• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

THE POISONWOOD BIBLE 'Cultural arrogance is presented as the great sin of the West and traditional forms of Christianity as one of this sin's primary vehicles.' How do you respond to Kingsolver's portrayal of Christianity?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

'Cultural arrogance is presented as the great sin of the West and traditional forms of Christianity as one of this sin's primary vehicles.' How do you respond to Kingsolver's portrayal of Christianity? Kingsolver's concern with Christianity is evident in the very title of The Poisonwood Bible. She uses 'books' to divide the novel into sections, which, with names like Genesis and The Revelation, reflect the books of the Bible. As the novel progresses, the structure deviates from that of its biblical namesakes: there is a shift in order - Exodus is placed centrally - and new books with titles such as The Eyes in the Trees are introduced (Kingsolver's own appellations). These names present the reader with the idea that Kingsolver is rewriting the central Christian text, adapting it for her own story. Thus religion is heralded as a significant presence in the book, not just thematically, but structurally. Throughout The Poisonwood Bible, Kingsolver uses her characters to represent forms of attitudes to Christianity. The primary expositor is Nathan, who sustains forceful, evangelical beliefs throughout. He has no voice of his own, but all accounts affirm to the reader that he is consumed by his faith. Leah, the daughter who harbours the most respect for her father, initially refers to him only in the context of religion - 'his tone implied that...[Mother's] concern with Better Crocker confederated her with the coin-jingling sinners who vexed Jesus till he pitched a fit and threw them out of church.' She is describing the cleansing of the temple in John 2:13-22, but the fact that she can reference it freely, and even put it into her own words, demonstrates that she has been heavily influenced by the Bible. Kingsolver is perhaps trying to show that religion can be used to control the way people think, and she portrays Christianity as highly potent. Leah continues to incorporate Biblical language into everyday speech, 'For it was God who gave man alone the capacity of foresight'. ...read more.

Middle

Initially, Nathan's family are depicted as passive, rarely bemoaning the iron grip their father has upon their lives. Rachel is not even allowed to wear nail polish, 'Father feels make-up and nail polish are warning signs of prostitution'. By having Nathan associate make-up, which in 1950s America was a relatively normal part of teenager-hood, with prostitution, Kingsolver demonstrates that strict Christianity can lead to irrational paranoia. It is rare that any of his family criticise their father directly - Leah does not comment on the blatant injustice of her father carrying nothing to Africa except 'the word of God...[which] fortunately weighed nothing at all'. Here Kingsolver might be being discreetly ironic about Christianity - the 'word of God' clearly does have a huge impact on his family's lives, so perhaps the reason it weighs nothing is because it is, after everything, useless. However, I find that the acquiescence of Nathan's family to his tyranny only increases the menace Christianity presents. Not only does Kingsolver show (without her characters having to tell us) the way Christianity can repress people, but we also realise that it can render them blind - Leah, for a significant part of the book, admires her father more than anyone: 'He was gifted with such keen judgment and purity of heart'. This is so far from the truth I think Kingsolver must be using irony to expose the extent of Leah's deception. So again, Kingsolver is not criticising Christianity, but Nathan's interpretation of it. If her book is a polemic against rigid adherence to traditional Christian doctrines, it is measured carefully - Nathan receives varying degrees of support from his family. Orleanna clearly believes in a God, but has been worn down by her husband's religious tyranny and the suffocating demands of her life - 'I could fall into bed for a few short hours and dream of being eaten alive in small pieces.' ...read more.

Conclusion

When Ruth May gets taunted about Congo natives - 'the cannibal natives would boil us up and eat us in a pot', her teacher does nothing to allay the racial stereotyping, 'she didn't say one word or the other...so I don't know.' This kind of environment is also intolerant. Adah's story of being punished for raising religious doubts - 'Miss Betty sent me to the corner...to pray...while kneeling on grains of uncooked rice' elucidates a fundamental flaw in Christianity. Belief should not be a will choice, so condemning souls for lacking is grossly unjust - especially, as Adah has pointed out, because beliefs are shaped by 'the accident of...birth'. The teacher's prohibition of independent thought also embodies a kind of arrogance: Christianity is the only answer and anything else is blasphemy. In conclusion, I believe Kingsolver is damning about certain forms of Christianity. My response to the superficial stance of the Congolese is amusement, to the gentle Animism of Brother Fowles, admiration, and to Rachel's 'Christianity', disdain. But Christianity, in its most general form, is only a set of beliefs and traditions, used to a thousand different ends. It cannot be held responsible for the way Nathan treats his daughters, or for the religious clash between Western values and Congolese beliefs. Nathan, with his oppressive dogmatism, encounters obstacles because he refuses to accept anything but his own beliefs, thereby displaying his utter cultural arrogance '...the few here that choose Christi-an-ity over ignorance and darkness!' Kingsolver makes him a slave to an ancient, uncompromising text, depicting his struggle to force it upon people who have no interest in it. Nathan's personal religion was poisoned when his company died 'on the death march'. It was not Christianity that made him into (as Leah puts it) a 'simple, ugly man', it was a series of tragic events, falling upon an impressionable man at an unfortunate time. Through his downfall, Kingsolver effectively puts across the danger of being rigid and uncompromising about traditional Christianity. ?? ?? ?? ?? Julia Wilson Y13 English Literature Coursework 2004 ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Prejudice and Discrimination section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Prejudice and Discrimination essays

  1. Explain why the bible is important to Christians

    The bible plays a very important part in corporate and private worship. There is a sermon (the preaching)

  2. Prejudice and Discrimination - Describe the teachings of Christianity about discrimination and prejudice and ...

    King had experienced discrimination all the way through his life, which worsened when he became the leader of the civil rights movement. He was subject to violence and imprisonment and was finally killed because of his race. Religion was very important to him and helped him to carry on through hard times.

  1. Women and Man are Equal in Gods Eyes

    on the views that society holds of women in church and in a women's daily life. Paul's teachings may were also influenced by teachings that were around him at the time, the Genesis account which is available to us today and is often misinterpreted today was also available to Paul.

  2. In "Cry, The Beloved Country," does Alan Paton reflect or challenge the cultural values ...

    However, both kinds dislike each other and treat each other in an inappropriate way. Religion's aim is not to devour the people, but to unite them; unfortunately this doesn't occur, leaving the black population under pressure with difficulties of life.

  1. "We Wear the Mask" by Paul Laurence Dunbar is a renowned piece of literature ...

    were considered "property" and not human, incapable of having emotions or feelings, then it was legally accepted to treat them as such.

  2. Racism - a christian perspective.

    Although slavery had been made abolished by Abraham Lincoln in 1869, most blacks in America still lived in poverty. Martin Luther King, like many other blacks in the U.S.A faced racism and discrimination everyday. Some white people who formed a secret society called the Ku Klux Klan wanted slavery to be reintroduced, and used violence against black people.

  1. Women have a higher profile and feel more equal to men in Christianity than ...

    It shows a women's hand coming out of heaven with the 11th commandment 'Thou shalt respect the rights of women" and Moses looks very embarrassed that he forgot it. I would think that this was published/printed to make a certain point stand out in the text it was in about sexism in Christianity.

  2. Racism. I plan to address the nature, different types and reasons for racism, and ...

    An Overt example could be the extermination of Jews in the Holocaust or the enslavement of African Americans. A Covert example could be stereotypical portrayal of ethnic minorities in the media, e.g. asylum seekers. Children are not born racist, but rather racism is a learned social phenomenon, because of family, education, religion, the law, and the media.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work