CT Journal: Write an essay in which you a)
identify one issue, concept, or concern which you think is thematic
in The Poisonwood Bible, b) show by means of one or more
quotations from the text where that idea is stated or implied, and c)
discuss in an organized way your own thoughts on the subject.
At the river they eat their picnic lunch, they move downstream to shriek in the cool water. The noise they make frightens away a young okapi He had just lately begun to inhabit this territory on the edge of the village. If the children had not come today, the okapi would have chosen this as his place. He would have remained until the second month of the dry season, and then a hunter would have killed him. But instead he is startled today by the picnic, and his cautious instincts drive him deeper into the jungle, where he finds a mate and lives through the year. All because. If the mother and her children had not come down the path on this day, the spider would have lived. Every life is different because you passed this way and touched history. Even the child Ruth May touched history. Everyone is complicit. The okapi complied by living, and the spider by dying. It would have lived if it could. (538)
These simple words help to explain an idea that I often think
about and I'm sure other people, young people in particular, think
about as well. We young people are all leaving soon to go off to
college, but which college? Which major will be chosen? How will my
life turn out if I go to this school? Or to that school? It is
difficult to put into words the immense possibilities that we all
have in our lives at this point, right now in time.
Older people can relate to this idea, but in a different context. Actually, their reflections on this idea are probably quite similar to the reflections that Ruth May makes in this passage. Instead of seeing the possibilities of the future, they might instead see the possibilities of the choices that were made in the past. How things might have turned out differently . . . what they could've done different. These are the big consequences of our actions that we do take into consideration and think about. However, Ruth May in this passage discusses the small actions that we take part in everyday which also affects the lives around us.
This entire book is based upon a series of choices that were made and the consequences of those decisions which followed. How would the lives of those in Kilanga have changed had the Price family gone to a different village? Would Anatole have ever married Leah? Probably not. They probably wouldn't even have met! Would Adah have still ended up as the successful scientist and doctor? Mother the widow? Father left without a family? Would Ruth May have died at all?
These are questions that were all "answered" so to speak when the Price family decided to move to Kilanga. But of course, there existed every day choices which were made by the family which also greatly affected this outcome. Such as the decision as to whether or not to take quinine pills, to continue preaching against the wishes of the village chief, or to go outside and investigate who was putting the snakes into everyone's houses and belongings.
I think that this idea of how we so innocently change the lives of those around us without realization is an important idea for all people to recognize and understand. People all over the world would probably weigh their everyday decisions with much more consideration and thought. This would be a good thing, in my opinion, as I believe that it would lead to possible "better" choices instead of the rash ones that we all make every once in a while due to the lack of importance that we feel the decision deserves.
We aimed for no more than to have dominion over every creature that moved upon the earth. And so it came to pass that we stepped down there on a place we believed unformed, where only darkness moved on the face of the waters. Now you laugh, day and night, while you gnaw on my bones. But what else could we have thought? Only that it began and ended with us. (10)
Nathan Price used his selfish needs and closed-minded views to take advantage of both the people of Kilanga and his own family. He claimed to have come to Africa in the Lord's service, but he was actually using the Congolese to try to make up for the lives that we lost in the war he fought in. He probably was holding a great amount of guilt inside of him for having survived the war, and needed to do something to fulfill his emotional needs. He wasn't thinking about what was best for the people; he was only thinking of himself. All Nathan Price succeeded in doing was disrupting a village of peaceful and innocent people by forcing his beliefs onto them. His fixation to baptize the Congolese and his refusal to give up on this idea caused the people to revolt against him, and ultimately led to his death. What Nathan didn't take into mind was that every culture has its own values and beliefs, and you shouldn't try to change these. Nathan Price also forced his religious views onto his innocent daughters. Orleanna blamed herself for this, saying:
No wonder they hardly seemed to love me half the time - I couldn't step in front of
my husband to shelter them from his scorching light. They were expected to look
straight at him and go blind. (96)
After one too many times of receiving the infamous "Verse" from their father, the Price
sisters eventually came to turn against him, all at different times in their lives. Adah knew very early on not to trust or believe anything her father said, while it took Leah a much longer time to come to this realization. Barbara Kingsolver also brings to attention the terrible actions of the United States. Anatole explained the situation like this:
Like a princess in a story, Congo was born too right 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. (456) The U.S. knowingly took advantage of an innocent Africa, and those Americans who took part in this destruction now must live with their consciences for the rest of time. (456)
Leah nicely sums up what I feel is the most important issue brought up in the book:
There is not justice in this world. Father, forgive me wherever you are, but this
world has brought one vile abomination after another down on the heads of the
gentle, and I'll not live to see the meek inherit anything. What there is in this world,
I think, is a tendency for human errors to level themselves like water throughout their
sphere of influence. That's pretty much the whole of what I can say, looking back.
There's the possibility of balance. Unbearable burdens that the world somehow does bear with a certain grace. (522)
Leah is saying that the world is not fair, and never will be, but there is the hope that "balance" can be achieved. She has lived through tragic human errors, which were unbearably hard to deal with, but she has also seen how the world handled it "with a certain grace." Leah has faith that the world will survive any hardships it endures.