Study Guide

The Poisonwood Bible Contrasting Regions: Congo and United States

By Barbara Kingsolver

Contrasting Regions: Congo and United States

Point to the United States on a globe (or Google Earth). How about England? Australia? Good, you pass. Now where's the Democratic Republic of the Congo? Stumped? If you're using an out-of-date globe (or watching reruns of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?) the Congo might be called Zaire. [SIDE NOTE: If anything proves how lax our education is with regards to Africa, it's the sheer DREAD that strikes the heart of all Carmen Sandiego contestants when confronted with the daunting Africa map.] Okay. Now that you've found it, know this: the Congo has been through a lot over the past century or so, and name- and regime-changes are about the least of it. The Poisonwood Bible details the Congo's recent history, what it's like to live through it, and just how different the people's lives are from our cushy American lifestyle.

If you're going to visit the Congo, you'll need a lot more than an up-to-date map.

Questions About Contrasting Regions: Congo and United States

  1. How do the Americans of the 1960s view the Congo? How is their view different than what the Prices experience living in the Congo?
  2. Why does Leah, as an adult, no longer feel comfortable in America?
  3. The Prices must live without any of America's conveniences. Which do they miss most? Which do they find they can live without?
  4. Do some research. How has the Congo of today changed from the Congo depicted in the novel? Would the Prices have a similar experience now?

Chew on This

The American perspective on the Congo is just as wrong as the Congolese perspective on America. Only by living in it—and really paying attention—can you see either country for what it really is.

A lot of things Americans see as necessities (cars, grocery stores, electricity) are luxuries to the rural villagers in the Congo. They're able to live just fine without them, thankyouverymuch, and they're not likely to say their lives are incomplete without them.