The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible Book 5, Chapter 66 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Leah 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 him.
It’s easy to forget that Leah is still a teenager at this point: she’s been through so much so quickly that she seems to have become an adult almost overnight.
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Leah explains what happened after she arrived in Bulungu with her family. She caught a horrible fever, putting her life in danger not only because of the fever itself but because she was too 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.
Anatole clearly loves Leah: otherwise, it’s unlikely that he would risk his own life to protect her from Mobutu’s troops. By this point, Anatole’s known Leah for years and years: he knows her as well as her own parents or sisters—better, in some ways.
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Leah has heard from Tata Boanda and others that Nathan hasn’t been doing well lately. He lives alone in Kilanga, without a woman to cook or clean for him. He continues to preach Christianity, even though he’s become increasingly ridiculed, especially after his house burned down. Why this happened isn’t clear, though Leah suspects that he might have inadvertently done so himself, due to his incompetence as a cook. Boanda also told Leah that Tata Ndu was furious when he found out (from Nelson) that Tata Kuvudundu planted a snake in the chicken house.
When Orleanna and her daughters leave Kilanga, it becomes apparent just how extensively Nathan relied on his family to survive (to eat, to sleep, to have shelter, etc.), and just how absurd his pretensions of control and independence were all along. This is also when we learn that Kuvudundu was acting on his own authority in planting the snake: for all his faults, Ndu would never authorize anyone to hurt a guest in his village.
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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 for marrying a black man. Anatole and Leah next traveled to the Central African Republic, where they’d both be safer. It was here that a nunnery invited them to live in peace.
Although Leah recognizes that it’s inappropriate for others to mock her for marrying a black man, it’s also true that she’s very insecure about doing exactly this. She’s still feeling guilty about being white—a benefactor of centuries of oppression.
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Leah has been living with the nuns for a while. She work in a hospital, treating wounds and other injuries. She’s also 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. Unfortunately, Anatole was arrested early on and sent to jail. Leah receives occasional letters from Leopoldville, where Anatole has been imprisoned.
We can tell that Leah is making every effort to become immersed in the culture of the Congo: her marriage to Anatole (and her white guilt) inspires her to commit to the Lumumba movement, and to embrace her new community with all sincerity. She’s still living in a religious community, however.
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Leah talks to one of her fellow workers, a nun named Therese. Therese claims that Leah shouldn’t consider herself “involved” in the fighting in the Congo, even if her husband is, because she’s a white woman, meaning that the fight is irrelevant to her. Leah resents this, but senses that Therese has a point—she’s been thrown into the middle of a conflict in which white people are despised, since they’re seen as imperialist aggressors.
The way this section is structured, it becomes clear that Therese is just externalizing what Leah was already thinking: that she will always be an outsider in the Congo on some level, no matter how long she lives there or who she marries. The best thing Leah can do is just to keep helping the Congolese in whatever way she can.
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Leah receives news of fighting in Stanleyville. An international group of soldiers from Belgium and the U.S has arrived in the country to suppress to pro-Lumumba forces. Leah 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.
Even if Leah is still haunted by insecurity about her whiteness, we see here how sincere she really is in her love for the Congo and for Anatole. Leah can’t atone or make up for centuries of imperialism, but she can live as truthfully and compassionately as she knows how, and so offer hope for a better future.
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