The Power of Voice and Diction in Kingsolver's 'Poisonwood Bible' - Essay Sample

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  4
Wordcount:  899 Words
Date:  2023-02-19


Voice and diction are powerful weapons that people possess. Individuals have unique and exclusive voices that they use to express themselves. Voices are used to demonstrate personal beliefs, status, and conflicts in society. In the text Poisonwood Bible, Kingsolver uses diction style to narrate a story through the five-character point of view. The voices of Leah, Ruth, Orleana, Adah, and Rachel help the audience to understand the complex, and intense situation in Congo. The audience captures the entire picture of the situation because it is narrated through different perspectives (Phipps 5). The contrasting voices of Rachel and Adah demonstrate the themes of cultural misunderstanding and arrogance and their impact conflicts in society.

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The reader differentiates the narrators through their voice, rammer, and tone. Rachel has a teenage voice who hates turbulent life in Africa. Her main objective is to make her face and hair beautiful. She shows no concern to the dangerous world she is leaving in hence she portrays an American culture of ignorance and individualism (Phipps 32). Although she mixes up words when expressing herself, she makes the reader understand that she does not care about her surroundings. She conveys her perspective accurately about her emotions and material things. On the other hand, Adah is a cripple who feel worthless to herself and her family. For instance, she was left alone during the ant attack and say "that is what it means to be a beast in the kingdom" (Kingsolver 306). She does not speak often because she feels that her ideas may not help in any situation. Adah hates her twin sister Leah because she is the cause of her misery because she took all the nutrients in the womb. However, she discovered her voice after leaving Africa and carry on various projects that will improve the situation of Africa because she believes she is responsible for its destruction. One of these projects is the use of science to research AIDS and its control methods (Kingsolver 141).

The tone and diction of Racheal are different from that of Adah. Rachel uses simple and easy language that the readers can follow. She continues to use the American slang as she uses words such as "smelly" and "slick" to refer to a riverbank which Adah describe as beautiful. Adah's passage demonstrates a positive picture of Congo by describing the land as beautiful. Moreover, she loves the nature of Congo and describes it as a parade that does not cease to catch her attention. She does not change her tone throughout the novel because she refuses to open her mind to the new word (Africa). She hates the river Kwilu because it was lazy and warm like the river Jordan. Therefore her tone remains concrete and judgmental when describing her family relationship. She says "What happened to us in the Congo was simply the bad luck of two opposite worlds crashing into each other, causing tragedy. After something like that, you can only go your way according to what's in your heart. And in my family, all our hearts seem to have whole different things inside" (Kingsolver 465). She talks of the negative things she experiences in Congo and blames it for her family division. Rachel's tone represents American capitalism and individualism. She lives all life by maintaining her beauty, despite realizing that her family has different views on the new country. She does not like the division of her family where her father concentrates of the mission and her mother of the lives of the other children. She decides not to resist the new experiences and believe that she cannot change destiny (Kingsolver 466). Rachel is aware that her family is divided but she chooses to ignore it. Unlike Adah who appreciates and learn the Congolese language and culture, Rachel continues to use the American language even after several years (Gorton 43).

Rachel portrays her arrogance by using long sentences when she speaks which indicates her belief that her opinion is more important than those of others. However, her tone contrast from that of Adah because it portrays her features as a racist, shallow, materialistic, vain, and selfish character. She is not concerned about the problems facing Congo, but she chooses to sit back and maintains her face and hair. She does not want to lose her American culture and this is the reason why she refrains from learning the native language. Moreover, her stereotype toward the African culture is portrayed when she stated that "this is not a Christian type of place" (Kingsolver 517). Adah voice shows concern and cares about the Africans because she feels responsible for all the suffering they are enduring.


In conclusion, Rachel is telling the audience that Africa is not a place for her to live and since she does not share similar ethics with them, she is not concerned about outcomes the white's deeds such as colonization. On the contrary, Adah uses difficult words and also poems to show that she embrace the new culture. Although the readers take time to understand her deep and complex thoughts of Adah, they comprehend the entire situation in Congo because she narrates using a different perspective.

Works Cited

Kingsolver, Barbara. "The Poisonwood Bible." Sat 9.4 (2011): 524-3808.

Gorton, Ceri Martha. " The things that attach people": a critical literary analysis of the fiction of Barbara Kingsolver. Diss. University of Nottingham, 2009.

Phipps, Alison. "Unmoored: language pain, porosity, and poisonwood." Critical Multilingualism Studies 1.2 (2013): 96-118

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The Power of Voice and Diction in Kingsolver's 'Poisonwood Bible' - Essay Sample. (2023, Feb 19). Retrieved from

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