6 February 2013
Rachel as America
Barbara Kingsolver’s novel The Poisonwood Bible is a bildungsroman of a family that is moved to Africa by their evangelistic father. Kingsolver uses the characterization of the family to discuss western colonization and its negative side effects. Kingsolver uses Rachel’s character to critique the American culture through her language, materialistic nature, and refusal to accept the Congo.
Kingsolver uses Rachel’s language to describe American culture. Rachel continuously uses malapropisms throughout the novel. ''I'm willing to be a philanderist for peace, but a lady can only go so far where perspiration odor is concerned.'' (269). Kingsolver is using Rachel’s malapropisms to show the ignorance of American civilization. Americans came to Africa believing the way they ran things was the correct way, not taking the time to pay attention to what was already there. In a similar way, Rachel uses words to make her sound smart, but in actuality shows her ignorance of what the word actually means, such as when she said ‘philanderist’ instead of ‘philanthropist’. Along with malapropisms, Rachel is characterized by her colloquial dialect. For example, throughout the novel she uses phrases such as “man oh man!” and “jeepers!” Rachel’s superficial dialect shows a lack of depth and intelligence to her character. Kingsolver uses this as a parallel to the materialistic culture of America that only focuses on appearance and not depth and intelligence. Kingsolver continues to use Rachel’s language through her continued references to American culture. Right after landing in Africa, Rachel tells her sisters “Aren’t you glad you use Dial? Don’t you wish everyone did?” (22). Rachel’s common references to American culture continues to mirror Western colonization and how they force their ideals on the natives without taking into account the culture that is already there. Rachel’s dialect is used by Kingsolver to represent Western...