“Could this be true of civilized white Christians?”

In “The Revelation” a particular quotation stood out to me. While young Leah is on a walk with her new found friend Anatole, she begins to let her mind wonder, and while wondering she wonders about the scar which is straight  on his face. She then says:

“And then he [Anatole] tells me about the rubber plantations. What were they like? I read in a book that they cut off the workers hands if they hadn’t collected enough rubber by the end of the day. The Belgian foreman would bring baskets full of brown hands back to the boss, piled up like a mess of fish. Could this be true of civilized white Christians?” (Kingsolver, 144) 

I found this to be a prime example of how much times have changed. During this time period, and given her situation, Leah has reason to believe that she is slightly above others, ad least thats the impression which I was given. Where as in todays society, at a young age, most are taught we are all equal, no matter our religion. However Leah’s nieve ways seem to cloud her mind and she has to second guess the idea that civilized white  Christians would be capable of an act of evil.

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BEL AND THE SERPENT

DRAGONS

BOOK FOUR: BEL AND THE SERPENT

In Christian symbolism, the serpent or dragon represents the devil. The Bible story of Daniel shows that the Christian faith can overcome any beast from hell. Daniel exposed the Babylonians idol ‘Bel’ as a fraud and killed it.  The King was not too happy with that and Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den for six days and survived.

In parts of Africa the dragon is also considered as an evil power, and it was believed to be the result of the unnatural union of an eagle and a she-wolf.

 

TATA JESUS IS BANGALA!

SYMBOLISM IN BOOK THREE – THE JUDGES

These chapters let the reader know that things aren’t always what they appear to be.  For instance, Anatole believes that Lumumba is bluffing about the Congo having Russia as an ally.  Anatole describes this bluff, “… like a hen who puffs up her feathers like so, very big, to show the snake she is too big to eat (Kingsolver: pg. 233).”  Here the snake represents the Europeans or westerners.  

Another example is when Leah is pushing Ruth May on the swing and she see’s Ruth May’s shadow transform into another image “….her shadow legs were transformed into the thin, curved legs of an antelope, with small rounded hooves at the bottom instead of feet …but still it’s frightening when things you love appear suddenly changed from what you have always known (Kingsolver: pg. 236).”

Orleanna Price also transforms in these chapters from a submissive wife to an independent thinker and doer. She makes her mind up that it’s time to leave the Congo with the children no matter what Pastor Price, her husband thinks.  

This is also a turning point for Leah who starts to doubt her father’s judgement.  She questions the reasons why her father brought them to the Congo in the first place and starts to wonder if her father could be wrong about other things.

Rachel begins to see similarities between the Congolese and Christians symbols. She notes that the Christians wear crosses around their necks just like the Congolese wear their evil-eye fetishes. Furthermore, the Price girls start to realize that the Congolese are very religious people and not evil just because they pray to their pagan gods.  “Everything they do is with one eye to the spirit. When they plant their yams and manioc, they’re praying. When they harvest, they’re praying (Kingsolver: pg. 246)”.

Also Pastor Price gets a lesson from Brother Fowles about the Bible and how many translations there are and any person who reads it can interpret things differently.  Brother Fowles also teaches Orleanna, “…there are Christians and then there are Christians (Kingsolver: pg. 255)” where he implying that Pastor Price’s intent to save the Congolese people is off.  

Tata Ndu’s courting behaviours were also mistaken for something different.  The Price’s thought he was being friendly and helping them but in fact he wanted a wife, Rachel.   

Ruth May’s world begins to collapse around her.  She begins to discover that people aren’t who they appear to be.  

Book Three ends with African army ants invading their village and everyone is left to fight for their lives. Orleanna chooses her youngest, Ruth May, to save and Adah fends for herself.   

Importantly, these chapters show how easy it is to get things mixed up.  Pastor Price shouts at the end of his sermons that ‘Tata Jesus is Bangala!’ which, however you pronounce it could mean either something precious and dear or the poisonwood tree.

 

Mother Dearest

Mrs. Price is a character throughout the book who plays a ‘typical mother role’ according to the 1950’s era. She is responsible for many household chores, ensuring her children are taken care of as making sure her husband, Mr. Price is always comfortable and reassured. Now, from a 2012 viewpoint, any person would be able to point out the clear changes that have been made since then. Women are no longer restricted to the home and we are able to clearly voice our opinion with out fear.  

Throughout ‘The Posionwood Bible’ Mrs. Price does not often voice her opinion. In fact she mentions in the novel how often she had wanted to run away and leave everything behind. Knowing her role as a mother and wife, she knew she could not do that. However with an overpowering husband and children to tend to, times were often difficult. 

Mrs. Price also mentioned the fact that she was aware of how Mr.Price treated his children, through verbal neglect, not allowing them to follow him along when they wanted nothing more to than to spend time with their father not to mention physical abuse.

With that said, as a mother and a wife, did she make the right choice to stay by her husbands side through the journey in the Congo? Or should she have taken her children and left? 

Personally I would have to side with the ‘mother’ and take the children out of the atmosphere. Then again, she vowed to her husband to be there, till death do they part and isn’t that worth something?

In my opinion Mrs.Price portrays an evil characteristic in this novel, allowing her children to stay in a somewhat toxic environment. Eventually leading one to death and the others to be scattered and lose contact with their family. 

 

In this scenario, is it the childrens fault if they are brought up within a symbolically evil presence ? Or do they have time to change their life around once removed from the situation? 

Evil like this surrounds us ever day,  in abusive homes, forceful religious groups, and even within our own school system forcing particular beliefs on children. 

Yet there is no one left standing to take the blame 

Trip to the Congo; Selfish or Selfless ?

The price family is symbolically represented as the idea North American Christian family. They travel with their children to the Congo expecting to change the lifestyles of those inhabiting the area. Instead they endure a rather extreme wake up call that the life they have chosen to lead may not be exactly what everyone else wants.

Although Mr.Price likes to believe what he is doing is in fact the righteous thing to do, he ends up overlooking the fact that the people of the Congo have a way of living that does not involve the Price family.

Mission trips are often viewed in general society today as a a positive thing to participate in. However, in this case, Mr. Price’s actions in the Congo are also viewed as evil. An example of this is when he is attempting to garden outside as he did back home, when offered help and told that his gardening skills would be of no use in the Congo, he simply brushed it off. He portrayed a stubborn attitude and this was proved through his unwillingness to learn. Even after it was insisted that he make smaller hills out of the dirt, he still refused to change his ways, he wanted to believe his way was right, no matter what others say or where he is in the world.

Clearly when his garden didn’t work out as planned he came to realize things may not go as planned for the duration of his time in the Congo. This is an overall theme that played throughout the novel.

Perhaps it wasn’t the trip itself that proved to be evil, just Mr. Prices illogical stubbornness.

Analyzing Rachel Price

Rachel Price is a young lady when entering the Congo along side her beloved family. She’s easily identified as unique , as her long blonde hair flows and she has very fair skin. As the years continue to pass, Rachel still manages to remain true to her self as she often catches herself looking in the mirror and every once in a while thinking about her past lifestyle in North America.

In my opinion, she out of all other family members may be one of the only who remained true to themselves. Although she can be seen as selfish and perhaps a bit materialistic , however I challenge you to question, was she the smart and pure one out of this situation?

Yes, she was perhaps not the classic ‘preachers daughter’ and her values were placed on tangible things more so than God. However, she was true to herself, isn’t honesty worth something?

Having married several times, mostly for money, certainly would not be approved had her father been included in the decisions. However towards the end of the novel she expressed happiness and seemed to be satified with her choices.

So the question remains, what does it mean to be a ‘preachers daughter’ and just how much should your parents belief in God influence and control your own set of goals, morals and values in your everyday life ?

BOOK TWO: THE REVELATION – IN THE VOICE OF PASTOR PRICE

My wife Orleanna now carries a big stick every where she goes. She advised me that she saw a snake and a tarantula in the kitchen house and now with our help, Mama Tataba, gone, the stick is her weapon.  My weapon is the Bible! Our protection is the Lord because we came to Africa in His service!

Now that Mama Tataba was gone, Anatole a 24 year old Congolese school teacher, who can speak some English and French, was sent to me by the Underdowns, sent us a boy called Lekuyu or as he wanted to be called Nelson.  He helped my wife and children around the house.  At least I agree with one thing about Africa, the Congolese are not allowed to go to college, just like my thought on women! As I`ve stated to the girls, sending a woman to college is like pouring water in a shoe – it`s a waste! 

Orleanna says I’m stubborn, obsessed an unwilling to change.  I don’t have to change! The African’s need to change! They need to be saved! Can you believe that the men have more than one wife here! How backwards is that! I will not bend my will to Africa! I had already tried with the baptism and compromised with a sprinkling rather than a dunking in the river.  Yet the village chief Tata Ndu would not endorse my church stating that, “the previous predecessor Brother Fowls had disturbed the chief with peculiar ideas about having only one wife at a time (Kingsolver: pg. 97)”.

My youngest daughter, Ruth May, appears to have made friends with some of the village children.  They play “Mother May I?”  A young village boy named Pascal has been tagging along with Leah. Here in the Congo childhood is no guarantee as Leah has observed.  African children take on the responsibilities of the adults; there is no distinction between them.  I have heard Leah mutter under her breath, ‘its like childhood was invented by white people ‘.  She better not be angry with me for raising her like I have!  She better be gracious!

Ruth May broke her arm falling out of a tree. We had to have the slick American Mr. Axelroot fly us in his plane to Stanleyville to cast her arm.  Stanleyville was at least civilized, not like the Kilanga village.  The doctor was Belgian and spoke of Patrice Lumumba ‘the new soul of Africa’ and Independence.  He compared Patrice Lumumba to Jesus stating sooner than later Lumumba will have a larger following. I wanted nothing to do with that silly talk and told the doctor that the Africans should be grateful to the Belgians and Americans for bringing civilization to the Congo! Lumumba is nothing but a barefoot post office worker who’s never even been to college!

My congregation is slowly growing.  Anatole, translates my sermons.  Anatole has scars all over his face; they call it beautifying; I call it a mark of the devil.  He was orphaned at a young age and other missionaries saved him from the diamond mines and taught him to love Jesus and how to read and write. He has advised me that Chief Tata Ndu is angered that my congregation has grown as he fears a disaster will come if we anger the gods, their false idols.  

The Underdowns have advised us of rioting in Leopoldville and Stanleyville; Belgium is fearing an African takeover.  Lumumba is out of jail and they have settled on a parliamentary system of government. Elections will be in mid May, Independence on June 30th, 1960.    

 And so it was.  Leah and I went to Leopoldville and saw history in the making. Patrice Lumumba`s party won 35 of a 100 and some odd seats in the new parliament.  He will be the Prime Minister of the Republic of Congo.

The Underdown`s have advised us to leave the country for fear of what might come due to the uprising.  Belgium is walking away from Africa and the Godless will be left to rule.   This just solidifies my mission to save these souls.  These people cannot read or write, they speak two hundred different languages, and there is no way that they could run a country.  “Africa is not a nation, it is the Tower of Babel…If these people are to be united at all, they will come together as God`s lambs in their simple love of Christ (Kingsolver: pg:  168) “.   I plan to stay and not run away like a coward! Orleana and the children will stand by my side over hell and high waters!