The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible

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The Poisonwood Bible Book 1, Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Adah Price describes her first morning in the Congo, the day after she arrives in Africa. The sun rises very early, around 6 am, because the Congo is so close to the equator. There’s a constant sense of a process going on: birds cooing, fires burning, etc.—but it all amounts to “ashes to ashes.” Nathan’s church is at one end of the village, while the Price house is at the other end. Most of the houses in the village are tiny, with a thin, thatched roof. Adah finds it impossible to take her eyes off the villagers.
It’s an early sign of Adah’s intelligence and scientific turn of mind that she sees life in the Congo as a collection of processes to be dissected and analyzed. Adah is the most thoughtful of the Price children, if not the friendliest. She’s not going out making friends with the villagers, but she is studying them as valuable and interesting people, not as inferiors or “heathens.”
Themes
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
The women of the village, Adah notes, wear skirts when they work in the field or run errands. Their skirts are long and beautiful, with bright colors. Adah notes that her siblings and parents all have their own opinions of the village, which they present verbally. Only Adah is silent—Adah keeps all her opinions to herself.
Adah is the most introspective and thoughtful member of the Price family. Because she’s a little standoffish and lonely (partly because of her medical issues), she has a great deal of time to think about her community and her surroundings.
Themes
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Adah thinks about “Our Father,” Nathan. He has brought a hammer to the village, but this was a waste, since there are no nails in the community. He claims that there are huge swamps surrounding the village, but Adah isn’t convinced by this observation. She thinks about the Kwilu River nearby—a strange word, for which there’s “no rhyme.”
Adah already hates her father the most of all the Prices—the rest of them still feel that they at least ought to love and submit to him. The term “Our Father” is an ironic one here. In Christianity, it’s used to refer to God, but Adah uses it to draw attention to her father’s arrogance and self-satisfied attitude: as far as Nathan is concerned, he is “God” of his family.
Themes
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
Adah considers her “condition,” which has left her so different from Leah, despite the fact that they’re technically identical twins. Adah imagines herself and Leah competing for oxygen and nutrition while they were in the womb. Leah won this competition, and Adah has had hemiplegia ever since. This condition leaves Adah with poor circulation and limited mobility—her arms and legs are weak. Adah can’t speak well, so she almost never does. She imagines how Nathan reacted when she developed hemiplegia as a baby: he probably claimed that it was “God’s will,” and took Adah’s silence as a sign that his other children were chattering too loudly.
This is an important section because it shows us the differences between Leah and Adah, who are supposedly identical in every way. Adah’s blood condition has left her quieter and more introverted than her sister. It’s interesting that external factors like a disease can end up having such an important effect on someone’s personality. Adah’s hemiplegia has also alienated her from Nathan: Nathan shows no sympathy for his daughter’s condition, and because he trusts “God’s will,” doesn’t seem to have any desire to help her.
Themes
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
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