Adah’s Development In Barbara Kingsolver’s novel The Poisonwood Bible, the Price family, Nathan and Orleanna Price and their four daughters, travel to the Congo to convert the locals to Christianity. Kingsolver constructs a multi-voice narrative and in doing so Kingsolver constructs five different personalities: Orleanna Price, Rachel Price, Leah Price, Adah Price, and Ruth May Price. As the novel progresses, each of the characters experiences a dramatic change throughout the book and through the use of textual evidence and deep analysis of the diction and rhetoric used for the character Adah
Price; leading us to discover how she transforms in the novel and what this variation is exactly. Adah, who is a cripple since birth, has never been able to move the left side of her body and is psychologically a mute. This enables her to see the world from a different perspective and strangely views things backwards. She believes that her life has no value to her or anyone else.
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Adah has a twin sister Leah who is perfectly normal and Adah carries a lot of hatred toward Leah because it’s her fault that she is handicapped. Oh, I can easily imagine the fetal mishap: we were inside he womb together dum-de-dum when Leah suddenly turned and declared, Adah you are Just too slow. I am taking all the nourishment here and going on ahead. She grew strong as I grew weak. And so it came to pass… ‘ was cannibalized by my sister” (Kingsolver 34). This view held by Adah comes into play many times in the novel and even Leah can tell that here is some hostility between them. Young Adah also has this fascinating plan.
She is believed to be mute because of what doctors had told her parents, but in fact she is very intelligent and she insists on not talking in order to simplify her life and act more as an observer rather than a doer. Her naturally detail-oriented nature is well illustrated by the diction and tone she uses. “… the women working their field will stand up one after another, unwrap the pagne of bright cloth stretch it out wide before retying it. They resemble flocks of butterflies opening and closing their wings” (Kingsolver 137).
The initial observation of the way these women work the field is unlike the other girls who merely comment that the women pound the manioc. Adah observes and analyzes the women in a factual manner and yet that last sentence reveals more about her character. She oes from making a remark that almost scientifically evaluates the women’s movements to making a statement that brings an artistic form of examining the actions and uses powerful imagery for the reader to associate with. However, Adah does not stay like this throughout the whole novel.
She experiences an event that shifts her character in such a way that although it does not have an immediate impact, it changes her completely in the long run. “Live was I ere I saw evil” (Kingsolver 305). On the frightful night when Kilanga, the village were the Price family was living, was swarmed by a massive group of ants known as Nsongonya Adah was left behind. She woke to the sound of screams and felt ants all over her. Her mother ran into the room, baby Ruth May bundled in her arms. Adah, for the first time perhaps pleaded for help. “Help me” (Kingsolver 305). Orleanna stared at her crippled daughter and turned away.
This was a huge turning point for the young girl. In the simple plea alone, the way Kingsolver phrased it “l [Adan] spoke out loud, tn only time: help me” (Kingsolver 305), one could see that this was a simple phrase; not shouted or screamed, simply stated. When Adah’s plea was not answered she was left dumbstruck and proceeded to fght for her life. Although Adah originally believed that everyone found her life to be of no value she was still horror struck when her mother did not come to her aid, but she still decided to save herself because she realized her own self-worth.
No longer was she an idle observer, she became a doer. If her mother would not save her, then Adah would do it on her own because she knew her life was worth saving. This fateful night carries on into the rest of her days, perhaps not immediately, but it does affect her character in the end. When Adah finally returns to the US with her mother, Orleanna, she has almost completely ndergone her transformation. The Journey from Africa alone had left a great mark on Adah because of her mother’s tenacity to bring her daughter home safe and sound. Adah was astounded by her mother’s ferocious protection of her.
When they finally do get home however, Adah immediately applies to Emory University and studies the medical sciences which she takes up as her religion. However, much has changed. Adah finds that without anyone to speak for her she must get used to speaking rather than observing and is shocked at first by the sound of her voice, but this is not the greatest change. The most dramatic alteration is one that she only picks up on for a moment in the final part. She states that she has “… always… sacrificed life and limb and half a brain to save the other half” (Kingsolver 410).
Adah finds it unusual to now owe her mother something when her own life has been a constant struggle. “My habit is to drag myself imperiously through a world that owes me unpayable debts. I have long relied on the comforts of martyrdom” (Kingsolver 410). The very tone of this phrase represents beautifully the realization that has struck Adah like a lightning bolt in this moment. The word “imperiously’ gives the reader perfect imagery of a disgruntled and displeased Adah who hates the world and yet that second sentence reveals something else.
She has come to know what it feels like to owe someone an unpayable debt and that her whole life has been driven from this one disability. The words “comfort” and “martyrdom” are so opposite that they balance out the sentence and give the reader an understanding of how Adah felt about her handicap. What is even greater is the physical transformation that follows this mental one. Adah meets a neurologist who informs her that he can help er overcome her limp. This intrigues her and after several months Adah no longer has to bear her physical disability.
She is at first amazed that this cross she has born all these years could somehow be taken care of like that. However, as she progresses through the novel she finds that this recovery is balanced out by the inability to see words and phrases backwards and in a completely different perspective like she used too. At times she “… limps purposefully around [her] apartment… trying to recover [her] old ways of seeing and thinking” (Kingsolver 492). This sentence shows ow she still longs for the days when she was different and had something to wield against the world.
The imagery provided allows the reader to vividly imagine Adah trying with all her might to limp and be as she once was, but away from the public eye. She continues to live as the recovered individual that she is now and only seems to regret the loss of an edge that she once held. Adah’s transformation in the novel was one ot a seemingly helpless child into a tully tunctioning adult who nad experienced things that no one in her community could top. She realized a self worth that she did not possess at the beginning of the novel. Adah Price was a cripple. Adah Price is a cripple.
The genius girl that went to the Congo is not the same one that returned and lived the rest of her life in the US. She no longer has a physical handicap that got her mocked and looked down upon, but she does not have that special outlook on the world either. Adah now knows people whom she can work with and share time with because she will talk now, but she owes her mother an unsettled debt, that may never be resolved in her heart and mind. Adah has changed for better or worse is uncertain. In the end experiences add up and the results always balance each other out.