The Poisonwood Bible is by far one of the more interesting novels that I have ever had the pleasure of reading. The development of the characters, the interesting setting, and the multiple narrators that give multiple points of view make this novel a truly unique experience. Of all the interesting characters in this novel, one of them really stood out to me as by far the most fascinating. The crazy thing is that this is also probably the most hated character of the novel by both other characters and readers. I am of course speaking of the character of the father, Nathan. The character of Nathan is fascinating because he is the only character that does not change at all throughout the novel.
At the beginning of the novel, we are introduced to the character of Nathan. Nathan is a Baptist preacher who is planning to take his whole family into the middle of the Congo in Africa to minister to who he thinks of as savage, wicked people. Nathan’s first prayer with the people of the Congo shows his position on the people. ‘“O Lord, let us pray,’ he concluded, landing abruptly back down on earth. ‘Lord, grant that the worthy among us here shall rise above the wickedness and come out of the darkness into the wondrous light of out Holy Father, Amen’” (Kingsolver, 1998). This prayer sets Nathan’s stance that these people are living in sin and darkness and that he is the only one that can bring them out of their wickedness. The crazy thing about Nathan is that, while his family’s view on the people change drastically, Nathan does not change at all.
Through out the novel Nathan treats the people of the Congo like lesser people than himself. He talks to them like children, he always looks at them as inferior, and all the while he tries to convince them that his way is the only way to go. Nathan is steadfast in these views and refuses to change for anyone. There is one interesting scene in the book that really shows the way that Nathan views himself as higher than the people. Nathan is trying to convince the people to except western customs, like voting. The people use this idea of voting and vote that Jesus is not going to be the savior of their village. Nathan throws a hissy fit at this and basically condemns the people. “‘Man, you understand nothing! You are applying the logic of children in a display of childish ignorance” (Kingsolver, 1998). Nathan’s stance never changes and he winds up losing his family because of this.
In conclusion, the character of Nathan that you both dislike an feel sorry for at the same time. His rock hard stance that he is above the people of the Congo and that his message is the only thing that will bring them from pit of darkness drives people away from him instead of toward him. He ruins the chance he had to bring the gospel to the people by treating them like inferiors. That is why he fascinates me.
Kingsolver, B. (1998). The Poisonwood Bible. New York, New York: Harper Perennial . Pgs 28, 332