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Alisha Kifer Narrative Structures - 17 March 2014

Authors do not choose multiple narrators for a novel very often, but Barbara Kingsolver
chose to narrate The Poisonwood Bible through the five Price women. Kingsolver also chose to
begin every section with significant titles. The meaning of The Poisonwood Bible is greatly
affected by the use of multiple narrators and significant section titles.
The use of all five Price women is influential to the novels overall meaning. Because
many narrators were used to portray their version of events, each event could be portrayed in
vastly different ways. For example, when ants stormed Kilanga and Orleanna chose to save Ruth
May instead of Adah, Adah felt left. . . behind by her own mother (306). When Ruth May
recounts the same event, she notices that Adah was left behind, but still focuses on her own
salvation. According to Adahs interpretation, the meaning of her abandonment was merely
survival of the fittest. Ruth Mays memory suggests that the youngest and smallest must be
helped before the older and bigger. Different interpretations of events can lead to multiple
possible overall meanings.
In addition to portraying events differently, the varied narrators characterize themselves
in many different ways. The characterization of each character influences the legitimacy of their
thematic meanings. For example, when Ruth May characterizes Adah for the first time, she
believes that Adah is brain-damaged and also hates us all, which is quite ironic because Adah
does not believe that to be true (21). When Adah characterizes herself, she justifies her silence
because when people presume you to be deaf or feeble-minded. . . makes a show of their own
limitations (34). Someone like Adah who has deduced such a complex conclusion is clearly not
as badly brain-damaged like Ruth May had once believed, she just enjoys being silent in order to
Comment [AK1]: Be more specific about the
various meanings
Comment [AK2]: What meaning- BMS
Comment [AK3]: Mention how the
interpretations could help reveal the truth still left
among the stories
think. The different interpretations of Adahs character help develop the meanings behind every
future story she will tell.
The titles of all seven sections of The Poisonwood Bible are also significant when
analyzing the meaning of events. Each title foreshadows events that will take place in its
respective section. Also, most of the section headings are biblical references or allusions, which
strengthen the biblical meanings behind each section. For example, book four is titled Bel and
The Serpent, thus foreshadowing the snake found in the Prices chicken coop and the tactics
they use to catch the witch doctor (313). Bel and The Serpent is a book of The Bible and the
events that happen to the Price family have a similar thematic significance to Bel and The
Serpent.
Barbara Kingsolver chose to narrate The Poisonwood Bible through the voices of
multiple Price women and titled every section with a significant, predictable allusion. Her
choices influenced the characterization of every person and affected the meanings of the novel.
Comment [AK4]: This sentence could be deleted
because it is merely plot summary, not analysis.
Comment [AK5]: Delete this phrase and be more
specific about the overall effect
Comment [AK6]: Reword- an apocryphal book
Comment [AK7]: Add another title from the
book and the Bible in order to show more similarities
Comment [AK8]: Either choose a different word
or delete it
Comment [AK9]: What were the meanings?- be
more specific about what these meanings were

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