The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible

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Anatole Ngemba is a young, intelligent Congolese man who eventually becomes Leah Price’s lover and husband. Anatole is deeply connected to the history of the Congo: his mother was sent to the Belgian diamond mines when he was still a young child, meaning that his family has been directly torn apart by European imperialism. Because of his family experiences, as well as his considerable self-education, Anatole comes to support the Congolese nationalist movements of the late 50s and early 60s, leading up to the Belgians’ decision to pull out of the Congo altogether. He’s an enthusiastic supporter of Patrice Lumumba, even after Lumumba’s assassination—as a result, he’s harassed by the Mobutu state, and eventually thrown in prison for his political convictions. During all this time, Anatole shows great love and understanding for Leah, and in return, Leah loves Anatole unconditionally, even during the years when he’s in prison.

Anatole Ngemba Quotes in The Poisonwood Bible

The The Poisonwood Bible quotes below are all either spoken by Anatole Ngemba or refer to Anatole Ngemba . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Harper Perennial edition of The Poisonwood Bible published in 1999.
Book 2, Chapter 16 Quotes

Anatole leaned forward and announced, “Our chief, Tata Ndu, is concerned about the moral decline of his village.” Father said, “Indeed he should be, because so few villagers are going to church.” “No, Reverend. Because so many villagers are going to church.”

Related Characters: Nathaniel Price (speaker), Rachel Price (speaker), Anatole Ngemba (speaker), Tata Ndu
Page Number: 128
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Nathan Price begins to quarrel with Tata Ndu, the leader of the Congolese village where Nathan has been sent to practice missionary work. Although Nathan sees himself as doing God's work, Ndu thinks of Nathan as a nuisance, making the villagers lazy and putting their lives in danger.

The passage reinforces a point that was already obvious: Nathan is oblivious to the fact that most of the villagers don't care about his religion in the slightest. From their perspective, Christ is just another god to worship, and is even inferior to the gods already celebrated in the village. Nathan, so blindly devoted to his work (to the point where he doesn't spend time with his family), is genuinely surprised that Christianity has become so unpopular in the village, to the point that it is even seen as a bad influence on the village's morals. The fact that he's so surprised suggests that he's been a bad missionary, refusing to pay any real attention to his audience's feelings.

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Book 5, Chapter 68 Quotes

Neto is about Anatole’s age, also educated by missionaries. He’d already gone abroad to study medicine and returned home to open a clinic, where his own people could get decent care, but it didn’t work out. A gang of white policemen dragged him out of his clinic one day, beat him half to death, and carted him off to prison. The crowds that turned up to demand his release got cut down like trees by machine-gun fire. Not only that, but the Portuguese army went out burning villages to the ground, to put a damper on Neto’s popularity. Yet, the minute he got out of prison, he started attracting droves of people to an opposition party in Angola.

Related Characters: Leah Price (speaker), Anatole Ngemba , Agostinho Neto
Page Number: 431-432
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Leah describes the life she's made for herself after Ruth May's death (the event that broke up her family). Years have passed, and Leah is now married to Anatole Ngemba, the young man who tutored her when she first arrived in the Congo. Anatole has been in correspondence with Agostinho Neto, a young, ambitious political leader who sees himself as the successor to Patrice Lumumba. Like Lumumba, Neto is enormously popular with the people of the Congo (and Angola), though he alienates the government with his socialist views.

Leah's impressions of Neto suggest how political she's become since Ruth May's death. By marrying Anatole, Leah has committed to a lifetime of political engagement: support for Neto and other elected leaders, and general investment in the wellbeing of the Congo. Although Leah is clearly shocked by the way the government has treated Neto, she has a quiet optimism that Neto will succeed in his political goals—he has enough supporters to guarantee his success in the long run.

Book 5, Chapter 70 Quotes

“He is the one wife belonging to many white men.” Anatole explained it this way: Like a princess in a story, Congo was born too rich for her own good, and attracted attention far and “wide from men “who desire to rob her blind. The United States has now become the husband of Zaire’s economy, and not a very nice one. Exploitive and condescending, in the name of steering her clear of the moral decline inevitable to her nature. “Oh, I understand that kind of marriage all right,” I said. “I grew up witnessing one just like it.”

Related Characters: Leah Price (speaker), Anatole Ngemba
Page Number: 456
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Anatole (Leah's husband) gives Leah an analogy to explain the troubled history of the Congo. Anatole suggests that the Congo is like a beautiful but fragile woman, exploited by various powerful men (Belgium, Europe, the U.S.). Anatole implies that the Congo, while full of resources and strong, intelligent people, has never been allowed to grow to its full potential. Like a housewife forbidden from pursuing her own dreams, the Congo has been held in captivity, forced to work for others.

It's important to note Leah's reaction to Anatole's story—she immediately sees an analogy between the Congo and Orleanna's marriage to Nathan. At one point, Leah admired her father, but now she sees him for the hypocrite he is. Nathan has held Orleanna in "captivity" for years, ignoring her feelings and forcing her to serve him. Furthermore, Nathan has justified his behavior by accusing Orleanna of being weak and sinful--i.e., he's used Christian dogma to hold Orleanna accountable for her sinful femininity.

In short, the passage is something like a "thesis statement" for the novel itself. By studying the close, intimate relationship between Nathan and his wife and children, Kingsolver suggests, we can better understand the broad, historical relationship between the Congo and the international community.

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Anatole Ngemba Character Timeline in The Poisonwood Bible

The timeline below shows where the character Anatole Ngemba appears in The Poisonwood Bible. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 1, Chapter 11
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...them of God’s teachings afterwards. As Nathan preaches about Daniel and Susanna, his translator, Tata Anatole, translates for the African congregation. (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 16
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Rachel is thrilled that the Prices are hosting “company” for dinner. Anatole, their guest, is a 24-year-old schoolteacher, though Rachel isn’t interested in him, both because of... (full context)
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Anatole is an impressive young man, who teaches at the local school, which he also runs... (full context)
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Anatole uses the dinner to tell Nathan that Tata Ndu is angry with the “moral decline”... (full context)
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Anatole goes on to describe the other religions that the Kilanga villagers are attracted to. There’s... (full context)
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From the kitchen, Rachel hears Anatole tell Nathan that Nathan shouldn’t think of Tata Kuvudundu as his competition. Instead of responding... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 17
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...other things, like young men practicing military drills. One of these men, Adah realizes, is Anatole. Anatole is reading aloud a letter about the Belgians’ decision to offer the Congo its... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 18
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After Anatole’s dinner with the Prices, he sends a young boy named Lekuyu to the Prices’ house.... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 31
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...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.... (full context)
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Leah continues talking to Anatole. They laugh and joke before Anatole tells Leah the other reason he’s stopped by the... (full context)
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Anatole continues to explain the situation to Leah: Moise Tshombe has Belgians working for him. There... (full context)
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Leah asks Anatole if the U.S. will intervene to prevent civil war. Anatole says that the U.S. is... (full context)
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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... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 40
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...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... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 41
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Leah studies Anatole’s face as she studies her French in the schoolhouse. She can’t help but wonder if... (full context)
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Anatole goes on to explain that the children distrust all Americans, because they think of America... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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Leah and Anatole continue discussing Nathan. Anatole admits that he doesn’t believe in Jesus Christ’s divinity—he trusts knowledge,... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 44
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...the streets. She rushes outside, where she sees that the street is full of ants. Anatole, who’s nearby, shouts out to Leah. He touches her hand and tells her that he’ll... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 47
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...and carry her toward the river. As she reaches the river, she realizes that it’s Anatole. Immediately after the episode, Adah wonders why her mother did not help her, but chose... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 48
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Leah rushes toward the river, noticing that Anatole is behind her, carrying Adah. He explains that Orleanna and Ruth May have gone ahead... (full context)
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Leah is inspired to ask Anatole, point-blank, about his politics. She points out that he’s involved with the Jeune Mou Pro,... (full context)
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Suddenly, Leah begins to cry. She says, “I love you, Anatole.” Anatole replies, “Don’t ever say that again.” Leah notes to herself, “I never will.” Two... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 51
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...the drought in the Congo. Leah has been practicing with the bow and arrow that Anatole gave her, and she’s become pretty good. (full context)
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Leah’s participation in the hunt was the subject of much debate. Her friends Nelson and Anatole argued on her behalf, saying that the village was too desperate to spare any archers,... (full context)
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...could she ran away. In the coming days, Leah makes herself scarce, staying mostly at Anatole’s school, where she continues to help the children. (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 55
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When it comes time for Anatole to receive his share of the meat, Anatole claims that he’s earned an entire buck... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 56
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...a pathway made of fine ash and dirt. Then they send Nelson to stay with Anatole. This way, if any humans set foot near the chicken house, Leah and Adah will... (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 63
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...is full of “celebration.” Leah stays in a hut that belongs to a student of Anatole. While sick, she receives visitors, including Anatole. Anatole is kind and loving, and he calls... (full context)
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...U.S. Nathan is still stationed in Kilanga. Rachel has left with her “devil savior,” Axelroot. Anatole is taking care of Leah in the absence of her other family members. Leah has... (full context)
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Anatole takes care of Leah. Leah thinks about how their “relationship” has changed lately—they sleep in... (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 66
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...now lives in a nunnery, where she’s earned the nickname “the Mine Sweeper.” Her husband, Anatole, has been imprisoned for a long time now. And yet she’s still in love with... (full context)
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...weak to flee from Mobutu’s troops, which were marching through the Congo at the time. Anatole risked his life to protect Leah from the soldiers—something that still makes Leah feel guilty. (full context)
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After Leah’s condition improved, she and Anatole traveled to Stanleyville, where Lumumba still had popular support. There, she was mocked and despised... (full context)
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...become nearly fluent in African languages such as Lingala. Shortly after arriving at the nunnery, Anatole left for Stanleyville, where he hoped to organize a resistance group that could defeat Mobutu.... (full context)
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...weeps for this violence, and for the memory of her imprisoned husband. She prays that Anatole will go free and give her children one day. (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 68
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...to her recently. That morning, she killed a snake that was crawling through her and Anatole’s home. The date is January 17, the anniversary of the day on which the Congo... (full context)
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Anatole has been released from prison and miraculously allowed to live, despite the fact that many... (full context)
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After being released from prison, Anatole and Leah moved to the town of Bikoki, where Anatole lived as a child. Recently,... (full context)
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...“powerful mercenary.” She can’t communicate with Orleanna or Adah. Her only real family nowadays is Anatole. Anatole works as a secondary school teacher. Yet Leah carries the memory of her little... (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 69
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Adah also reports that Leah is living in Atlanta with Anatole and their son Pascal (Adah’s nephew). Adah greatly admires Anatole—they share a skepticism of American... (full context)
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Adah admits that she rarely sees Leah and Anatole, since she’s busy with medical school. She works in a hospital, delivering babies. She often... (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 70
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...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... (full context)
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Anatole tells Leah that the Congo has fallen on hard times, even by the country’s low... (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 72
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Anatole is in prison once again, Leah begins—he’s been arrested for his defiance of Mobutu, as... (full context)
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Leah’s children have all seen Atlanta, and love it. Coming back from one visit, Anatole’s passport was confiscated at the airport. Anatole believed that he’d receive his passport in the... (full context)
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Leah is extremely lonely now. She takes care of her children in Anatole’s absence, but can’t shake the sense that they don’t really need her. She tries to... (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 73
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...been in contact with Leah, who reports that the government is, unexpectedly, going to let Anatole out of jail within a month. To pass time in the month before this event,... (full context)
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...trip in detail, Rachel notes that at the end of the month, Leah reunited with Anatole—she embraced Anatole with palpable love and tenderness, and then drove back to Kinshana. (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 75
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...a man who died suddenly. Nathaniel, her youngest child, was born last year, shortly after Anatole was released from jail. Pascal, the eldest child, studies engineering in Luanda. Patrice is quiet... (full context)
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...this, but Leah knows she’s right. She thinks back to the definition of Communism that Anatole gave her years and years ago: “they think everybody should have the same kind of... (full context)
Book 6, Chapter 77
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...thirty years since Leah gave birth to her first child. She lies in bed with Anatole, talking about the “history of the world.” When the Portuguese first came to Africa, Anatole... (full context)
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For ten years, Leah and Anatole have lived in Angola on an agricultural station. Angola is now an independent state. The... (full context)