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Free Study Guide-The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver-Free Summary
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Book Four: Bel and the Serpent

Orleanna Price: Sanderling Island

Summary

Orleanna ponders the political ramifications of the removal of Patrice Lumumba by American and Belgian agencies. In 1960, Allen Dulles in charge of the CIA telegrammed his Congolese station chief, suggesting that he replace the Congolese government and remove Lumumba as soon as convenient. A man by the name of Gottlieb was hired to create a poison that would either kill or disfigure Lumumba and permanently remove him from a position of influence in the Congo.

In September the state department helped put Mobutu in power. Mobutuís hand picked army took control of the Congo and placed Lumumba under house arrest. In January, Lumumba and his family escaped under cover of rain but got bogged down in mud and eventually recaptured. Lumumba was brutally beaten, his body so mangled that it could not even be returned to his wife for burial.


Orleanna tries to recall the details of her own life during the days of political crisis and change. She realizes that she had tried to hold herself apart from the world of men, and that the effort was fruitless. She lost a life (Ruth May) on the same day in January of 1961 that Lumumba was killed.

Notes

Orleanna imagines a political scene in which the fate of the Congo was being decided by men who wanted only the vast wealth of the land; in her mind, on the same day the fate of Lumumba was determined, fate, need and misunderstanding was silently determining the fate of her youngest child. She tries to imagine "what if." What if the people of Belgium and American had never touched the Congo at all; what if she had never married Nathan Price; what if the Baptists had not taken upon themselves the conversion of the Congolese. At length she decides that all the things that happened were "destiny," something humans can do little to direct and nothing to fix.

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