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  • Subject area(s): English Literature
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  • Published on: 15th October 2019
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Jose Rodriguez


Pre-Aice English Literature

11 September 2018

“Genesis As a Biblical Allusion in The Poisonwood Bible”


  Throughout her book, The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver uses Genesis as a biblical allusion to enhance her reader’s understanding of the story. Genesis, the first of the five books of law, starts with the story of Creation. The story of Creation tells us how God created the world in seven figurative days. The next story is The Fall of Humanity. In this story we are told that Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, chose to disobey God. Because of this they lost their original holiness and became subject to death. After The Fall of Humanity comes the story of Cain and Abel. In the story of Cain and Abel we see the effects of original sin. Despite God’s warning Cain killed Abel. The next story in the book of Genesis is The Flood. In the story of Noah and the Flood, human beings fall prey to the sinful and evil ways of the world causing God to flood it. Following after comes the Tower of Babel in which power-hungry people of different nations attempted to build a tower that would have reached the heavens. God stopped the people from building the tower by confusing their speech, making it impossible for them to communicate and effectively carry out their plan. After this came the story of Abram. In this story God made a covenant with a righteous man named Abraham, the “Patriarch”. God appeared to Abraham promising him land, descendants, and a blessing to all nations. Later on in the story God asks Abraham to sacrifice his only son for him but God stopped him right before he did it. The next story in genesis is Issac, Jacob, and Joseph. In this story we are told about Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, Abraham’s descendants. Issac eventually marries a woman named Rebekah, who gives birth to twins, Jacob and Esau. Esau gives his birthright to Jacob selling it for a bowl of soup. After essentially stealing the birthright from Esau, Jacob flees from home and goes to the land of Haran where he meets a distant relative named Laban. Jacob falls in love with Laban’s daughter Rachel, and tells Laban he will work for 7 years if he is allowed to marry Rachel. After working for 7 years, Jacob gets married; however, Laban tricks Jacob getting him to marry Leah, Rachel’s twin sister, instead of Rachel. Jacob loves Rachel, so he works for seven more years for her hand in marriage. Between Leah and Rachel, Jacob had 12 sons. The next part of the story focuses on Joseph. Joseph is Rachel’s son who was sold into slavery by his jealous half-brothers. Being sold as a slave he was taken to Egypt. In Egypt he arose to power and saved his family by bringing them in during a famine. The Poisonwood Bible and Genesis share many similarities that give us several parallels to look at.

  Genesis relates to The Poisonwood Bible in several ways but the most significant way is when Nathan delivers a brief sermon to the Congolese people about God punishing “sinners” for their nakedness. While its not completely parallel to Genesis it still relates heavily to Adam and Eve’s loss of holiness and how they immediately covered themselves, originally thinking it was fine. An example of a parallel between genesis and The Poisonwood Bible would be how the first chapter, Genesis, indicates the beginning of the Price family’s journey to the Congo. Nathan attempted to spread Christianity hoping that the religion would be fruitful and that the amount of conversions would increase in numbers. This desire parallels that of God’s, to form a community of life on earth. The most important difference in the two stories is the position of “Our Father”. In Genesis God plays the position of Our Father, the person who has the power of forgiveness and ability to promise salvation of heaven; however, in The Poisonwood Bible Nathan plays this role. Throughout the book Nathan continues to offer salvation and forgiveness to the Congolese people through fear. Kingsolver chose to use Genesis as a biblical allusion in her novel because of its ability to relate to several of the events and characters in it. This allusion adds a contrast between two very different approaches of religion. By providing a way for readers to contrast and relate to certain events in the book, Kingsolver, has added a depth of understanding that brings her readers into a world of experiences outside the limitations of her book itself.

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