The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible

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The Poisonwood Bible Book 3, Chapter 41 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Leah studies Anatole’s face as she studies her French in the schoolhouse. She can’t help but wonder if Anatole hates her for being white, but instead she asks why the children in class hate her. Anatole explains that the children are just “naughty,” but Leah isn’t convinced. Anatole sighs and explains that the boys don’t trust her because she’s a woman, and a white woman at that.
Leah hates herself for being white: she recognizes that white people have destroyed entire civilizations, and impoverished vast stretches of the Congo. For this reason, Leah feels guilty about her own identity.
Themes
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
Anatole goes on to explain that the children distrust all Americans, because they think of America as the most powerful nation in the world, one that is deliberately starving the Congo. When Leah says that this is ridiculous, Anatole explains that the Congolese “do things differently.” In the village, everyone shares their food and money with everyone else—even if they hate their peers. In other words, the Congolese don’t save up their money and supplies, even if this means they’ll never be rich. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t rich men in the village—Tata Ndu is rich enough to “afford” six wives—but it’s usually accepted that rich men “need” more money because of their difficult work. Anatole points out that Leah’s country could easily spare a few cars and some radios for the Congolese. Leah isn’t sure how to respond to this.
Anatole gives an eloquent (and perhaps slightly idealistic) argument for the Congo’s economic systems—according to him, the Congolese believe in equality and the equal distribution of resources. Anatole makes it seem like the Congo is a traditionally egalitarian country—that the desire to minimize property is as old as the Congolese people themselves. In this, Anatole foreshadows the American government’s covert actions in the Congo, conducted in the interests of opposing Communism there.
Themes
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
Leah tries to describe life in the U.S. to Anatole. She says that most people live in cities, but Anatole can barely believe this, pointing out that a country with no farms could never last long. Leah can only say, “things are different from here.” She also asks Anatole why he’s been translating Nathan’s sermons. Anatole explains that he’s been doing his duty. Leah presses the point, insisting that Anatole clearly isn’t enthusiastic about Nathan’s Christian mission. Anatole laughs and asks Leah what Nathan is trying to accomplish in the Congo. Leah claims that Nathan is bringing Christianity to the Congo.
Anatole knows a great deal about his own culture and about world history, and yet he’s not knowledgeable about the lifestyle of American people. It’s interesting that Leah continues to defend Nathan, even after she’s had ample evidence of the fact that he has no reason to be in the Congo; perhaps it’s hard for her to give up her faith in her father, and in her God.
Themes
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
Leah and Anatole continue discussing Nathan. Anatole admits that he doesn’t believe in Jesus Christ’s divinity—he trusts knowledge, math, and science instead. Anatole calls Leah “beene,” which means “truth,” and Leah blushes. Anatole tells Leah that he’d love to see a map of the entire world, and Leah is amazed that Anatole has never seen a globe. She tells him that in the U.S., lots of people have globes in their houses. She volunteers to make Anatole a globe from memory.
Leah and Anatole strike up a relationship in which both teach the other new information: Anatole is genuinely excited that Leah can make him a globe, and Leah is genuinely interested in Anatole’s lessons about history and science. While Anatole is older than Leah, his relationship with her is hardly one of teacher and student; they seem like intellectual equals, and also friends potentially falling in love.
Themes
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
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