Study Guide

The Poisonwood Bible Marriage

By Barbara Kingsolver


Unless you're Kim Kardashian, marriage is a special, sacred event in someone's life. For Orleanna Price in The Poisonwood Bible, it started off well enough—but it wasn't long until her new husband Nathan degenerated into a religious zealot and a control freak. Seventy-two days would have been too long for this marriage, much less fifteen years. By the time Orleanna's been dragged through the jungle and returns to America, she doesn't want anything to do with this institution anymore. She sees it more as a prison than a blessing. But what do her daughters think? How does their parents' marriage affect their relationships? That's a question we all end up asking ourselves at some point.

Questions About Marriage

  1. If Nathan weren't so single-mindedly devoted to his religion, would his marriage have worked?
  2. How is Leah's marriage to Anatole similar to her parents' marriage? How is it different?
  3. Why doesn't Adah ever get married?
  4. How does each girl's hope chest encapsulate her attitude toward marriage? What would you put in your hope chest?

Chew on This

Nathan and Orleanna's marriage isn't indicative of all marriages. Leah and Anatole's marriage is an example of a moderately healthy one, and even Rachel's multiple marriages are not nearly as dysfunctional.

Adah understands that marriage doesn't work if the two partners don't see eye to eye. Nathan was too devoted to his religion to ever bond with Orleanna, and Rachel is too devoted to herself. (Plus she has horrible taste in men. Just saying.)