The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible

Pdf fan Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)

The Poisonwood Bible Book 1, Chapter 11 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Adah describes how Nathan throws around the word “amen,” and she refers to this process as the “amen enema” (a palindrome). In church, Adah sits next to Mama Tataba while Nathan preaches about how the Lord will deliver a great “bounty” of fish to the village. Adah recalls that Nathan has been trying to attract a congregation by promising food and nourishment. He’s offered a feast of fish to the villagers, sure that he’ll be able to convince them of God’s teachings afterwards. As Nathan preaches about Daniel and Susanna, his translator, Tata Anatole, translates for the African congregation.
Nathan’s sermon is a good example of how misplaced his delusions of control and power really are. He’s gotten the idea of a feast from Orleanna (even if he would never admit it), and he’s entirely dependent on Tata Anatole for communicating to the Congolese. Nathan likes to think of himself as being in control of his own actions, but we can see that this simply isn’t true: without Orleanna and Anatole, he’d be lost.
Themes
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
Afterwards, Nathan eats supper with the rest of his family. Adah notes that Nathan rarely strikes his children at the dinner table. Instead, he asks them questions, designed to expose their stupidity and slow thinking. This time, Nathan talks about a group that drove to the village in a truck with a broken fan belt. The truck made it into town because boys made a fan belt out of elephant grass. Orleanna interrupts the story to ask a question, and Nathan snaps at her, implying—Adah thinks—that she’s a foolish little girl.
This is another good example of Nathan’s condescending manner. He treats his children as churchgoers, whom he must educate through parables and metaphorical stories (just like Jesus Christ teaching his followers). But when his family asks for clarification (or asks anything, really), Nathan gets annoyed, suggesting that he’s more interested in hearing the sound of his own voice than he is in educating his daughters.
Themes
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
Dinner proceeds in silence. Orleanna cooks the meat, and this requires a lot of time, since it’s sometimes full of parasites. Adah wonders about the creatures that God made: some of them are strange and even disgusting. And yet Adah finds herself respecting these creatures, even the parasites.
While Nathan spends his time “educating” his children’s souls (i.e., lecturing them), Orleanna is the person who gets things done, and generally takes care of her family’s material needs. Adah clearly takes a scientific view of the world, and is very curious about nature.
Themes
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon