Ada to Adah: Bangala to Bängala

Ecnelis deppots ecne icsy tirec nis. Adah’s contrasting and changing personalities
throughout Barbara Kingsolver’s “Poisonwood Bible” show how one can transform
over time when they change their values and religion. Ada’s disregarded, uniquely
poetic personality--as seen in the beginning of the book--evolves to an Adah of
found and free individual thoughts through sincerity, science, and stopped silence
that further exhibit the concept that because of religious comparisons and self
perception one’s values could change causing them to find a new identity.
Adah’s personality was one often disregarded by the Price family and clearly labeled
based on her physical capabilities--more importantly it overflowed with poetic
meaning and sincerity. “I am prone to let the doctors’ prophecy rest and keep my
thoughts to myself. Silence has many advantages… It is true I do not speak as well
as I can think. But that is true of most people as nearly as I can tell” (Kingsolver 34).
She’s okay with silently listening to the chaos of society and having the world judge
her based on her bent body. However, she doesn’t think less of herself mentally or
physically like the majority of people do. “Like Daniel she enters the lions’ den, but
lacking Daniel’s pure and unblemished soul, Ada is spiced with the flavors of vice
that make for a tasty meal” (135). Her immoral thoughts--as seen by the “morals”
of the bible--and blemished bodily figure shows that she thinks of herself as an
outlier to her family and religion. Through her poetry and literary reading of Emily
Dickinson and Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, along with her complex notions expressed in
palindromes and metaphors, she reassures herself that this passion will help her
develop an identity that disregards her physical nature. “Would [Our Lord] really
condemn some children to eternal suffering just for the accident of a heathen birth,
and reward others for a privilege they did nothing to earn?... I found to my surprise
that I no longer believed in God. The other children still did apparently. As I limped
back to my place they turned their eyes away from my stippled sinner’s knees”
(171). Having no faith in religion since the beginning, was an essential aspect of
Ada’s character because of how it considerably influences Adah. Her perspective on
her family members is now--and has been--altered along with her moral and
religious values. Ultimately, Ada’s true character is one of little significance to her
family, but of substantial importance to the development of Adah and the basis of
her authentic identity.
Once Adah escapes her childhood past, she has the liberty to find her own
convictions. “I was unprepared to accept that my whole sense of Adah was founded
on a misunderstanding between my body and brain”(439). Adah denies the truth of
the situation because the misunderstanding of her disability is her impairment. She
is forced to accept this fact and create a new identity for herself. Throughout all the
change she still maintains her childhood morals, “I could not accept the contract:
that every child born human upon this earth comes with a guarantee of perfect
health and old age clutched in its fist”(527). Without her slant, Adah still believes
that no one can have the assurance of health. Adah is cynical and she cannot deem

the possibility of perfection. Her changing family values are clearly emphasized
when she says,“I don’t have cats or children, I have viruses” (530). Adah finds her
passion in her viruses, as they have no control over her. She can finally be the one
in charge, not being forced by the bangala of her father's bible. With the absence of
the binds from her family and her slant, Adah can finally find her own identity.
“What I carried out of the Congo on my crooked little back is a ferocious uncertainty
about the worth of a life. And now I am becoming a doctor” (443). The cause of
Adah’s transformation is many things; among them the thoughts of Ada, her
defining slant, and the closure of Ruth May. Adah’s sorrow and loss is exhibited
when she says, “I am losing my slant” (439). Adah’s slant defined her and made
her unique from her sisters. Losing this meant losing Ada and changing her identity
once and for all. Adah explains herself by saying, “I am a perfect palindrome. Damn
mad! ”(58). Thinking backwards (and poetically) was her way of communicating
and perceiving life in a different way; losing her slant was the first “step” to losing
Ada. This dramatically changes because her slant is lost; it was everything to her
including the way she was perceived. When Adah becomes content with knowing
that “a mother takes care of her children from the bottom up” (440) she realizes her
self worth. Knowing this, Adah gains respect for Orleanna. She accepts that she has
taken the place of Ruth May and how she was the youngest before Ruth May and
the youngest after Ruth May because of the innocent child’s death. The same
identity, family, and self worth are found both in Ada, and Adah, just in different
forms that have changed throughout the course of her life and struggles.
Adah’s progression from Ada to Adah after losing both Ruth May and her slant was
one first overlooked that became one of liberty and a newly found righteousness.
Through clever literary devices, profound character thoughts, and the gradual
opening and altering of her personality, the significance of her character shines
bright compared to those of her sisters’. Although Ada is ignored and pushed down
in the beginning of the book, Adah, is able to find her true identity when she leaves
her family’s binds to chase after her dream of becoming a scientist. Sincerity,
science, stopped silence.