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Exploring The Novel Poisonwood Bible And Macbeth English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1053 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The play Macbeth by William Shakespeare and the novel Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, are literary works that explore the deep desires of self fulfillment. While many different literary devices are prominent in both works, this paper will focus on the treatment of themes by both authors. Namely the themes of power and control. These themes are best highlighted in Lady Macbeth from Macbeth and Nathan Price from the Poisonwood Bible. These two characters best develop the themes of power and control through their shared characteristics of ambition, manipulation and ruthlessness.

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Ambition is a reoccurring tool of character development in both The Poisonwood Bible and Macbeth , employed by the authors to emphasize the overall themes of power and control. Nathan is a reverend from America in the Congo attempting to conform the village of Kilanga to the Catholic faith. His ambition and motives are powered by fear and blind faith in god, coupled with desire for personal power-which he self interestedly translated into taking control of the village and having power over the people. He also believes that if he does not complete the task he will be unable to enter heaven. His ambition begins to over power his judgment, his ability to reason and his concept of family, which causes the village people to rally against him to try and re gain their freedom and independence hence exerting their own form of power and re-enforcing the overall themes. Unlike Nathan’s gradual and increased ambition, Lady Macbeth’s ambition is immediately evident from the beginning of the play, and only grows as the desire for the throne and its power send her over the edge. She right away begins to assemble a plan to kill King Duncan in order to place her husband Macbeth in line for the throne. This obsession drives her insane, and like Nathan her ability to reason, her judgment and her conscience are clouded by her need for power and control. She acted in ways that showed that she would stop at nothing in order to gain the throne even if it meant murder. Both characters became so ambitious in their attempts to gain power and wield control, that it eventually drives them to their own deaths.

Manipulation is another constant, though more subtly employed, characterization tool in both works. She manipulated Macbeth into killing Duncan, in order to gain the title of King and Queen. Lady Macbeth ironically, felt too guilty to kill Duncan herself-due to resemblance to her father-however, had no qualms or concern for Macbeths conscious when she manipulated him into killing his friend. In order to accomplish this she began questioning Macbeth’s manhood, trying to convince him that he was effeminate -hence weaker then she, then she and that he could not step up to the task of killing Duncan. This mental manipulation made him question his judgment, which led to him becoming very confused. In the end her manipulations were successful, helping her achieve the power and control she so greatly desired. Nathan like Lady Macbeth, abused his family in order to get what he wanted. The villagers had become so fed up with Nathan trying to control them and their religion that they rebelled, killing all the white people in their village. Nathan’s wife and children are secretly preparing to escape to America, but Nathan, out of fear of loneliness, begins to abuse and manipulate his wife, and threaten the lives of his children, in order to get them to remain in the village and allow him to continue his quest. This abuse and manipulation allowed Nathan to regain power and control over his family, while causing them even more anguish as they helplessly watch the deaths of many people they loved. Both Lady Macbeth and Nathan’s manipulations and apparent lack of guilt over them, demonstrate to the audience just how ruthless both characters are.

This ruthlessness is a third important way the characters are both developed and the themes enriched. Nathan is so determined to finish the quest God sent him to do that he forgot his morals and committed terrible acts in order to obtain power over the village people and control over his family resulting in the loss of many innocent lives. His main deplorable act of ruthlessness was exploiting his daughters and forcing them to stay in the Congo so that he could maintain his control over them while the villagers fought for their freedom. These self-centered actions resulted in the death of his four daughters and wife, leaving him alone. Lady Macbeth was far more ruthless then Nathan, upon hearing that Macbeth was to be king she instantly began to ask God to make her into more of a man in order to be able to commit murder. “Come, you spirits that tend on moral thoughts, unsex me here, 

And fill me, from the crown to the toe, Top-full of direst cruelty. 

 Make thick my blood.”(Lady Macbeth- Act 1 scene V). She lost her conscience completely and began to act without conscious in the attempt to gain the throne, her symbols of power and control. Lady Macbeth progressively becomes more ruthless, until she does not even question the thought of killing Duncan in order to be next in line to the throne, she is over whelmed in her own desires, that she forgot about everything else that use to matter.

Throughout both Macbeth and the Poisonwood Bible both authors develop their respective characters of Lady Macbeth and Nathan Price by highlighting their choices and actions through ambition, manipulation and ruthless action. These characters thus serve to highlight the overall themes of power and control in both works. Both Nathan and Lady Macbeth sacrificed everything for power and control not realizing the true cost. Nathan losses his entire family and is left to live alone, and Lady Macbeth looses her sanity, driving herself to take her own life. Their struggle for power and control wrecked many lives and in the end their respective victories was so small that it all did not seem worth the effort.



Lady Macbeth from Shakespear’s Macbeth


Nathan Price from the Poisonwood Bible

By: Tori Skot

For: Ms.Zaikos

January 7, 2008


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