What does Keetah do that challenges Mark's Christian values in I Heard the Owl Call my Name?
Keetah presents one of the greatest challenges to Mark's Christian values. What does Keetah do that challenges these values, and why?
Keetah goes with her beloved, Gordon, to the city to see if she can get used to living in white society. They plan to be married, but have not done so yet. Gordon is completely taken with the world of the white man, but Keetah cannot adjust. Knowing that Gordon will not return to their tribal home, Keetah gets pregnant by him "to keep a part of him...in his village with his own people," and comes back alone to Kingcome.
The people in Keetah's village understand her leaving, as well as her return, carrying Gordon's child. They accept her back wholeheartedly as she had known they would, but she is not sure what Mark's reaction will be. Sexual relations out of wedlock are condemned in the Christian faith, and although Mark does not describe his own feelings of conflict concerning this matter, they undoubtedly exist. When Keetah avoids him when she first returns, Mark is aware that, although the villagers take her back "as if she had not been away," they wonder if the young priest will do the same. With their acute perceptivity, Mark realizes that "they (know) him better than he (does) himself."
Keetah eventually comes to Mark, and tells him what she has done. At first, Mark believes that she had made sure she was carrying Gordon's baby "to hold him...to make him marry (her)," but Keetah's intentions in doing what she did were not about that at all. Keetah explains that Gordon should never know that his child lives on in the village. She got pregnant by him "not to hold him...(but) to let him go...to keep a part of him...in his village with his own people so they can last, (and) so (she) too, can live." Mark realizes that "what she had done was logical to her, and if he told her it was wrong, he would destroy her." Choosing mercy over rigid adherence to the law, he tells her gently that what she has done is "strange" to him, but that he thinks he understands (Chapter 19).