The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible

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The Poisonwood Bible Book 2, Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Adah explains that she’s recently been declared dead—Tata Ndu declared it, assuming she’d been eaten by lions. Adah explains how this all came to happen.
Adah’s chapters begin always on a bizarre, humorous note. Her isolation from the rest of the community gives her a detached, ironic perspective: in short, she jokes about the things everyone else is too afraid of to joke about.
Themes
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
One afternoon, Leah and Adah go to gather water. This is tough for Adah, since she only has one good hand. During strenuous physical activity like this, Adah likes to think of palindromes, since it distracts her from her pain. This particular afternoon, she and Leah walk through the forest, noticing tiny elephants, Pygmies, and other exotic animals. She also notices other things, like young men practicing military drills. One of these men, Adah realizes, is Anatole. Anatole is reading aloud a letter about the Belgians’ decision to offer the Congo its independence. As Anatole reads the letter, his friends laugh sarcastically.
Although Leah and Adah are twins, Leah doesn’t seem very attentive to Adah’s physical disabilities: she isn’t helping her sister or giving her any encouragement (whether because she’s oblivious or because Adah doesn’t like it, we can’t be sure). It also seems that Anatole is meeting the Jeune Mou-Pro again: it’s here that we learn that the Congo is going to become an independent country very soon.
Themes
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
Adah makes it back to the house, with Leah walking far ahead of her, bearing the buckets of water. When Adah returns to the house, she lies in a hammock and relaxes. As she lies there, Tata Ndu arrives and demands to speak to Nathan right away. He tells Nathan that Adah has been eaten by a lion. Ndu says that when he was walking by just now, he noticed the tracks of a lion, approaching the footsteps of a girl who walks with a limp. This, Ndu concluded, means that a lion ate Adah. Furthermore, Ndu claims that this is proof from the gods that they don’t want Nathan’s Christian teachings anywhere in Africa. Adah is fascinated with this exchange, and remains in the hammock, silent. She notices her mother’s face in pure grief. Nathan, on the other hand, orders everyone to pray to the Lord.
This is at once a funny and a deadly serious scene. It’s pretty horrific that Nathan’s first reaction, after learning that his daughter is dead, is to argue with Tata Ndu about the future of Christianity in the village: he’s so fixated on his Christian mission that he’s restrained all feelings of affection for his child. It’s also amusing that Adah allows this scene to persist for a few minutes before announcing that she’s still alive—one gets the sense that she’s interested in gauging her own significance to the community of Kilanga, like a scientist measuring a variable for an experiment.
Themes
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
Eventually, Adah gets up and shuffles over to Nathan and Ndu. Ndu is highly embarrassed, and leaves at once.
The scene ends as it inevitably has to. But Adah has finally seen what her father really thinks of her, and how important the struggle for religious supremacy in Kilanga has become.
Themes
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
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