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The Poisonwood Bible | Study Guide

Barbara Kingsolver

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The Poisonwood Bible | Characters

Character Description
Orleanna The mother of the Price family, Orleanna acquiesces to her husband's plans at first. The death of one of her daughters leads her to break with her husband forever, but she never forgives herself for her child's death. Read More
Rachel The eldest daughter of the Price family, Rachel cares about clothes and living an ordinary life. Her family's decision to go to the Congo changes everything, although she later finds a way to regain some financial and social status. Read More
Leah One of the middle twin daughters of the Price family, Leah is deeply devoted to her father at the start of the book, but her viewpoint changes, particularly as she falls in love with Anatole. She ultimately rejects her father, marries Anatole, and stays in Africa to raise her family. Read More
Adah One of the middle twin daughters of the Price family, Adah is diagnosed with hemiplegia, or partial paralysis. She limps and rarely speaks, but she demonstrates a remarkable scientific and literary intelligence and a cynical attitude toward the world. Read More
Ruth May The baby of the Price family, Ruth May is five years old when they move to Africa. She is the first family member to make friends with Congolese children, but she becomes gravely ill, and ultimately dies, from a green mamba bite. Read More
Nathan The patriarch of the Price family, Nathan is a minister who takes his family to the Congo to serve as missionaries. Nathan is a World War II veteran and a fanatical preacher, who will let nothing—not even his family's health and safety—interfere with what he believes is God's call. Read More
Anatole The Congolese schoolteacher in the village of Kilanga, Anatole Ngemba is an orphan fluent in multiple languages. He serves as Nathan's translator in church and also becomes a family friend, attempting to teach the Price family about Congolese customs.
Eeben Axelroot Axelroot is an American pilot living in the Congo who secretly works for the CIA. He helps Rachel escape from the Congo and they live together, but he will not marry her.
Aunt Elisabet Aunt Elisabet is Anatole's aunt whom he is unexpectedly reunited with after he is released from prison. Aunt Elisabet attends the wedding of Anatole and Leah, and she continues to help the two of them and their children for years to come.
Brother Fowles The missionary who preceded Nathan Price, Brother Fowles married a Congolese woman. He now travels around with his family on a boat, not necessarily preaching, but attempting to distribute medicine to Congolese people.
Celine Fowles Celine is a Congolese woman married to Brother Fowles. She is described as well-spoken and intelligent, and she is sympathetic to Orleanna and the Price girls.
Tata Kuvudundu The "witch doctor" of Kilanga, Tata Kuvudundu sees the Prices as a threat. To chase them out of the village, he plants a lethal green mamba snake in their chicken house, but it accidentally bites Ruth May, killing her.
Lumumba Patrice Lumumba is the first prime minister of the Congo, who quickly becomes involved in political infighting with the country's first president. Less than a year after taking office, he is falsely accused of being part of an assassination plot against a rival faction leader, and is arrested and assassinated.
Methuselah Methuselah is an African gray parrot who belonged to Brother Fowles. Nathan forcibly expels him from the house, but incapable of handling life in the wild, Methuselah remains nearby in the trees and is soon killed.
Mama Mwanza Mama Mwanza and her family live next door to the Prices in Kilanga village. She lost the use of her legs in an accident and now moves around by using her arms like legs.
Tata Ndu The chief of Kilanga, Tata Ndu tolerates the Prices at first but grows resentful when Nathan refuses to leave. Tata Ndu engineers a vote to decide whether or not the village should accept Jesus.
Nelson Nelson is the Price family's servant. Anatole suggests Nelson work for the Price family because it will help the family and give Nelson a way to earn some money.
Martin Ngemba Martin is Anatole and Leah's third son.
Nataniel Ngemba Nataniel is Anatole and Leah's fourth son, named in honor of Leah's father.
Pascal Ngemba Pascal is Anatole and Leah's oldest son, named after their old friend.
Patrice Ngemba Patrice is Anatole and Leah's second son, named after Patrice Lumumba, the Congo's first prime minister.
Pascal Leah's first friend in the Congo, Pascal learned some English from the Price girls. Later he became a revolutionary and was executed by Mobutu's soldiers.
Mama Tataba Mama Tataba is the Price family's Congolese housekeeper, who tries to prepare them for life in the Congo, but whose advice is ignored by Nathan. She doesn't stay in their employment long, although Orleanna and the Price girls wish she would.
Daniel Templeton Daniel Templeton is first attaché of the French ambassador, and the man Rachel Price intends to seduce and marry.
Mr. Underdown Mr. Underdown (which is what the girls call him) is a Belgian missionary who lives with his wife in the capital city. He helps the Prices get settled, but when Belgium announces Congolese independence, the Underdowns flee, and they advise the Prices to do the same.
Mrs. Underdown Mrs. Underdown is a Belgian missionary married to Mr. Underdown.
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