“Righteousness and What is Right?” Feminism and Religion in Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible”
Father Nathan Price and Brother Fowles present two ends of the Evangelical spectrum in their interpretation and analysis of the Bible and, its application as a way of life in Belgian Congo in Barbara Kingsolver’s "The Poisonwood Bible." While Father Price believes in the word of God to the letter and insists on dispensing with this word in a colonial setting, Brother Price endorses following the “spirit” of the letter rather than the word. Into this mix are thrown the four daughters of Father Price and his wife, Oleanna. The novel is a fascinating examination of a missionary family which travels to the Belgian Congo for the purposes of spreading the Gospel. This journey into another world gives Kingsolver an opportunity to explore moral, political and religious issues and how they impact the lives of not just the local Congolese community, but also the four daughters of the Price family. At the intersection of the colonial/post-colonial, ethical/non-ethical, and male/female gendered responsibilities are embedded feminist concerns through which Kingsolver subverts Christian patriarchy and argues for and delineates a post-secular feminism.
My paper seeks to trace patterns of struggle and resistance in the fight for justice not just for the female gender which underpins post-secular feminist theory, but also for the colonial downtrodden. I argue that the hermeneutics of my interpretation leads to the identification of an ambivalence that lies at the heart of the matter notwithstanding Kingsolver’s brilliant exposition of the moral and ethical in the Congolese world. But at the same time, it also reveals a resilience and affirmation on the part of the female characters making this novel about doing what is right, rather than about righteousness.
Keywords: Double-colonisation, imperialism, colonialism, post-colonialism, ethics, religion and morality, post-secular feminism.