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A Comparative Study of How the Mothers are presented in The Poisonwood Bible and The Mosquito Coast

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A Comparative Study of How the Mothers are presented in The Poisonwood Bible and The Mosquito Coast In The Poisonwood Bible and The Mosquito Coast, the mothers play very important roles. In my study I will explore the authors' purposes in presenting the mothers the way they have, and what techniques and imagery they use to portray certain themes about women throughout the novel. Within both novels, the reader witnesses the mothers changing characters. As Allie and Nathan's continuously tiring and increasingly maddening outlook progresses, the mothers begin to change. Orleanna no longer cowers in Nathan's relentless demands and authority, stating that 'her first job was to take care of her own and if he was any kind of father he would do the same.' This contrasts greatly with the Orleanna we meet at the beginning who describes herself as Nathan's 'instrument, his animal'. Contrasting to this, Mother is presented so that the reader is not really aware of her the entire way through; Theroux does not bring her character into the foreground of the novel until near the end. She is described by her function as a Mother and wife. However, her role is stronger than that of Orleanna's; she can speak out to Allie in a passive, gentle way telling Allie, 'Don't pretend to be better than you are.' This shows how Mother does seem to have a more outspoken independent side outside of her family, and which Theroux reveals as the novel progresses. ...read more.


However in The Poisonwood Bible, Orleanna is conveyed as a quite weak character at the beginning of the novel, whereas Mother is not so much weak, just less noticeable. Orleanna is presented by Kingsolver as quite secretive, guiding her children silently. By the end of the novel Orleanna is described using metaphor, her 'profile in the window turned to salt crystal, reflecting all light.' this imagery paints a hopeful picture, suggesting Mother as the children's saviour. This contrasts greatly with the Orleanna at the beginning of the novel, she seems lost 'while all the sparkle drained out of her face...her light blue eyes had gone blank, like shallow pans of water', Kingsolver's use of imagery here allows the reader to empathise with Orleanna, trying to get the reader to understand Orleanna's position in the family. In both texts, each family coming from the western world, are thrust into a poverty stricken community, each community with different values and outlooks on western culture. Both mothers' react differently to the new culture and traditions, highlighting the authors' ideas of the differences and acceptance of culture other than our own. In The Mosquito Coast, the community the Fox's are introduced to are at first wary of the new comers, as is Mother of them. However, as they learn to live together, Mother embraces their way of life. Charlie's narrative describes mother learning 'the local way of doing something', revealing how accepting Mother is of the 'Zambus' customs, she does 'not take charge' supporting Theroux's presentation of Mother as a subservient character in the novel. ...read more.


Nathan's behaviour towards Orleanna creates a negative response to his character. Orleanna is presented as bitter towards Nathan, saying 'a wife may revile a man with every silent curse', this use of hateful language, conveys to the reader the state of Nathan and Orleanna's relationship. Theroux uses a retrospective narrative to give the reader insight to how Nathan and Orleanna became so unhappy. Orleanna describes Nathan as a 'tyrant before men...and a child before God...a petulant one' this show of Nathan's character emphasises and explains Orleanna's submission to his beatings and weakness in his presence and ends up 'swallowed by Nathan's mission, body and soul.' reinforcing the view that women of that era were to do their husbands' 'magnificent will'. The theme of death is apparent in both texts, in The Poisonwood Bible, when Ruth May is bitten by the snake, the way in which Orleanna reaction is very surprising, 'she behaved as though someone else had already told her,' Orleanna's calmness could be misinterpreted for not caring, but as we heard from Orleanna's narrative, she cannot get away 'from the disaster she knows is coming' this prolepsis to the end of the novel, seems to be reflected in Orleanna's reaction, Kingsolver uses this to demonstrate how powerless Orleanna is, she knows disaster is coming, and yet she is helpless and so 'inhumanely alone' here Kingsolver uses the character of Orleanna to reflect the women of the 1960's, who felt trapped in their roles as good wives and mothers. ?? ?? ?? ?? Florence-Ray Lewis-George 6234 ...read more.

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