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The Poisonwood Bible as a Catalog of Romanticism

The Poisonwood Bible as a Catalog of Romanticism

In The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver, the romantic standards that are associated with literature during the American Renaissance are evident. This popular novel, a New York Times Bestseller, embodies the concept of Romanticism with its gothic darkness, themes of loss and nostalgia, and a strong captivity narrative. The presence of a wise child and recurring double language are essential to the plot of the story. Nathan Price’s misguided mission to save souls in the Congo is transformed into an evil that invades a type of Paradise and so, the reader realizes immediately that this twisted attempt to Christianize the savages will result in a fall of epic proportions. The impending fall and the results are set against a backdrop of revolution and oppression and the Gothic element permeates the narrative as well as the lives of characters throughout The Poisonwood Bible. If analogy and metaphor are the standard trope of Romanticism, this book could serve as an encyclopedic text. Each page is packed with figurative language that transforms and mystifies while using romantic imagery that creates alternately a ‘Paradise’ and a ‘Hell’. “There’s a majesty, a 19th-century-novel echo to this sweeping vision of nature doing its thing independent of the human will” (Kerr 7). American Romanticism, as a pattern for successful literature, resounds throughout this modern text.

The Poisonwood Bible is a novel about an American family in the early 1960’s. Nathan Price, a Baptist missionary, takes his wife and four daughters to a remote village in the Congo, Kilanga. His fervor for bringing souls to Christ is tempered with ingrained habits of racial superiority. Even th…

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…rk: W. W. Norton

Walcott’s Collected Poems and Roy’s The God of Small Things

Post-Colonial and Post-Modernist View of Walcott’s Collected Poems and Roy’s The God of Small Things

“Language was not so much a distinguishing sign of a soul or spirituality, which animals do not possess, as a social practice which enhanced survival of the species”-Nietzche. Nietzche reminded twentieth century intellectuals of the decisive role of language in the construction of human experience of ‘reality’. With his ‘perspectivism’ and relativism, truth, whether artistic or scientific was seen as a social matter and a linguistic product, the displacement of one set of figures of speech by another, with knowledge the interrelations of signifiers in a field of experience made of prior interpretations. (Irving Howe, 80).

Thus in Walcott’s poems and in Roy’s ‘The God of Small Things’ modernism was further routed by inversion of ethical values as power tools for survival and exploitation, and of art as a veil over a reality describable only as wanton, godless procreation. This conception of a dynamic world of super changed energies of unimaginable force, often in violent conflict and ever-changing relations, came to resemble Freud’s concept of id.

We observe, in their writings (Walcott and Roy) the apparently rational surface of consciousness hides a mass of tangled and conflicting desires, impulses and needs. The outer person is a mere papering-over of the cracks of a split and waring complex of selves driven by life and death instincts.

Walcott in his poem ‘The Divided Child’ writes,


was your heaven ! The clear

glaze of another life,

a landscape locked in amber, the rare

gleam. The dream

of reason had produced its monster :

a prodigy of the wrong age and colour.

(Walcott 145).

According to him, language was not the transparent tool for the objective representation of a stable reality: ethics was not expressive of a discovered system of absolute values or religion other than a desire for parental protection throughout life.

He writes in his poem ‘Lampfall,’

And I’m elsewhere, far as

I shall ever be from you whom I behold now,

Dear family, dear friends, by this still glow

The lantern’s ring that the sea’s

Never extinguished

Your voices curl in the shell of my ear.

(Walcott 95).

When Roy was asked in an interview, ‘What does it mean to be Indian?’ she replied: ‘Do we ask, ‘What does it mean to be American or to be British?

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