Ruth May's grave. The meaning of their trip, however, flows deeper than just a visit to a grave; Orleanna is nearing the end of her life, and the women seek some sort of closure from their abrupt departure from Kilanga after Ruth May's death, especially for Orleanna. After leaving Nathan and losing her youngest child, Orleanna clung to the guilt of the death of Ruth May, forever looking out toward the ocean, carrying Africa with her always. The women travel to Kilanga to give Orleanna, and in some ways the daughters, peace. Finding and seeing Ruth May's grave wold provide them with a tangible spot in which to confirm the reality of the horrific events they endured and would provide the closure and peace that Orleanna longs for, so the daughters can ultimately say goodbye to their dwindling mother.

What does the old woman give to the mother? What is the symbolism here?

The old woman in the market place gives Orleanna a small wooden carving of an Okapi. The symbolism here is that in the beginning of the novel and again at the end of the book, the tale of Okapi who lives for another year because he is startled. The moral of the story is that every moment, every life is affected by the way every other living being decides to live, moving this way or saying one thing over another. The Okapi is symbolic of the way the choices the Prices made all led to Ruth May's death, and how Ruth May's death all led the women to the current lives. Every moment, every choice is intertwined and results in the following events; for Orleanna, the Okapi represents how her choices affected the family's history, and how the events of her life shaped her into the woman she is.

What does the chapter imply Ruth May has become? Discuss the irony and symbolism of this?

The chapter implies that Ruth May has become a snake, winding and resting in the trees of the jungle in her death. The irony is that this particular snake is the snake that caused her death with its bite, ending her life in minutes. Ruth May's transformation into this snake in death symbolizes forgiveness, as Ruth May embodies the very animal that kills her. Ruth May tells Orleanna that she forgives her for following Nathan into the Congo, and ultimately causing Ruth May's death. But, more importantly, Ruth May urges Orleanna to forgive herself, to walk away from the darkness of the past, of the Congo, and into the light of forgiveness so that she can finally find peace.