1. Analyze how the novel parallels the break-up of the Price family with the break-up of colonial rule in the Congo.
2. Compare and contrast Brother Fowles and Nathan Price.
3. Analyze how Kingsolver reveals important personality traits by depicting how different family members react to the same event, such as their arrival in the Congo or the driver ants.
4. Rachel remarks, “you can only go your own way according to what’s in your heart. And in my family, all our hearts seem to have whole different things inside” (465). Analyze the separate paths each family member takes after Ruth May’s death, illustrating how each one follows what is in his or her heart.
5. “The power is in the balance: we are our injuries,as much as we are our successes” (496), Adah observes. Apply this observation to at least three characters. Who, if any, find balance? (e.g. Adah, Nathan, Anatole, Leah, Orleanna, the Congo)
6. Examine the hardships and turmoil caused by political strife in the Congo and in Angola. What effects do political problems have on the personal lives of characters in the book?
7. What kinds of captivity and freedom does Kingsolver explore in the novel. What are the causes and consequences of each kind?
8. At Bikoki Station, in 1965, Leah reflects, “I still know what justice is” (438). What concept of justice do different members of the Price family and other characters such as Anatole hold? By the end of the novel, do you have a sense that any justice has occurred, or is true justice an ideal, not a reality?
9. “Everything you’re sure is right can be wrong in another place” (505), says Leah. How did the Price family discover the truth of this statement while living in the Congo?
10. Trace the development of ONE of the novel’s main characters. Does this character grow and change? If so, why(and how)? If not, why not?
11. If you had to assign each character one trait, what would that be? Mary Ellen Snodgrass, who wrote a teacher’s guide for Permabound Books, calls “Ruth May the victim, Adah the survivor, Rachel the gold-digger, and Leah the idealist.”I’d probably call Rachel an “opportunist” instead of “gold-digger” and Ruth May an “innocent” instead of victim. What would you call each of them, and why?
12. A “catalyst” in a work of literature is something which doesn’t change itself, but which causes changes in others. How can Africa be seen as a catalyst in Poisonwood Bible?