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The Poisonwood Bible: The Things We Didn’t Know November 21, 2006

Posted by bairdnicole in Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.

As the members of the Price household experience difficulties from the things they didn’t know, do you find yourself sympathetic towards them? Or do you adopt more of an “You’re getting what you deserve” attitude? What formed your opinions towards them, why?



1. Karen - November 29, 2006

No sympathy for the parents. Dad has no excuse for his arrogance and mom is totally complicite. I do not think that, as a mom myself, i would allow my children to live under, what appeared to be, abusive circumstances. I guess this was the ’50’s and ’60’s. Maybe she could have killed him in his sleep…hee! hee!

Sympathy for Ruth May-innocent baby
Sympathy for the twins-totally deceived in two different ways
Some sympathy but mostly humor for Rachel. I love her completely overexaggerated character.

I do not think they “got what they deserved.” I think life is a series of lessons and they all had many things to learn. Mostly I felt that the parents were weak and pathetic.

2. bairdnicole - November 29, 2006

It’s funny, the Price family has many hardships due to “The Things We Didn’t Know” and so many of them could have been solved by reading the Congo section in the encyclopedia. Or the newspaper. Arrgh! I realize that the family is a symbolistic figure, but on a literal level, I don’t feel too sorry for their difficulties in not having the missionary support once the political uprising began.

On a lighter note, I totally loved the scene when Brother Fowles and his wife came by–what a great picture he was of respecting while teaching.

3. heather - December 18, 2006

While reading this book I was reading another one to my kids: “William Carey: Obliged to Go,” about a man many consider the “father of modern missions.” What struck me was the fact that Carey didn’t see a convert for 7 years — 7 years! — and yet he steadfastly learned their language and preached the gospel. Like Brother Fowles, he knew the importance of respecting while teaching. I just kept thinking “How different this man was from Nathan Price!”

I felt no sympathy for Nathan at all. I did feel sympathy for the others, though, especially the girls. With Orleanna, I find myself going back and forth. Whenever I hear of a woman in an abusive relationship who refuses to leave the guy, I always struggle with those thoughts of “You’re an idiot! Why do you stay? Get out of there!” And yet, time and time again, I see examples of that in the news, so there has to be more to that type of situation than meets the eye, whether it’s fear of the man, fear of being alone, or whatever. When you’re outside of the situation, it’s easy to think “Duh! Get out!” But it must be harder than it seems to a lot of women, because there sure are many who are in similar positions. Kingsolver seems to see it as Orleanna being a product of the time she’s living in (as evidenced by her thoughts on page 383-384). “I knew Rome was burning, but I had just enough water to scrub the floor, so I did what I could. My talents are different from those of the women who cleave and part from husbands nowadays — and my virtues probably unrecognizable. But look at old women and bear in mind we are another country.”

4. bethany3boys - December 18, 2006

Heather, great points. Nathan was so frustrating. I think he deserved much worse than he got. He sure didn’t care for his family at all.

I felt sad for Orleanna and I too kept wondering why she didn’t leave sooner but you made a good point about it being harder than it seems. It is just when the major thing happened I thought for sure that Nathan would pack them up and head back not that Orleanna would have to head out on her own the girls with her. I felt so sad for Ruth May like you said Karen Innocent baby….so sad. And the rest of the girls I felt for but it seemed like they fared a little better than Orleanna and Ruth. Sure the ending was quite sad without much hope but they all made lives and seemed to be enjoying some aspects of them.

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