The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible

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The Poisonwood Bible Book 3, Chapter 31 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
After some three weeks, Leah manages to get Ruth May out of bed, in spite of her sickness. Leah reads books to Ruth May and tries to keep her entertained. Outside, they play around, and Leah notices Anatole strolling by. Anatole has come to give the Prices a pig in a sack—free food. Leah is delighted, and plans to make a big stew with the pig.
In spite of their tough situation, the Prices survive in the Congo thanks in large part to the generosity of their neighbors. This is inspiring in no small part because it shows that although the villagers distrust the Prices’ religion, they consider it a duty to take care of their guests.
Themes
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Leah continues talking to Anatole. They laugh and joke before Anatole tells Leah the other reason he’s stopped by the house: he needs to talk to Nathan. Leah promises to tell Nathan the news, and Anatole explains that Moise Tshombe, the leader of the Lunda tribe, has declared his tribe’s intentions to secede from the Congo. Leah is a little confused—she doesn’t understand the relationship between the different regions of the country. Anatole tells Leah to look around: Kilanga never really belonged to Belgium in the first place.
In the immediate aftermath of Congolese independence, various groups are instigating miniature independence movements—understandably so, since the country’s borders and entire idea of “the Congo” were an imperialist creation, lumping together distinct tribes under one name and one oppressive ruler. Lumumba’s task as the leader of the Congo, in other words, is to maintain a sense of unity and national pride: he has to persuade the many different tribes that they now share a common identity.
Themes
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
Anatole continues to explain the situation to Leah: Moise Tshombe has Belgians working for him. There are wars going on throughout the country, as various tribes try to secede from the new country. Each tribe is trying to cement its claim to its natural resources—diamonds, rubber, etc. Lumumba, on the other hand, wants to share the Congo’s natural resources with all of his people—he wants the diamond mines in the north to pay for schools and hospitals in the south, for example.
Lumumba’s conflict with the tribes of the Congo illustrates a conflict between two different economic systems: capitalism, as represented by the tribes trying to monopolize their own resources, and socialism, as represented by Lumumba’s attempts to share the resources of the country. This reminds us that Lumumba hardly speaks for all the people in his country: although he’s fighting for Congolese independence from Belgium, he’s also fighting for control of his own people.
Themes
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
Leah asks Anatole if the U.S. will intervene to prevent civil war. Anatole says that the U.S. is dragging its feet, and Lumumba is threatening to ask the Soviet Union for help instead. Anatole also begins to explain the concept of Communism to Leah. He defines it as the belief that everyone should have the same property.
Anatole teaches Leah about the basics of Communism—an ideology that Leah is only dimly aware of. Leah, as an American, has been taught that Communism is evil, but Anatole bills it as the most innocent of ideas: the idea that property should be equal.
Themes
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
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Leah mentions that Axelroot dislikes Lumumba, and Anatole tells Leah that he thinks Axelroot is “trouble in his own stinking hat.” This makes Leah laugh. She tells Anatole that she loved watching Lumumba speak, even if she couldn’t understand all of what he said. With this, Anatole bids Leah farewell, and Leah returns to Ruth May, who seems listless and tired. Leah realizes that there’s a very real chance that she could lose her little sister forever.
Axelroot and Anatole are practically opposites: Anatole is principled, educated, and generous, while Axelroot is strategic, self-interested, and amoral—he’ll sell his services to the highest bidder. Both Axelroot and Anatole have offered their help to Ruth May, but it might be the case that neither one can save the child.
Themes
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon