The conflict emerges due to Nathans inability to understand Leah’s needs. His self absorption and lack of self awareness leaves him with the lack of being able to feel guilt. Leah practically worships her father in the opening chapters of the book, as shown in this quote when she is describing her father to the reader, “Not everyone can see it, but my father’s heart is as large as his hands. And his wisdom is great. ” (42). She supports him and is very fond of him. Of course not everything goes perfect for Leah and her father because all families have disputes, and after following her father for so long conflicts begin to form.
As the story continues Leah gradually recognizes her father’s errors and she turns her back on him. She has always followed his rules and always believed that Nathans laws were the laws that she had to abide by. She soon discovers that she disagrees with some of his ideas, like in this quote about Nathans ideas concerning college, “My father says a girl who fails to marry is veering from God’s plan — that’s what he’s got against college for Adah and me, beside the wasted expense—and I’m sure what he says is true. But without college how will I learn anything of any account to teach others? (150). This quote shows how Leah starts to doubt her fathers ways, she is not flat-out disobeying him but she does not believe that his ideas are true. Leah wants to be independent, but it’s hard for her to change because she has been dependent on her father her entire life. In this quote Leah shows the reader how much she has changed, “All my life I’ve tried to set my shoes squarely in his footprints believing if only I stayed close enough to him those same clean simple laws would rule my life as well… Yet with each passing day I find myself farther away. (244) With each thing her father does including punishing her for her owl, and losing his temper frequently, she finds her self more independent because she has her own thoughts and beliefs that are different from her father. The reason why Nathan and Leah have this conflict is because of Nathan’s narrow-mindedness and lack of self awareness. The main purpose of The Poisonwood Bible is to show how different people deal with guilt. Nathan however has no guilt, and this is the source of many conflicts with Leah. Nathan has no self-awareness. When he does something he never thinks of his family, he only thinks of himself.
This greatly affects his relationship with all his daughters. Leah tries so hard to be on her father’s good side, as shown in this quote where she tries to answer her father’s question about religion, but fails, “If only I could ever bring forth all that I knew quickly enough to suit father” (36). Nothing will ever please Nathan because he doesn’t really care about Leah; he only cares about spreading Christianity. This selfishness eventually leads to Leah disobeying her father like in this passage regarding the hunt Leah wanted to go on, “Leah slung her bow over her shoulder. “I’m going with the men and that’s final. ” …Father went crazy.
We’d always wondered what would happen is we flat-out disobeyed him… He lit out after her with his wide leather belt already coming out of his pants as he stomped through the dirt. But by the time he got to the edge of the grass of the yard she was gone. ” (340). This is the first time Leah actually disobeys Nathan. Leah wanted to be a part of the fight, and Nathan was holding her back. She wanted to become independent, but with Nathan controlling her she couldn’t. Nathan wouldn’t listen to her reasoning, instead he believed that he was right, and Leah was wrong. With this breakthrough Leah’s opinion of Nathan begins to change.
She begins to see Nathan in a negative light, rather than her previous positive light. This quote is when Nathan is outraged at Tata Ndu’s election for Jesus Christ, “It was hard to believe I’d ever wanted to be near to him myself. If I had a prayer left in me, it was that this red-faced man shaking with rage would never lay a hand on me again. ” (333). Because of Nathan’s anger, because of selfishness, and because of his lack of guilt, he was not aware of his daughters desire to be loved by him. Because of this Leah decided that her father was wrong, and that she wanted to be more independent.
Barbara Kingsolver’s main theme shows how certain individuals deal with the burden of guilt and Nathan and Leah’s simple conflict contributes to this meaning. Each of the 5 Price women has a different way of coping with the guilt that Africa has provided for them. Nathan however has no guilt. He is a very stubborn egocentric man and thinks very little of the people in his life. Leah perhaps is the very opposite of her father. She wants to accept Africa, but standing in her fathers shadow is not helping her. When she realizes her desire to be moral her only choice is to leave her father and do what she believes is right.
In this quote Leah is talking to Anatole during the Ant attack on their village, “I want to be righteous, Anatole. To know right from wrong, that’s all. I want to live the right way and be redeemed. ” (309). Nathan’s lack of guilt is the cause of the conflict between him and his daughter Leah. Leah’s method of coping with guilt is to join in ad become a part of Africa. Nathan on the other hand wants to change Africa completely. Because of these two very different opinions Leah finds herself having to choose between good and evil, light and dark.
Nathan’s lack of guilt contributes to the meaning by proving another side of dealing with guilt, and how not feeling this guilt can hurt the people around you. Barbara Kingsolver uses this conflict to tie into her theme. In doing so Kingsolver gives the reader a much deeper understanding of what Nathan and Leah are going through. Leah’s desire for independence was the conflict, the source of the conflict was Nathans lack of guilt, and this conflict contributes a deeper meaning to Kingsolver’s theme. Even though Leah admired her father more then all four of Nathans daughters, she ends up hating her father more that the other girls do.