One theme in "The Poisonwood Bible" is anti-colonialism. Does Orleanna represent a colonizer who is guilty or who is anti-colonization?

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mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If anyone is guilty of colonization, it is Nathan Price, not Orleanna.  Nathan went with intents to change and conquer, not her.  Orleanna was, in a way, dragged to Africa-she calls herself a "captive witness"-and every day spent there was turmoil and trial.  Look to the very first section of the book for some great quotes regarding her feelings. In the very opening segment, she tells us to "Consider, even, an Africa unconquered altogether," and asks us to imagine the "first Portuguese adventurers," through "some miracle of dread or reverence," seeing the shores of Africa and then leaving.  She asks, "What would that Africa be now?" if no one had discovered it and colonized it?  She answers this question herself; she imagines it would be like the tiny Okapi that she saw by the river one time, and compares it to "a unicorn that could look you in the eye."  So, an uncolonized Africa would be as beautiful as the mythical unicorn-something of dreams.  This supports her feeling that Africa is a beautiful force that would have been magical if not trodden upon by others.

She also mentions that she was not guilty of the travesties that occurred with colonization, because she "paid [her] own little part in blood."  She too was a victim, she too was colonized and destroyed by an unbending will-that of her husband.  Her awarenes of colonization, and her defense of Africa's beauty and unconquerable nature, also indicate that she is against colonization.  She describes Africa as "refusing to be any thing but itself," and that she sacrificed to it, never to be the same again.

Orleanna represents the unwitting victims that often occur when one people forces another people to their own way of life and living.  She went there with no malintent, with no desire to change anyone there; she just wanted to survive, and keep her children alive, to do the right thing.  But, as her husband's stubborn will created tragedy for them all, she was victim-just as many others are victims to forced colonization.

Those are just some ideas; I hope that they help!  Good luck!

robyn-bird96 | Student

Orleanna is a victim to colonization and to her husband, the colonizer. Life has not been fair for Orleanna.  The beautiful heathen girl, tamed and locked away by the preacher husband.  She had sold her freedom for marriage, a marriage that today may be considered abusive.  Kingsolver compares Orleanna's fear of Nathan to that of a cowering Methuselah, as we feel her pain, as she is chained without wings.  Darkness, her marriage was true darkness, unlike the darkness of Africa.  Africa is free; it's beautiful.  But it too has been dealt a poor hand.  Orleanna's sorrow came from "trust[ing] too long in false reassurances, believing as we all want to do when men speak of the national interest, that it's also ours," but it isn't (201).

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The Poisonwood Bible

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