Essay about The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

Essay about The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

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Explication of theme:
The Poisonwood Bible exemplifies the importance of language, especially foreign languages. It is fairly obvious that language plays a role in this work- an English-speaking white Christian family moves to a rich, multicultural society. This new society has picked up on “easy” English phrases, but also speaks French, and its native African languages.
Language can be seen as not only a sign of knowledge and scholarship, but a sign of close or open-mindedness. Language is associated with imperialism (especially in this novel, and especially relating to the United States). Readers often find that stories about other cultures view the English language as overbearing and unyielding. (English speakers feel that other cultures should learn their language).
Most importantly, however, is the transfer of meanings between languages. (Take the importance of bangala)- this also incorporates the importance of multicultural ignorance. But the transfer of meaning between languages could have helped Nathan Price potentially reach the people of Kilanga- they may have seen Tata Jesus as beloved instead of itchy!
Language plays a huge role in everyday life- connotation, denotation, etymology, idioms- all of these things come into play. We as English-speakers sometimes have trouble understanding certain expressions or accents- imagine the Price family trying to decipher French and Kilangan.
Investigation of scholarly article:
In Alison Phipps’ article “Unmoored: Language Pain, Porosity, and Poisonwood,” Phipps explores the ideas of multilingualism, the “porosity” of language learning, pain associated with language, and The Poisonwood Bible’s connection to these ideas.
Phipps explains the “moored world” as one of comfort...


... middle of paper ...


...er to question their sense of language superiority and adaptability. The reader is introduced to a huge variety of characters, all with their own attitudes about language. The issue of language, however, is not simply a matter of English, French, or Kilangan. Age plays a role in understanding certain aspects of language, as does attitude- towards others or one’s self.
The idea of language is rarely addressed in classic literature. This makes Kingsolver’s novel all the more valuable in the literary realm. Language is not the main focus of this novel, though. Therefore, the reader must look much, much closer at this issue. Close reading leads to a better understanding of each and every message and theme in Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible.




Works Cited

Kingsolver, Barbara. The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel. New York : Harper Perennial, 1999, c. 1998. Print.

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