Study Guide

The Poisonwood Bible Women and Femininity

By Barbara Kingsolver

Women and Femininity

The 1960s were a different time for women, and not just women's fashion. The Feminine Mystique was published, and the Civil Rights Act went into law. It's easy to forget that the Price girls are children of the 1960s, since hardly any time in the novel is spent in America—but along with their 44 pounds of luggage each, they bring their values with them into the Congo.

Women's rights in the Congo feel more like the American 1860s than the 1960s, which is fitting for the girls of The Poisonwood Bible, since their father has distinctly 19th-century values. To him, women should be seen and not heard (and only seen rarely), their only duty is to marry and serve their husbands, and education is a big no-no. That makes them fit right in in the Congo... especially when you consider that, like the Price girls, Congolese women seem to do all the important work.

Questions About Women and Femininity

  1. What the what is up with Nathan Price's negative view of women? How does he use the Bible to justify his attitudes?
  2. What are the duties of women in Kilanga village?
  3. How does Leah defy gender roles, and what are the consequences of her actions?
  4. If the girls were living in present-day, how would their gender roles be different?

Chew on This

The only reason men have power is because they say they received it from somewhere—Nathan Price from God, the men of Kilanga from their ancestors. However, without women, the whole village would fall apart.

Each Price girl rebels against her father's views of femininity in one way or another—Leah hunts, Adah doesn't get married, and Rachel, who "take[s] after Rebekah, the virgin" (1.9) is anything but.