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Personal and National Paternalism in Barbara Kingsolver's Novels

Uploaded by Bubbles82087 on Jun 12, 2005

The etymological relationship between "father" and "homeland" goes back to the Latin words for both: pater (father) and patria (country). Fatherland, Vaterland, patrie... all these words meaning "home country" bring to mind fatherly images. Likewise, the words "patriot" and "patriotic" echo "patriarch", or the grandfatherly head of a family or clan. The drafters of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are lovingly known as the "founding fathers"; first president George Washington is called the "father of our country". Even in the egalitarian twenty-first century, our country is represented in political cartoons by white-bearded Uncle Sam. These linguistic similarities are reflected in Barbara Kingsolver's novels. In Barbara Kingsolver's novels, the paternalism exhibited by fathers towards their daughters is paralleled by the paternalism the United States government shows when dealing with indigenous cultures. In Kingsolver's eyes, arrogance, neglect, and abuse characterize both types of paternalism.
According to Kingsolver, one of the main components of both types of paternalistic relationships is arrogance. Reverend Nathan Price of The Poisonwood Bible is a prime example of the arrogant father. He, a servant of God, seems to think that he is God. This complex is maginified by the fact that the Reverend has a low opinion of the female sex in general, and he makes no exemption for his daughters. Although his twin daughters Leah and Adah were identified as intellectually gifted at an early age, he refuses to send them to college. He compares higher education for women to pouring water into leather shoes--either the water leaks out and is wasted, or the shoes retain the water and are thus ruined. To the Reverend, women are only good for being the servants of men. On occasion, he refers to himself as "the captain of a sinking mess of female minds". (PB 223) In his own eyes, the Reverend Price is the only logical person in his family. This arrogance results in deeply skeptical Adah becoming contemptous of dear old Dad fairly early on in life, and her sisters Rachel and Leah following suit during the family's stay in the Congo. Another of Kingsolver's arrogant paternal figures is Doc Homer Noline of Animal Dreams. Doc Homer, formerly Homero Nolina, belongs to the much-maligned white-trash branch of the Gracela family in his hometown of Grace, Arizona. He falls in love with one of his socially prominent second cousins, Althea. When World War II breaks out, Homero is...

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Uploaded by:   Bubbles82087

Date:   06/12/2005

Category:   Literature

Length:   14 pages (3,076 words)

Views:   1550

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