Individuality in characterization is what drives the story of a novel and many authors use this technique to their advantage. In The Poisonwood Bible, Kingsolver uses multiple points of view to reveal theme through characterization. The theme she conveys is the individuality present in one's reaction to the surrounding people and environment. This characterization in relation to theme is shown through the voices of three of the four daughters, Rachel, Leah and Adah. Although each daughter is presented with the same obstacles, Rachel reacts in a selfish and careless style, Leah reacts in an active and emotional way ever aware of her surroundings, and Adah reacts in an analytical, scientific manner.
Rachel's vacuous, selfish, cares for naught but her appearances' attitude is revealed throughout the novel as she gives a first hand account of her experiences in the Congolese jungle. Her reaction to the ant crisis, her sister's death, and her father support the theme of individuality in The Poisonwood Bible. After many months of settling into their new surroundings, the Price family is hit with the full force of one of the jungle's greatest surprises- Nsongonya. Ants. As the ants crawl over everything and appear as a sea ready to carry anyone out into the unknown, Rachel thinks of no one but herself. In a frantic attempt to save her most prized possession, Rachel leaves her clothes and Bible behind, opting instead for her mirror. If this is not proof enough of her self-centered character, she later states " I stuck my elbows very hard into the ribs of the people who were crushing in around me, and kind of wedged myself in. Then I just more or less picked up my feet and it worked like a charm. Instead of getting trampled I simply floated like a stick in a river, carried along on everyone else's power." (Kingsolver 302) She selfishly pushes into others boats trying desperately to save herself and her perfect appearance. Much to her dismay, Rachel is greeted with dirty looks and hard elbows. As she comes crashing down onto the bank of the river, it seems her world crashes right along with her, or at least, her mirror does. As she is left on the bank staring horrified at the shards of glass, Rachel is shown as her true self, an egomaniac. In attempting to save solely her own life, Rachel demonstrates her signature, individual reaction- complete, unadulterated selfishness. Not long after, the Price family is faced with true tragedy. Their youngest daughter, Ruth May, is bitten by a snake, and, poisoned, dies. Although Rachel's immediate reaction is one of paralysis and emotional detachment, it is only when she considers the way in which she must inform their mother of the terrible news that Rachel falls apart, overcome with an inexplicable sadness. Upon further contemplation, Rachel realizes the new impossibility of ever returning home and pretending that none of these years in the Congo had ever taken place. And as she stands there, frozen in this nightmare, she states, "Never imagined I would be a girl they'd duck their eyes from and whisper about as tragic, for having suffered such a loss." (Kingsolver 367) Even after witnessing her sister's death, Rachel takes the time to consider herself and how she will be perceived upon her hypothetical return to civilization. This demonstrates her individual reaction and emphasizes the depth of her selfishness for it takes precedence even over a true, real life tragedy. Rachel's reaction to her father and his overbearing and abusive personality is one that blends the fear of Ruth May with the hatred of Adah. She despises her father, but is not aware enough of anything other than herself to fully comprehend the depth of the reasoning behind her contempt. Her reaction is individual compared to those of the emotional Leah and intellectual Adah but all "the women discover themselves as they lose faith in (their father)." (Siegel 3) The individuality in her reaction to the ant crisis, her...
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