'Poisonwood Bible' by Barbara Kingsolver
The new novel by Barbara Kingsolver was listed in the bestseller lists for several months. It tells the dramatic fate of a family of the American missionary Baptists in colonial Congo during the period of struggle for independence. In a fascinating saga which is narrated by a wife and daughters of a priest, a reader observes a scale picture of the country, crushed by colonialism and by the so-called then democracy. Along with biting irony the writer describes all the vicissitudes of forcible imposition of the Christian religion among the native tribes. Critics point out successful passages of the writer: dynamic, tense plot, climactic moments and skillfully used African flavor. An American author, Barbara Kingsolver has received several literary awards and is considered one of the greatest writers of her generation. Especially, a 100-page epilogue is brilliantly written since it logically completes the story. The Poisonwood Bible, having all the advantages of previous books by Barbara Kingsolver, displays, according to the reviewers, her work at a new advanced level. In particular, the quote from the book makes it apparent that people tend to evolve and mature with their views developing. However, not for everyone a change is an acceptable outcome. The altering nature of a human life may bring happiness and wisdom, or sadness and emptiness.
Barbara Kingsolver is a contemporary American writer and poet. Being born in 1955 in Maryland, she spent her childhood in Kentucky, and at the age of 7 years old she moved to Congo (now – the Democratic Republic of Congo), where her parents worked in the health sector. Her most famous novel, The Poisonwood Bible, is a chronicle of the life of a family of the American missionaries in Congo. The novel covers a few decades of the country's history, from the period of the struggle for independence. What is especially interesting that the novel’s form combines narrative polyphony (five female voices, alternately telling the overall story) with a rich imagery. The writer touches upon crucial themes of a human existence – what is a change? Is it a betrayal of rules and principles or is it a necessary evolution needed for survival?
Depicturing a family, the writer managed to raise an important issue – colonialism in Congo. European penetration into Central African territory began in the late nineteenth century, during the so-called Scramble for Africa (1875-1900). Kunt Sevorgnen de Brezza took the lead in establishing the French Congo with headquarters in the city named after him, Brazzaville, and sent expeditions to the Ubangi River to expand the territory of the French demands in Central Africa (Kingsolver, 2000). As a result not a single inhabitant of Congo will forget how they won independence in the struggle against everyone everyday; this fighting was accompanied by deprivation, suffering, great sacrifice, and blood, shed by peoples. This struggle was accompanied by tears, fire and blood. These peoples were deeply proud of their struggle, as it was a just and noble struggle required to get rid of the humiliating slavery imposed on them by force. In fact, events in Congo taught primarily the fact that the colonizers did not come voluntarily. Every concession breaks people with force; every step toward freedom is taken on the battlefield (Kingsolver, 2000). Colonizers still use their predatory interests for disunity and discord among the tribes, parties and organizations, complacency and lack of determination of individual fighters for national liberation, their naive faith in the law established by the colonizers, the desire of individuals to certainly play a primary role in the events of their inability or unwillingness to subject their activities and personal interests to national interests of the common struggle for independence and its perpetuation. In the story Nathan is a character who does not evolve. He does not want to appreciate this people for their courage and willingness. As a result, his family becomes no longer welcome there. Five women narrating the story are quite opposite to the man – they see how the world is changing and they mature along with it (Kingsolver, 2000).
As a result, colonialism finds allies in Africa – poverty, disease, ignorance, betrayal, chains and the hanging. Ideal colonizers are a wild and brutal response of the fascist type, a colonial slavery. Nowadays, however, the independence and freedom were necessary for the people as air. They not only ceased to believe in the strength of the colonial chains, but they already broke most of these circuits. However, Nathan came here with a strong belief that he is the one who was right and everyone must have followed him. Trying to impose his rules, he failed to see obvious things – he lost everyone he cared about: his family saw this discrepancy between the real and the desired. All women moved to different parts of the world dreaming about a better life, leaving all that cannot be changed behind.
In conclusion, Barbara Kingsolver is an outstanding writer who gave a profound insight into the psychology of enslaved and tortured people through the eyes of the white who managed to see the obvious and evolve, leaving their barbarian nature behind.
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