Undergoing a Quest in The Poisonwood Bible
There are five aspects that form a quest: There must be a quester, a place to go, the stated reason to carry out the trip, the challenges and trails, lastly, the real reason to go. In the Poisonwood Bible, the quest was to bring Christianity to the Congo and to establish the religion. Orleanna, our quester, gains self-knowledge by every passing day. Living in the Congo only made Orleanna further her realization that her marriage with Nathaniel was in shambles. After his life-death experience as a soldier in the war, he no longer was the man she married at the beginning. “That was the last I would ever hear from the man I’d married-the one who could laugh (even about sleeping in a manger), call me his ‘honey lamb’, and trust in the miracle of good fortune (Kingsolver 196). Orleanna’s quest at the very start was to ensure her daughter’s happiness by continuing their studies and bringing as many tangible items from Georgia so that the difference wouldn’t be noticed. She has always tended to her daughter’s and husband’s happiness and not her own. Her given quest was to be a good wife and mother despite the change of geography and cultural norms, but she became tired of taking of others, and painfully misses the carefree years of when she was just a girl.
Orleanna’s quest shifts from nursing the happiness of her daughters and husband, to making herself feel complete as a person, to figuring out if she could still be that “beautiful heathen girl..drawn to admiration like a moth to the moonlight..she was too dumbfounded to speak up for herself “. Orleanna didn’t just abruptly stopped attending and being a mother and a wife, she simply just gave more consideration to herself and expected her family to find their own way. She begins this new quest by observing her environment, allowing herself to find personal desires and curiosity that will always remain with her only. Unfortunately, Orleanna only really discovers who she is when her family isn’t with her and when she suffers the loss of her youngest daughter: Ruth May.
Another two character that undergo the quest are Leah and Adah Price. Their stated reason to venture out remains the same: the completion of their father’s mission. Leah has always internally struggled with her guilt, guilt of what she had done to her twin, in the womb but also leaving her with the lion. Leah has always been her father’s most obedient child and has always sought out his approval, but her father never gives her the time of day. As for Adah, she also struggles with her personal identity and how she was always seen as the oddity, they look down upon her because of this and her intellect is looked over. As time progresses, in the novel, we begin to see Leah to doubt him and arguments amplify in frequency. She gains the knowledge that she doesn’t need to be the traditional girl that was supposed of her back home. Leah saw the opportunity to prove herself and acted upon it by being a part of the hunt, that she could be as good or even better than the men, even if it did cause quite the controversy and caused an outburst from her father.
As for Adah, upon their first arrival at the Congo, she pointed out the numerous Congolese who live with life-altering complications such as her own yet what they’re more engrossed with was the color and length of her sister Rachel’s hair and her white skin, also known as the “White Termite”. Later, she even takes a sort of comfort in learning that there is a word in Kikongo that perfectly describes her. Adah gains self-knowledge as to who she wanted to be while she was in the Congo and acted upon it as soon as she fled with Orleanna back to Georgia, choosing science as her calling. She no longer carried the guilt of being a cripple weighing her down, as she was able to also cure her limp.
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