Femininity In The Poisonwood Bible

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Throughout history, women have been oppressed and not viewed as equals to men. Orleanna Price and her daughters in the book, The Poisonwood Bible, are no strangers to being oppressed and molded into the role of a perfect woman and a perfect wife. Throughout this story, the girls’ femininity often gets rejected, often by their society and the society in the Congo, and even by their own father, Nathan Price. Orleanna Price, Nathan’s wife, has lived her life living in her husband’s shadow for years. Orleanna has been conquered by Nathan, in the sense that he overtook her and now controls her. Orleanna’s lack of freedom from her husband and her acceptance of her entrapment develops into the theme of femininity in The Poisonwood Bible. Throughout…show more content…
When Nathan first decides he wants to marry her, Orleanna wasn’t sure if she wanted to marry him, but her answer was “taken to be a foregone conclusion” (195) because everyone, her family, friends, community, and Nathan assumed that’s the life she had to want. The goal of most women in this time was to get married and start a family, so Orleanna’s opinion was never asked, just automatically taken to be a “yes.” But, even though she didn’t really want to marry him, either way she wouldn’t have spoken up for herself. This is demonstrated when she says “if anyone had been waiting for my opinion, I wouldn’t have known how to form one”. (195) Orleanna has spent her whole life letting people make her decisions for her, so much so that she didn’t even know how to speak up for herself over her engagement to Nathan. On the rare instance Orleanna would represent herself and her feelings in some way, Nathan “habitually overlooked” her. (200) If she ever complained about their life, he would “chew his dinner while looking tactfully away, as one might ignore a child who has deliberately broken her dolls”. (200) Orleanna’s marriage to Nathan has conditioned her to speaking up for herself even less than she originally had, because whenever she does use her…show more content…
During their marriage, she struggles to keep pieces of herself alive, the pieces of herself Nathan repressed. Orleanna even admitted that she “encountered her own spirit less and less” (200). Nathan has chipped away at her essence and she accepts that because she won’t leave him or challenge him. When she got the chance to be alone, usually when he went away on revival, once or twice Orleanna found herself “putting on red lipstick to do the housework” (200). She can’t wear red lipstick in front of Nathan because he would find it immodest and would punish her. She has to hide her true self to avoid the wrath of her husband. Unfortunately, because she has to hide her true self so often, she's started to lose pieces of who she once was. Orleanna was “so thoroughly bent to the shape of marriage [she] could hardly see any other way to stand” (201). She does not remember her single life, and has become so deeply invested in this dominating marriage that her life bent under the will of her husband is the only way she knows how to

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