The Poisonwood Bible: Marxism and American Arrogance Towards Congo

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 1061 |

Pages: 2|

6 min read

Published: May 7, 2019

Words: 1061|Pages: 2|6 min read

Published: May 7, 2019


Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Nathan Price
  3. Rachel Price
  4. Ruth May Price
  5. Conclusion


Arrogance has long been recognized as a detrimental force in history, often causing more harm than good, particularly evident in the tumultuous relationship between the United States and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Through Barbara Kingsolver's novel "The Poisonwood Bible," the complex dynamics of interventionism, cultural interference, and racism are vividly portrayed, offering a poignant reflection on the consequences of Western hubris. This essay delves into the characters of Nathan, Rachel, and Ruth May Price, examining their roles as representations of American arrogance and Marxist thought, and how these themes contribute to the downfall of both a fictional family and a nation rich in culture.

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Thesis Statement: Through an exploration of the characters and themes in "The Poisonwood Bible," it becomes evident that American arrogance, interventionism, and racism lead to the undoing of both the Price family and the Congo, serving as a poignant critique of Western attitudes towards other cultures.

Nathan Price

Nathan Price epitomizes American arrogance and disrespect towards the Congolese people. His inability to acknowledge his faults mirrors the United States' refusal to recognize its own shortcomings in its interactions with foreign nations. Nathan's dismissive attitude towards the Underdowns, who warn him about the Congolese independence movement, reflects the belief of American superiority and the notion that the Congolese are incapable of self-governance. This sentiment is encapsulated in his statement, "They don't have the temperament or the intellect for such things" (Kingsolver 156). Nathan's actions mirror the historical arrogance of the United States in attempting to impose its beliefs and values on other nations without regard for their autonomy or well-being.

Moreover, Nathan's religious and cultural interference in the Congo serves as a microcosm of American interventionism. He imposes his Christian beliefs on the Congolese people without consideration for their own spiritual traditions, reflecting the paternalistic attitudes of Western powers towards colonized nations. This parallels the historical reality of Western missionaries seeking to convert indigenous populations to Christianity, often at the expense of their native cultures.

Rachel Price

Rachel Price, a product of white American privilege, embodies the materialism and racism ingrained in Western society. Her obsession with material possessions and disdain for the Congolese people reveal the shallow values perpetuated by American consumerism. Rachel's remark about the children begging for food and gifts underscores her ignorance and entitlement, reflecting the paternalistic attitudes of Western nations towards the Global South.

Furthermore, Rachel's racial biases reflect the systemic racism prevalent in 1950s America. Her segregationist views and casual dismissal of African-Americans as "keeping to their own parts of town" highlight the deeply ingrained prejudices of white Americans during this period. By juxtaposing Rachel's attitudes with the broader historical context of racial segregation in the United States, Kingsolver critiques the hypocrisy of American claims to moral superiority.

Ruth May Price

Ruth May Price serves as a tragic symbol of innocence corrupted by racism and imperialism. Her rapid deterioration in the Congo parallels the swift decline of the nation following independence, underscoring the devastating impact of Western intervention on vulnerable populations. Ruth May's early exposure to racial inequalities in her own country foreshadows her eventual demise in a foreign land torn apart by political turmoil and external meddling.

Moreover, Ruth May's death on the same day as the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, the first democratically elected Prime Minister of the Congo, symbolizes the abandonment of both the Price family and the Congolese people by their supposed allies. Just as Ruth May succumbs to the venom of a snake, so too does the Congo fall victim to the poisonous influence of external powers seeking to exploit its resources and manipulate its politics for their own gain.

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In conclusion, "The Poisonwood Bible" serves as a powerful indictment of American arrogance, interventionism, and racism, as exemplified through the characters of Nathan, Rachel, and Ruth May Price. Through their experiences in the Congo, Kingsolver exposes the destructive consequences of Western hubris on both individual lives and entire nations. As the world grapples with ongoing issues of imperialism and inequality, the lessons of this novel remain as relevant today as they were over sixty years ago. It is imperative that we heed these warnings and strive to cultivate humility, empathy, and solidarity in our interactions with others, both at home and abroad.


  1. Kingsolver, B. (1998). The Poisonwood Bible. HarperCollins.
  2. Gibbs, D. N. (2005). Reckoning with the poisonwood bible: A thematic approach. The English Journal, 95(5), 51-56.
  3. Henderson, K. (2002). The Poisonwood Bible: Kingsolver’s hybrid of Bildungsroman and political novel. Critique, 43(3), 261-274.
  4. Teo, H. S. (2008). Reading the world and the text: A study of Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible. World Literature Today, 82(4), 29-33.
  5. Snipes, K. (2003). Writing, religion, and community: Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible. South Atlantic Review, 68(2), 67-86.
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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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The Poisonwood Bible: Marxism And American Arrogance Towards Congo. (2019, April 26). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 25, 2024, from
“The Poisonwood Bible: Marxism And American Arrogance Towards Congo.” GradesFixer, 26 Apr. 2019,
The Poisonwood Bible: Marxism And American Arrogance Towards Congo. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 25 Feb. 2024].
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