In The Poisonwood Bible, what attitudes about indigenous people are harbored by whites in the 1960's and even today?What can industrialized people learn from indigenous peoples?

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teachertaylor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In The Poisonwood Bible, the whites who enter the Congo see the indigenous people as uncivilized heathens.  When the Price family arrives in the village of Kilanga, the villagers welcome them by singing their version of Christian hymns.  Nathan Price is appalled by the fact that many of the women are bare-chested, and in a later sermon he preaches about the sins of nakedness.  Nathan does not recognize or respect the customs of the villagers and instead makes them feel like their way of life is uncivilized.  Because Nathan continually berates them, the villagers stop attending church, and Nathan has to bribe them with food to get their attention.  Nathan becomes obsessed with his mission to convert the villagers because he thinks that they need his religion in order to be saved.  Although the citizens of the Congo have gained independence from Belgium, the whites still think that the indigenous people cannot look after their own affairs.

bgoodhart | Student

In the 1960's and even later, the people of the congo were characterized as ignorant cannibals - simple, primative and in need of Western religion, political systems and technology.    The misconceptions gave Nathan and others a feeling of unquestioned superiority and led to tradgies large and small.   Nathan's planting techniques suitable to Georgia were totally useless in the Congo as teh seeds not planted on mounds washed away in the first rains.   Local government of the congolese worked by comming to concensus in which everyone agreed rather than a vote with often leaves almost half the people unsatisified.    Nathan assumed (incorrectly) that the congolese were ignorant heathens without a spiritual life when, in fact,  they are very spiritual in their own way but not thrilled with Christian parables they could never relate to and doomed the arrogant Nathan to a life of frustration and failure.

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The Poisonwood Bible

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