The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible

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The Poisonwood Bible Book 3, Chapter 40 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Nathan has changed his tune in church, and now he tries to work Congolese phrases into his sermons. One Sunday, he says, “Tata Jesus is bangala,” but he pronounces “bangala” in such a way that it means “poisonwood.” Meanwhile, Ruth May makes a quick recovery from her disease, and yet Nathan seems strangely indifferent to the news. Ruth May seems quiet and subdued, and she doesn’t spend time with Nelson anymore.
Nathan continues to be oblivious to the true meaning of what he’s telling the Congolese people. The word “bangala,” meaning both “good” and “poisonwood,” acts as an apt symbol for the arrogance and misunderstanding of imperialism and dogma. Ruth May seems to be frightened of Nelson—Nathan’s lessons about avoiding nakedness have touched a nerve with her.
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
Everyone in the village thinks Rachel is actually engaged to Eeben Axelroot. Meanwhile, Leah has begun studying languages with Anatole, and she also teaches Anatole’s students in the mornings. As a show of thanks, Anatole gives Leah a bow and quiver of arrows. Adah feels alienated from Leah, especially because Anatole is “breaking rules for her.” Oblivious to the ramifications of her actions, Leah attends church carrying her bow and arrow.
Adah and Leah don’t talk much in this novel—Leah, in spite of sharing a complete set of DNA with Adah, has completely different interests and problems from her twin. Here, we see Leah taking a major step toward becoming her own person—she gains a symbolic bow and arrow, a traditional symbol of women’s power and intelligence (as with the Ancient Greek goddess Artemis).
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