The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible

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The Poisonwood Bible Book 5, Chapter 70 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Leah reports that the Congo has changed altogether, and all the old cities have new names. Even the country itself is now called Zaire. In Kinshana, Zaire, Leah and Anatole live with their young children, Pascal, Patrice, and Martin-Lothaire. One Easter the family receives a package, including family photos, food, and even some books. Orleanna has sent this package—she sends similar boxes all the time, but only a tiny fraction ever make it to Zaire.
Leah and Anatole are back in the Congo, and yet they’re also not: the Congo has become a different country. This is a mark of how drastically the government of the country has altered in just a few years. In spite of being far from her family in Atlanta, Leah continues to receive love and comfort from Orleanna’s care packages.
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
Leah notices an issue of the Saturday Evening Post in the package, and she knows right away that Adah must have sent it. The magazine (from 1961) contains an article about how the U.S. should control the Congo more forcefully. The article even contains a photograph of the young Mobutu. Adah has written a message for Leah, explaining that there will be a Senate investigation into the CIA’s role in Lumumba’s assassination. Leah also notes that Mobutu will be bringing in Muhammed Ali and George Foreman for a boxing match in Kinshana.
The Post article illustrates just how aggressively America intervened in the Congo: the idea that the U.S. should kill Lumumba and set up a dictator in the Congo was public enough to spear in the ultra-mainstream Saturday Evening Post (even if the idea of murdering Lumumba isn’t spelled out).
Themes
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
We now cut to the school where Leah teaches. One of her pupils says that she’s dropping out of school to “work at night.” Leah sadly notes that there are no laws against prostitution in the country. Another student brings up the upcoming Ali-Foreman fight, and Leah can’t help but point out that it’s absurd that millions of people around the world will watch the match without realizing how underpaid and malnourished the people of Zaire really are.
Leah’s bitterness about the famous “Rumble in the Jungle” between Ali and Foreman is another example of how the U.S. used the media to obscure the brutality of its intervention in Africa.
Themes
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
On her own, Leah thinks about her options for the future. She and her family could stay in the country, or they could move back to Atlanta. Although she’s poor and can barely provide for her children, Leah recognizes that she’s far luckier and better off than her neighbors.
Despite how deeply ingrained she has become in the life and culture of the Congo, Leah still recognizes that her whiteness, (relative) wealth, and American heritage give her undeniable advantages—she can always just leave the country if things get too bad, while others can’t.
Themes
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
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Anatole tells Leah that the Congo has fallen on hard times, even by the country’s low standards. The Congo, he explains, was like a beautiful princess in a fairy tale—always being controlled and dominated by angry, powerful men. Now, the Congo is in an uneasy “marriage” to the United States, which preaches about the country’s “progress” while stealing its resources. Leah responds, “I understand that kind of marriage all right. I grew up witnessing one just like it.”
This is one of the best examples of the equivalence Kingsolver draws between misogyny and imperialism, and between feminism and anti-colonialism. The suggestion would seem to be that Leah’s experiences with an abusive father give her some insight into (although certainly not total understanding of) the struggle of the Congolese against their Belgian and American oppressors.
Themes
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
Leah has taken on a new identity in Kinshasa. She’s now Mrs. Ngemba, a schoolteacher. Many of the students mock Leah for being white and different. Others are the children of powerful American businessmen who’ve come to work in Zaire—and these children also ridicule Leah. Downtown, Leah watches TV and sees Mobutu preaching about the “purity” and “unity” of the nation. An audience cheers for him, but Leah senses that the audience has been paid or threatened to cheer. In the bar where the TV is playing, none of the drinkers pay attention. Leah ends the chapter by explaining that she quit her teaching job after a year.
Leah has become a perpetual outsider beyond the confines of her own family. The white students mock Leah for marrying a black man and acting like an anti-colonial revolutionary, while the African students will always see her as connected to their oppressors, however tangentially. These feelings of racial solidarity correspond to the speech Mobutu is making on TV: a speech about the importance of race in Zaire. The lack of enthusiasm for Mobutu is a tragic contrast to the past hopefulness and passion regarding Lumumba.
Themes
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon