Cultural Difference in The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible serves to depict and demonstrate the cultural divide between America and Africa. The cultural divide does not only signify a racial difference between the characters, but it also exemplifies the cultural that transgresses in every American. Earlier within the Poisonwood Bible it is referenced how the women lived in places other than Africa itself. It is apparent to the reader that there is a prevalent divide between the country of Africa and America. When the entire American Price family’s embark on their move to Africa, there is a major cultural divide when it comes to materialism.

The family just can’t seem to live without their cake mix that they hold dear to. One of the extremely self-centered daughters Rachel is the epitome of what it means to be materialistic, as she brought her own mirror which is what she constantly looks at. From the transition to Africa, the Price family used to surround themselves with luxury items such as movie theaters, novelty treats, and school.

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All of these materialistic items are almost vanished from their life and we can see several instances where they refer to missing it.

The Poisonwood Bible serves to also highlight the cultural distinction between the America and Africa. The economic divide has a profound effect on the family as it is apart of the environment that surrounds them. Throughout history the United states had always been a capitalistic market economy which has allowed the country to not only rapidly grow and develop, but to also industrialize.

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From the Price’s family depiction of their ambitions and materialistic views, they embody the reflection of how the American market economy has shaped their perception for materials and tangible goods. The United States economy also involves competition and implementation of new technology which is the main ideals of capitalism.

On the other had, Africa is different on a mere distinction of their economic basis. The African economy is proudly what on many would call a traditional economy. A traditional economy enfuses its cultural values with its people to benefit the market. The market aside from enfusing its cultural values its customs and local venues are what make it successful. Unfortunately it seems as if the American Price family almost certainly could not relate to it . Because Africa is primarily based off of small economic values, it can be inferred that there is a lack of economic independence between the people of Africa and Americans. American consumers have a very large source of economic opportunities and jobs which has lead to a large accumulation of wealth for many. It is only evident that large accumulations of wealth are what lead to financial independence which is where the line can be drawn when differentiating economies. Africa even until this day in history is unfortunately still underdeveloped.

However, there is a positive distinction that Africa’s traditional market economy possesses that the American economy doesn’t. It is the way the they handle their resources. Not only are the majority of resources in the continent of Africa are local, but they are not wasted on a large scale compared to Americans. The materialistic society that Americans live in is what causes waste of resources to such a large degree. The people within the Poisonwood Bible seem to cherish and respect the resources around them. As mentioned, traditional economies like the ones within Africa value aspects such as family, culture, and conserve their resources. Unlike America where the goal is to accumulate as much as possible promoting us to put materials above all else. This divide is apparent to Leah from her interactions with the native peoples. Leah is very differently from her other American family members and siblings. She herself as a very young individuals accepts and respects the peoples culture and even attempts to learn it.

Leah attempts to assimilate and appropriate herself within the culture and it seems as if her fellow siblings like Orellana, Ruth May, as well as Adah attempt to do the same. But leah is special in a sense that she develops her own identity from learning the culture from natives. Leah begins to have a much greater appreciation for nature and becomes more empathetic to others. Unlike the rest of the Price family who continue to differentiate themselves from the natives, Leah is not only more culturally aware, but she begins to culturally relate to African values. It can be inferred that the author is trying to emulate not only the divide between cultures but what we can do to be more culturally aware. Just like Leah who begins to learn and accept it, the idea can be done the same with any other American. Kingsolver’s is attempting to convey the ideal that even in society that there may be cultural divide, there is no such thing as cultural superiority. Especially with cultural imperialism and colonization being apparent throughout the world this message is conveyed within the novel.

Leah is an example of facing racial not superiority, not because she's American but because she is white. Kingsolver uses this example to convey the ideal that no matter what the race is, anyone can unfortunately be racist. It highlights that any race can have some short of shortcoming. Because Leah is completely a foreigner to the natives it is a challenge for them to accept her. It is ironic because we the reader wish the same for Nathan to culturally accepted to the natives. Kingsolver emulates the ideal that tribalism is simply just human nature and is an aspect that everyone can relate too. Kingsolver also address the source of American imperialism which again can be traced to the economic divide between America and African culture. The capitalistic economy has allowed our country to grow and hold much power. The power that America possesses has allowed for imperialism to occur. America itself is guilty of imperialism and it is also seen throughout history how we have colonized and have taken advantage of Africa.

Updated: Aug 17, 2022
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Cultural Difference in The Poisonwood Bible. (2022, Jan 13). Retrieved from

Cultural Difference in The Poisonwood Bible essay
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