Salient Moments in Barbara Kingsolver’s Novel the Poisonwood Bible

March 10, 2022 by Essay Writer

Salient Moments and the Perspective of the Ending

A salient moment in a story can be defined as a significant or prominent moment in the storyline or a character’s life. The book The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver begins with the main character Orleanna Price telling the reader that her story is one of guilt and how one can deal with it. The story itself comes from the perspective of five different women — all from the Price family. The guilt they all speak of is caused by the tragic event that occurred in the jungles of Africa. This event, a salient moment of Orleanna’s life, was the death of her daughter. The five women whose perspectives are present in the story are Orleanna and her four surviving daughters, but the story is directed at the daughter who passed.

The stories of the four daughters are told in the present tense, but Orleanna is talking from some time later. The salient moment has already occurred from Orleanna’s perspective, but it unfolds throughout the story from the daughters’ perspectives, leading to an interesting viewpoint for the reader. Orleanna chooses to narrate starting from the point she does because it marks the moment her and her family set off in the jungles of the Congo to follow her husband’s missionary trip. None of her daughters know of the fate that lies for Ruth May, making their narration significantly different from Orleanna’s. Their mood shows how they feel towards everything over the time frame of their stories and changes as different events occur, but Orleanna already has the feeling of sorrow and guilt because she is telling the story after-the-fact.

There are many things to be seen when reconsidering the beginning of the novel after reading. Most of history is told by males, but The Poisonwood Bible is told entirely from the perspective of women. The perspective gained from reading through the book is one that one similar to feminism, often showing Nathan as an ignorant and self-centered man, while from his perspective he would be seen as heroic. There are many examples of foreshadowing in the novel that would have been somewhat hard to detect during reading but become obvious after reading. One of the easier ones to spot was made easy because Orleanna openly said it in the very beginning, saying she is “the mother of children living and dead.” This quote shows that an event happened to cause her to lose a child; an event that would be explained later in the novel. Another misleading example of foreshadowing is that of the Orleanna’s audience. Based on what she says about “craving your lost, small body,” one could assume the focus is all on a possible stillborn child, but after reading the story one is able to figure out the real focus — Ruth May.

There are a few symbols introduced in the novel that come out to have at least some significance later on. One such symbol is Methuselah the parrot. Methuselah was the parrot owned by the previous leader of the mission, and the previous leader passed down the parrot to the Price family. When Nathan throws the parrot out of the house, an image is given of “Methuselah opening his wings and fluttering like freedom itself.” This image could be alluded to the Price daughters’ want or need for freedom; the freedom that they all crave from the harsh jungles of the Congo. Another symbol that the title of the book could have been taken from was the poisonwood tree. It is a symbol of what Nathan is attempting to do to the native people in his effort to convert them. Touching any part of a poisonwood tree can leave you with anything from a nasty rash to blistering, hence the name. Nathan, or rather his bible, is the tree to the natives of the Congo. They had lived on just fine until coming into contact with Nathan and his bible, which caused them to stray drastically from the way of life they were so used to. This is an important part to the story in that Nathan’s obsession to convert the natives is the ultimate reason for Ruth May’s death.

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