Presentation on theme: "Setting Events take place in Georgia, in the Congo and in South Africa, depending on which narrative voice is engaged. Most of the novel takes place in."— Presentation transcript:
Setting Events take place in Georgia, in the Congo and in South Africa, depending on which narrative voice is engaged. Most of the novel takes place in Africa from 1959 to the late 1980s. The novel begins just prior to the Congo’s historic declaration of independence and the election of the first native prime minister.
Major Characters BIG Characters Nathan Price – Cruel Orleanna Price – People Pleaser Rachel Price – Egotistical Leah Price – Devoted and Headstrong Adah Price – Pensive and Cynical Ruth May Price - Daring and Refreshing Brother Fowles – Wholesome Mama Mwanza – Kindness Anatole – Genuine
Images and Symbols The variety of ways the Price women channel their guilt over Ruth May’s death, whether it be the “doer” like Leah or the “forgetter” like Rachel, mirrors the multifarious responses from U.S. citizens about their country’s part in exploiting and destroying of the Congo.
Images and Symbols Ruth May – Patrice Lumumba: Ruth May has a vivacious, childish energy and an unfettered spirit that cannot be touched by her oppressive father, similarly Lumumba had a charisma and passion when he spoke that inspired others and relit the fires the western influences has extinguished. However, both die prematurely, before their potential is ever fully tapped into.
Images and Symbols Nathan’s sexism towards his family parallels the western racism toward the Congolese. Nathan’s refusal to acknowledge the intelligence of Leah and Adah; his statement, ““sending a girl to college is like pouring water in your shoes,” mirrors the Belgian rule that the Congolese must stop school after age 12, as Nelson must. Nathan’s failure to see his daughters independent worth, remarking “not marrying veers from God’s plan” reflects the western influences inability to see the Congolese as human being which breeds their cruel, inhumane treatment towards them.
Images and Symbols Methuselah symbolizes the crippling effects of oppression, even after he is granted freedom he is hesitant, confused, and ultimately ill-equipped to survive on his own. Adah finds Methuselah's feathers scattered around the yard, and realizes that he has been eaten by a predator on the day that independence is granted to the Congo, foreshadow the inability of the exploited Congo to stand on its own. Both tragedies show that there must be an interim period, a time of learning to bridge the gap from oppression to freedom.
Motifs Handicap: Adah is alienated in her own culture for her disability but not in the Congo, the Congo see their bodies as tools. Mama Mwanza shows an acceptance and movement past her disability, unlike Adah who is bitter and struggles to define herself when her disability is gone. Adah comments that the Congolese accepts Adah with her disability but alienates Rachel for her blonde hair, a contradiction to the attitude of American Society.
Motifs Animals: Tata Kuvundundu: “The animals will rise up” Green Mamba Snake: Ruth May says she will become a green mama snake after she dies because she is scared of them. Okapi: The okapi is a rare beast that suggests a sort of hope in its transience. Ants: The ants demonstrate that even the little of organisms, when they rise up, are powerful; this provides a sort of encouragement that the belittled and oppressed are capable of the same. The Lion that “Eats” Adah: This is a David and Goliath tale of sorts - handicapped girl escaping a lion – and illuminates the “rooting for the underdog” theme that is prevalent throughout the book.
Motifs Gardens: Nathan’s failed garden, Orleanna’s love of gardening when she returns home from Africa, Leah and Anatole’s farm commune Gardens are seen as the fostering of new life, and symbolize the ability to grow and adapt. Nathan’s garden fails because of his stubborn attitude and inability to change. However, Orleanna and Leah and Anatole’s success with gardening speaks volumes of their character, that even after tragedy, they can adapt and nurture something different back into life.
Thematic Topics Ignorance Grace Guilt and its prolonged effects Nathan is determined to save souls because of the guilt he feels from losing his troop to the Bataan Death March in WW2. Religion Control by Intimidation
Conflicts Nathan Price vs. the land o Nathan struggle to plant his seeds in the African soil using American techniques. o “He declared he would make them grow, in the name of God, or he would plant again” (63). Although Nathan took careful note of how he planted his seeds and took all the right steps, he was ignorant to the fact that those types of vegetables would not grow in the Congo. This also leads into the conflict of Nathan and the Congolese people, just as he was negligent when caring for the plants, Nathan failed to accept (and learn) their culture.
Conflicts Adah vs. herself o Adah is born with a condition that prohibits her from using the left side of her body and, not wanting to get in anybody else’s way, she places herself in voluntary exile from the world, looking on it as only an observer, rather than an active participant. United States vs. the Congo o Nathan’s willful ignorance and mistreatment of the native Congolese correlates to the American policy/judgment towards the Congo. o Countries of power such as the United States and Belgium feel it is there duty to control places like the Republic of Congo just as Nathan feels it is his responsibility to “save” them.
Thematic statements Arrogance of Western Society: Nathan Price in a political allegory throughout the story of the cultural arrogance and sense of superiority the West (aka the United States) feels over the weaker countries, such as the Congo. Nathan believes his solutions and religion will help to better the Congolese people and he continues to try and convert them to Christianity and the ways of a civilized Western culture. The US also believed their thoughts and ideas to be superior and thought they had the right to take out the Congo’s new leader in order to place what that they deemed fit. Nathan’s and the United States’ attempts turned sour and didn’t help or advance the Congo, it hurt the people and the economy. This shows their arrogance and how they only view things their way, and don’t take into consideration what is actually best for this poor country.
Thematic Statements How to deal with the burden of guilt: The author uses the viewpoints of five different women to show a variety of ways that people deal with guilt. There is no right answer and Kingsolver believes there are money different ways from one extreme being that one blames herself for everything and goes into a deep depression to the other extreme of acting as though there is nothing to be guilty about and that nothing wrong has occurred. In between these extremes some turn to religion, activism, or science to deal with what they believe to have done wrong. The guilt these women feel or deny is not only possibly being the cause of their sisters death, but they represent what Americans must feel about potentially being part of what the United States did to the Congo.
Author’s Tone The author seems to take a stance that the US is to blame for what happened in the Congo, and that their great ideas to “help” the Congo actually made things worse. They didn’t understand what was best for them and caused great damage, leaving people feeling responsible and confused on how to live with what they had let happen. Powerful Scenes Genesis Opening scene (Orleanna Price's Narration) Foreshadowing (6) “How do we aim to live with it?” (9) Mama Tataba gives Nathan gardening lessons Nathan's arrogance (40-41)
Revelations and Epiphanies Powerful Scenes Breaking of the bone-china platter Orleanna's only “pretty thing in the big old mess they had to live in”(128; 134) Methuselah is killed Foreshadowing/Microcosm The Nsongonya Rising of the oppressed (Microcosm) (299) Orleanna chooses to save Ruth May, creating inner turmoil for herself and Adah who is “left…behind” (16; 83).
Important Quotes “How do we aim to live with it?” "When I finally got up with sharp grains imbedded in my knees, I found, to my surprise, that I no longer believed in God." Adah, 171. "We are going to make the Congo, for all of Africa, the heart of light." Patrice Lumumba, 184. "In Congo, it seems the land owns the people." Leah, 283. "Not my clothes, there wasn’t time, and not the Bible-it didn’t seem worth saving at that moment, so help me God. It had to be my mirror." Rachel, 301. “I felt the breath of God go cold on my skin.” Leah, 84.
Important Quotes “I am the unmissionary, as Adah would say, beginning every day on my knees asking to be converted.” Leah, 629 “But my father needs permission only from the Saviour, who obviously is all in favor of subduing the untamed wilderness for a garden.” Leah, 36 “That one, brother, he bite.” Mama Tataba, 39 “Around here the people seem content to settle for whatever scars life whangs them with as a decoration.” Rachel, 127 “Live was I ere I saw evil.” Adah, 306 "The death of something living is the price of our own survival, and we pay it again and again.” Adah, 347
Satire, Irony, and Freeplay Words have numerous meanings that differ due to the slightest change in intonation or sound. Nathan Price could just not grasp the language. Nathan continues to preach that "Tata Jesus is bangala," which as Adah puts it, “will make you itch like nobody’s business” (277), however what he means to say is that Jesus is beloved and precious. The word “Bangala” means “dearly beloved” if spoken slowly, but also is a reference to the Poisonwood Tree. The village doesn’t understand why they would want to worship a god that hurts them, therefore frustrating Nathan.
Important Quotes The humor however has a deeper meaning to the book as a whole. Just as poisonwood causes physical pain, the American religion has a negative effect on the Congolese in that they reject Christianity when the congregation has a vote to decide if they favor or oppose Jesus. It does them absolutely no good for Nathan to force his religion upon them. This passage allows Kingsolver to assert that what is good in one culture may not be good in another. As Nathan misuses the word bangala, Kingsolver underscores his ignorance to learn the language and culture of the Congolese.
Analysis of Opening Passage Orleanna Price- Sanderling Island, Georgia-First Installment The address is written in present time, as a reflection on the events in Africa, many years past, and Orleanna, the mother of the missionary family, narrates. In this direct address of the reader, initially, the narrator establishes the reader, whether they want to be included, or not, as a part of the story. The story is more than this family’s saga, but of the association between the Western involvements in Africa. “I want you to be its conscience” Kingsolver writes, but the direct address shifts, subtly, to another, one of her daughters, saying, "She could lose everything: herself, or worse, her children. Worst of all: you, her only secret. Her favorite” (Kingsolver 2; 3). Her tone in these sentences establishes regret on her part, and an accusation that the reader is complicit in the questionable presence of Westerners in Africa. Her regret, one of a moral uncertainty, in the line “I attempted briefly to consecrate myself in the public library (a symbol of collective knowledge/moral certainty), believing every crack in my soul could be chinked with a book,” establishes her introspection of an uncomfortable past one can’t rectify (3).
Analysis… “What would that Africa be now?” the narrator asks, and this question is posed as almost a naïve, but truly aware narrator seems to ask, childlike, for a “do-over”; however, that really only works in childhood innocence, and she surely does not claim that innocence (3). Yet, her guilt is not reasonable, because it has no cure. She asks of her lost child, “I want you to find me innocent” (3). She wants to claim innocence but is not able, and she claims about Africa, “we were both party to relations with a failed outcome” (3). Again, she address her reader more directly, involving that reader in the story, regardless of the reader’s intent, “Most have no earthly notion of the price of a snow-white conscience” (3). The narrator’s tone, overall, contains regretful notes, with a slice of accusation for a shared responsibility, pleading for understanding, but not necessarily expecting one. She shares deep, personal loss from which there is no recovery along with a glimmer, perhaps not of hope, but for greater awareness, for her and for the reader.
Equality n. 1 [mass noun] the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, or opportunities: an organization aiming to promote racial equality. 2 [MATHEMATICS] a symbolic expression of the fact that two quantities are equal; an equation.