Methuselah, the parrot who Brother Fowles kept during his time in Kilanga (and who later becomes a pet for the Price family), is a complicated symbol. At times, he symbolizes the captivity in which the Price women find themselves. Like the bird, they’re imprisoned: forbidden from learning, hunting, or joking by their harsh, tyrannical father. At the same time, Methuselah symbolizes the fate of the Congo itself: when Patrice Lumumba becomes the ruler of the country, Adah Price finds that Methuselah has gotten “free,” but also has been eaten by a predator. Similarly, Lumumba is also leading his country into an uncertain future—one that will include much tragedy.
The Poisonwood Bible
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The timeline below shows where the symbol Methuselah appears in The Poisonwood Bible. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 1, Chapter 9
...notices a parrot that flies around the house in the Congo. She’s named the parrot Methuselah. Methuselah has learned one phrase from Nathan’s predecessor in the Congo, Brother Fowles: “piss off.”... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 10
Book 1, Chapter 12
...that this was the reason why nobody has been baptized yet. As Nathan explains this, Methuselah cries, “Piss off.” Nathan angrily grabs Methuselah from his cage and throws him toward the... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 14
...more time with Nathan, but instead, she goes hunting for Pygmies (small birds) and feeds Methuselah. She notices that most of the girls her age in the community already have children,... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 25
Book 3, Chapter 34
...a man of “surprising resources.” Fowles’s last question, before he walks out, is about how Methuselah is doing. Ruth May explains that Methuselah has gone to “bird heaven,” and Fowles replies... (full context)