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The Poisonwood Bible: What We Lost November 22, 2006

Posted by bairdnicole in Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.

What differences and similarities are there among Nathan Price’s relationship with his family, Tata Ndu’s relationship with his people, and the relationship of the Belgian and American authorities with the Congo? Are the novel’s political details–both imagined and historical–appropriate?



1. Karen - November 28, 2006

I think Nathan and Tata Ndu (Undo) are quite different personalities. Tata Ndu seems quite willing to wait and watch for the outcome as Nathan is bent on creating the kind of outcome he would like to see. An outcome that he thinks would benefit him the most. He (Nathan) believes that there is an outcome that would serve him best. He is unwilling to allow God to work His plan, rather, he assumes the role of God as a father in his own family and as an imposed spiritual father of the village of Kilanga.

The villagers allude to the fact that the Price family is not good for their village and that TataNdo thinks it best that they not be there but they (Congolese) are patient and unwilling to be outright unkind to them. Tata Ndo’s solution to the problem, by marrying away Rachel, is an interesting one, yet still not recognized for what it was by the Price fam. I am still so struck by the American view of “our way or the highway.” At first glance it appears that Nathan is the only one w/ this view but I think that in some small way they all had the understanding (while living in the village) that they knew a better way to do things. Some of them allowed themselves to be re-educated and some did not.

The parallel between Tata Price and America is striking. I keep thinking back to Queen Noor’s view of America and our assumptions about “fixing” problems within other cultures that we know little or nothing about. I find myself to be very American and quite willing to “know” how best to solve the problems of the world. My “one size fits all” mentality is being revealed to me as I read some of these books.

As far as political detail…
My sixth grade teacher, Norma Jean Crockett, read us a story about driver ants invading a village in Africa and I am sure it was the same story from Poisonwood. Identical details!! The following year my father read us a story, while we were visiting him, about the diamond mines in the Congo and the incredible abuse there. Again, nearly identical. I remember in those days the area being the Belgian Congo and being called “Darkest Africa” but not knowing much more.
I find the details to be appropriate for this author. Her opinion is obvious but she gives only scant details of the actual civil war, Lumumba, Mobutu (and whether or not his palaces and extravagances were real) Eisenhower, communism, and the amount of American involvement. It encouraged me to find some of those missing details on my own and to draw some of my own conclusions based on my meager research.

2. bairdnicole - November 29, 2006

Okay, totally annoying when you type an entire comment and then wordpress decides to blank out. Arrgh. so Now I’ll attempt to remember what I said today for this comment:

I find myself soooo frustrated with Nathan Price as he attempts to put his solutions on the situation without knowing the context. His fix it mentality is frustrating, but also I realize that its my own mentality. I do that. I think that way. When it comes to politics I want to fix the problem. When it comes to my students who are struggling and have poor home life I want to fix the problem. Not that its a bad thing, but I need to be sensitive.

When it comes to Tat Ndo, it seems like he also wanted to fix the problem. And although his solution does appear to be caring, he actually attemtped to fix the problem without knowing anything about the Price’s culture. Interesting. Not that I’m siding with Nathan Price or anything, it just made me think.

3. bairdnicole - November 29, 2006

When it comes to the political details, I find myself doubting, but also aware of my bias. It’s so easy to slant information that I find myself questioning how this information has been slanted. I find myself shocked but not too amazed that the colonization from other countries could be so cruel as to assasinate a ruler. But I still wonder what the view from the other side is…

4. heather - December 27, 2006

Okay, this it totally off-topic, but when I read the part of this section where Orleanna is describing the difference between her first born and her last, I just started bawling. I could so relate to that sense of “pushing” with my first born — trying to her to take her first steps, sleep through the night, etc. Then, knowing my son is our last, I find myself trying to hold onto every childish moment, wishing he wouldn’t grow up. I was reading this in the car on our way to Atlanta, and when I started crying, Augie, who was listening to a CD at the time, looked at me and said “I know, Counting Crows always makes me cry, too.” 🙂

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