Father daughter conflict in "The Poisonwood Bible"

Families fight and have conflicts. There are always going to be different opinions, agreements, and disagreements. In Barbara Kingsolver’s novel, The Poisonwood Bible, the price family is no different. While the main conflict in the story regards the five price women and their dislike of life in the Congo, there is also conflict residing between the parents and the four daughters. More specifically is the conflict between the second oldest, Leah, and the father Nathan Price.

When the Story begins, Leah is actually closest to her father. She is the only one that completely supports him and his decisions. She felt that while it went unnoticed by many, her father was wise (page 42). As the story moves on, and Leah is faced with the harsh reality of life in the Congo, she begins to see her father in a different light. After following him for so long, she starts to detect his faults, and turns on him. It began when she started questioning his ideas, as he felt women shouldn’t go to college; that they should be married or it would be a sin (page 150). Leah opposed this, wondering how she was to teach others when she wouldn’t be able to learn, herself. While she was opposing his ideas, she had yet to completely disobey him. She had been dependent on him for so long, and while she did not want to be so much anymore, she had nothing else to go by. It was a start, though, and she stopped following in her father’s shadow.

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When Leah admitted that she was pulling away from her father after obeying him for so long and trying to “set my shoes squarely in his footprints”(page 244), her own thoughts and ideas began to form. As her father did more things to discourage her, like punishing her or constantly lose his temper, she gained independence. She starts to resent her father for putting her down constantly and her own thoughts and ideas begin to form. From that, she finds that her own thoughts and beliefs not only differ from those of her father’s, but seem to be of a totally different mindset. While Nathan stays indifferent to anything other than his beliefs, Leah becomes more observant of things around her. She sees the community’s dislike for her father, proof coming when Christianity is outvoted for the worship of nature and spirits (page 333).

Leah is also more open- minded, leading to the reason she is so easily dissuaded from her father. Nathan Price (Leah’s father) was so narrow-minded and lacked self-awareness, leading to his aversion for any other opinions but his own. Nothing will really please him, of which Leah comments (page 36), So it is doubtful he even truly care about his family. This constant selfishness is what leads Leah to disobey, outright, when Leah wants to help hunt but he refuses to let her (page 336). When it came down to a vote Leah got her chance, proving to her father that she no longer wanted to follow his orders, and in the end, she actually helped the family more than Nathan had, the whole time they were in the Congo. When he should have been the one providing for his family, he did not. Leah was the one that pulled through and took care of them. If Leah had not, no one would have.

One of the main Themes of The Poisonwood Bible was that people deal with guilt differently. Nathan Price does not have guilt, which is one of the main causes of conflict between him a Leah. He felt that as long as he preached, that his purpose was being filled, no matter the cost. Even at his youngest daughter’s funeral, he was void of Emotion. Leah was the opposite, having to be the one to tell her parents of their loss. She found him to be a “simple, ugly man”. Finally, when the end came for him, Leah was the one who felt guilt for not telling her siblings sooner of the loss, then for describing his death in detail. Leah was the opposite of her father, and she realized this when she allowed her feelings to shine through. She could love, when her father could not.

Nathan Price’s arrogance and ignorance to anything other than what he wanted, greatly affected his relationships with all of his daughters, and Leah was the first to do anything about it. She tried so hard to be on his good side, thinking it was best. It took conflict between the two for her to see how wrong he was, and for her to realize she had the power to do what she wanted, and her father never really had any control over her.