Study Guide

The Poisonwood Bible Narrator Point of View

By Barbara Kingsolver

Narrator Point of View

First-Person (Multiple Central Narrators)

The Poisonwood Bible is told from five—count 'em, five—points of view: Orleanna Price, and her four daughters, Leah, Adah, Rachel, and Ruth May. Each of these women has a voice so strong that you know exactly who is talking to you without even looking at the chapter heading:

  • Leah starts out as an earnest believer in her father and the Holy Father. Her faith never weakens, but it changes allegiance from something she can't see—her father's love, the existence of God—to something concrete—the freedom and independence of the Congolese people.
  • Dizzy Rachel is the "what, me worry?" type, who believes that nothing is her responsibility. How many people like that do you know? 
  • Adah could be seen as the cynical, we're-all-going-to-die-anyway type, or realistic, depending on which way you slant. 
  • Finally, young Ruth May provides the innocent's tenuous grasp of the situation. Arguably, we're all in her shoes when we start this journey. After all, what's more foreign to us "civilized" readers than the politics of the jungle?

Two final points to make: although there are plenty of men in the story, we never hear from them. Maybe because they got us all into this mess in the first place? They've had their say, they dropped the ball, and now it's time to let someone else take over.

And then there's the question of why it takes five different perspectives to tell this story. But think about it: religion, Congolese politics, patriarchy. These are complicated issues without easy answers. Five perspectives doesn't actually seem like nearly enough.