The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible

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The Poisonwood Bible Book 2, Chapter 18 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
After Anatole’s dinner with the Prices, he sends a young boy named Lekuyu to the Prices’ house. Anatole leaves a note explaining that the boy, a great student, should be given meals, be allowed to sleep in the chicken house, and be referred to as Nelson. The Prices agree to take in Nelson. Inside the house, Nelson is struck by the mirror on the wall—apparently the only mirror in all of Kilanga.
The fact that Anatole sends a boy to stay with the Prices is a sign that the Prices are beginning to fit in with the rest of their community. It’s also interesting that Nelson has never seen a mirror before: the mirror is a traditional symbol of vanity and self-absorption, so it seems darkly ironic that the supposedly civilizing forces of America and Christianity have brought these vices to Kilanga.
Themes
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
Nelson quickly begins working hard for the Prices. He brings water and boils it so that Orleanna doesn’t have to. Leah assumes that Anatole sent Nelson to the Prices because they own so many books, and because Nelson is 12 (meaning that his traditional Kilanga education is over).
The Prices certainly aren’t great examples of a family that emphasizes education (because of Nathan’s rules), but they are the wealthiest people in Kilanga, and have the most books, so Nelson has his best chance of a continuing education with them.
Themes
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
In a house down the street, someone dies suddenly, and Orleanna becomes paranoid that a disease is spreading through the village. She tries to convince her daughters to stay indoors at all times. At this time of year it also rains heavily, meaning that diseases spread more easily. As a result, the children stay indoors. Leah develops a fever—she’s caught malaria, and spends the next few weeks confined to her bed.
Orleanna’s concern for her family is enormous—she can’t stand the idea of one of her daughters falling ill. This sudden outbreak should also remind us of the earlier revelation that one of the daughters is going to die before the novel is over.
Themes
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
At the end of the year, for Christmas, Orleanna gives her children needlework equipment. Leah begins to think about the possibility of getting married someday. She complains that she’s flat-chested and skinny, and adds that she doesn’t have much interest in marrying a man. Nathan insists that a woman who doesn’t get married is ignoring God’s plan. Rachel, unlike Leah, insists that she’ll be getting married soon enough—she’s always tried to look beautiful. Rachel is much better at sewing than Leah. Sometimes, Leah prays to God to make her a better wife.
Leah’s considerations of marriage symbolize her growing maturity. This also shows that Leah is beginning to doubt her father’s authority: she’s questioning Nathan’s misogynistic view of the world. Leah is maturing quickly, but she’s still trapped in the paradigms her father has offered her: i.e., she believes that her goal in life is to be an excellent wife.
Themes
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
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