The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible Book 1, Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Adah quizzes Leah in Bible verses. She gives Leah the verse, “Neither diabolical nor divine,” but the question is a joke: the quote is actually from The Strange Tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Adah is a voracious reader, though many of her favorite books Nathan doesn’t approve of, like science fiction and fantasy stories. Orleanna was the one who first read to Leah and Adah. Orleanna was also the first person in the family to realize that Leah and Adah were highly intelligent.
As the book goes on, we see that Adah and Leah’s intelligence vastly exceeds Nathan’s. But because Nathan refuses to accept any challenge to his authority as the patriarch of the Price clan, Leah and Adah aren’t really included in family decisions: they have to channel their intelligence into other avenues.
Themes
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
Adah thinks about the elementary school teacher who discovered that she was intelligent—Miss Leep. If it hadn’t been for her, there’s an excellent chance that she would have spent the rest of her adolescence in classes with mentally challenged children. By the time she was in the third grade, Adah was so good at math that she could sum up grocery bills in her head. She also enjoys constructing palindromes (words or phrases that are read the same way forwards and backwards) in her head. She’s bothered that her name is spelled with an “h,” meaning that it’s not quite a palindrome.
Adah’s frustration with her own name—it’s almost a palindrome, but not quite—seems to suggest her frustration with her body: its natural beauty and perfection (demonstrated by her identical twin, Leah) has been corrupted by its own kind of “h”—hemiplegia.
Themes
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
Adah 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.” Adah thinks about this bird whenever her father orders her to copy Bible verses. Nathan loves to order his children to copy the Bible. While she’s copying verses, Adah thinks about her new home, which is made of mud-walls and thatch. Still, it’s larger than any other home in Kilanga.
In contrast to the intelligent, careful lessons that Orleanna gives her daughters, Nathan’s lessons are mindless and useless: he thinks it’s more important for his children to just copy Bible verses than to understand them. The presence of the parrot Methuselah in this scene has an obvious symbolic overtone: Nathan wants his children to “parrot” Scripture and Nathan’s own ideas.
Themes
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
There are violent storms in Kilanga, and during the first storm, it rains all day. The rain subsides around sunset, and Orleanna leads her children out into the wilderness. There, they see tiny, drowned birds, which they find horrifying. They also notice that the plot of soil that Mama Tataba had advised Nathan to reshape into piles has been destroyed by the deluge: the seeds have been swept away as a result of Nathan’s methods of farming. Afterwards, Nathan reshapes the garden into tiny mounds of earth to prevent future damage from flooding.
In the end, Mama Tataba is proven right, as might have been expected. Nathan’s commitment to his own experiences and his own point of view has resulted in the garden patch being destroyed. It’s satisfying to see Nathan go through the humiliation of reshaping the soil into mounds of earth—in the end, he has to listen and learn from the “unsaved,” “inferior” Congolese after all.
Themes
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
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