Kingsolver’s Portrayal of Christianity in The Poisonwood Bible

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Kingsolver’s Portrayal of Christianity in The Poisonwood Bible Kingsolver’s concern with Christianity is evident in the very title of The Poisonwood Bible. She uses ‘books’ to divide the novel into sections, which, with names like Genesis and The Revelation, reflect the books of the Bible. As the novel progresses, the structure deviates from that of its biblical namesakes: there is a shift in order - Exodus is placed centrally - and new books with titles such as The Eyes in the Trees are introduced (Kingsolver’s own appellations). These names present the reader with the idea that Kingsolver is rewriting the central Christian text, adapting it for her own story. Thus religion is heralded as a significant presence in the book, not just thematically, but structurally. Throughout The Poisonwood Bible, Kingsolver uses her characters to represent forms of attitudes to Christianity. The primary expositor is Nathan, who sustains forceful, evangelical beliefs throughout. He has no voice of his own, but all accounts affirm to the reader that he is consumed by his faith. Leah, the daughter who harbours the most respect for her father, initially refers to him only in the context of religion – ‘his tone implied that…[Mother’s] concern with Better Crocker confederated her with the coin-jingling sinners who vexed Jesus till he pitched a fit and threw them out of church.’ She is describing the cleansing of the temple in John 2:13-22, but the fact that she can reference it freely, and even put it into her own words, demonstrates that she has been heavily influenced by the Bible. Kingsolver is perhaps trying to show that religion can be used to control the way people think, and she portrays Christianity as highly potent. Leah continues to incorpo... ... middle of paper ... ...e way Nathan treats his daughters, or for the religious clash between Western values and Congolese beliefs. Nathan, with his oppressive dogmatism, encounters obstacles because he refuses to accept anything but his own beliefs, thereby displaying his utter cultural arrogance ‘…the few here that choose Christi-an-ity over ignorance and darkness!’ Kingsolver makes him a slave to an ancient, uncompromising text, depicting his struggle to force it upon people who have no interest in it. Nathan’s personal religion was poisoned when his company died ‘on the death march’. It was not Christianity that made him into (as Leah puts it) a ‘simple, ugly man’, it was a series of tragic events, falling upon an impressionable man at an unfortunate time. Through his downfall, Kingsolver effectively puts across the danger of being rigid and uncompromising about traditional Christianity.

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