The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible

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Patrice Lumumba Character Analysis

Populist leader of the Congo during the early 1960s, who was assassinated by the CIA due to his outspoken support for socialism. In the novel, Lumumba’s sudden assassination is a major turning point in the novel: a symbol of the collapse of the Price’s hopes for peace and equality in their new community.

Patrice Lumumba Quotes in The Poisonwood Bible

The The Poisonwood Bible quotes below are all either spoken by Patrice Lumumba or refer to Patrice Lumumba . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Harper Perennial edition of The Poisonwood Bible published in 1999.
Book 2, Chapter 15 Quotes

The boys said, “Patrice Lumumba!” I told Leah that means the new soul of Africa, and he’s gone to jail and Jesus is real mad about it. I told her all that! I was the youngest one but I knew it. I lay so still against the tree branch I was just the same everything as the tree. I was like a green mamba snake. Poison. I could be right next to you and you wouldn’t ever know it.

Related Characters: Ruth May Price (speaker), Leah Price , Patrice Lumumba
Page Number: 124
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Ruth May describes the Congolese enthusiasm for Patrice Lumumba, the young, charismatic leader who rose to become the President of the Congo before his assassination. Here, nobody has any idea that Lumumba is going to die—as far as the Congolese are concerned, Lumumba is a savior. (In real life, Lumumba was an extremely popular leader, famed for his brave opposition to Western colonialism in Africa.)

And yet although neither Ruth May nor we know that Lumumba is doomed, there's plenty of foreshadowing that unfolds upon a second reading of the novel. Lumumba's danger is paired with the image of Ruth May as a green mamba—a very venomous snake. (Later on, Ruth May will die from a mamba bite on the same day that Lumumba is assassinated, emphasizing the connection between their fates.)

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Book 3, Chapter 43 Quotes

My knees plunged, a rush of hot blood made me fall. A faintness of the body is my familiar, but not the sudden, evil faint of a body infected by horrible surprise. By this secret: the smiling bald man with the grandfather face has another face. It can speak through snakes and order that a president far away, after all those pebbles were carried upriver in precious canoes that did not tip over, this President Lumumba shall be killed.

Related Characters: Adah Price (speaker), Patrice Lumumba
Page Number: 297
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Adah Price discovers something shocking. Eavesdropping on Axelroot, the secret American agent who lives in the village, Adah learns that President Eisenhower is planning to assassinate Patrice Lumumba, the democratically elected leader of the Congo. (In real life, Eisenhower was supportive of a military coup in the Congo. He believed that Lumumba, a suspected socialist, would be more sympathetic to the Soviet Union; wanting to avoid an African alliance against the United States, Eisenhower had Lumumba murdered and replaced with a pro-U.S. dictator.)

Adah can't believe that Eisenhower—whose popular image is that of a kind, grandfatherly old man—is secretly capable of ordering the murder of innocent people. On a more symbolic level, Adah's surprise in this scene reflects her general distrust of patriarchy in general, whether that of Eisenhower or Nathan himself. The image of respectability and trustworthiness that strong, authoritative men project is often an illusion, concealing hypocrisy or duplicity.

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Patrice Lumumba Character Timeline in The Poisonwood Bible

The timeline below shows where the character Patrice Lumumba appears in The Poisonwood Bible. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 2, Chapter 15
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
...diamonds and rubber out of the country. He also mentions a young leader named Patrice Lumumba—the “new soul of Africa.” This man, the doctor claims, has a bigger following than Jesus.... (full context)
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
...“Jimmy Crow” boys. Some of the young boys in the community shout the name “Patrice Lumumba!” Ruth May tells Leah that Lumumba represents the new soul of Africa. (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 20
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
...it’s like that they’ve pressured Belgium into accepting the election results; furthermore, it’s likely that Lumumba will be elected in a landslide. (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 22
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
The election has just occurred, and Patrice Lumumba has been elected the new Prime Minister of the Republic of the Congo. Orleanna asks... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 24
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
...Privately, Mrs. Underdown tells Leah that Nathan must not be in his right mind. Meanwhile, Lumumba is inaugurated. He’s a tall, thin man, with an intelligent face. It is June 30,... (full context)
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
Lumumba delivers a speech. He claims that Belgium has given the Congo 80 years of pain... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 31
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
...country. Each tribe is trying to cement its claim to its natural resources—diamonds, rubber, etc. Lumumba, on the other hand, wants to share the Congo’s natural resources with all of his... (full context)
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
...intervene to prevent civil war. Anatole says that the U.S. is dragging its feet, and Lumumba is threatening to ask the Soviet Union for help instead. Anatole also begins to explain... (full context)
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
Leah mentions that Axelroot dislikes Lumumba, and Anatole tells Leah that he thinks Axelroot is “trouble in his own stinking hat.”... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 42
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
Axelroot changes the subject to politics. He tells Rachel a secret—Lumumba, the Prime Minister, is as good as dead. He will be assassinated very soon, and... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 43
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
...she listens to his radio, she hears the phrase “good as dead” to describe Patrice Lumumba. She gets the idea that President Eisenhower wants Lumumba dead. Adah is amazed that “Ike”—seemingly... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 49
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
...Belgian and the American would have treated the Congo like a game of chess, with Lumumba the “black king”—too dangerous to be allowed to live for long. Then, they would have... (full context)
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
...the CIA’s actions in the Congo, and found that the Eisenhower administration had agreed that Lumumba was a threat to the supremacy of the U.S. Allen Dulles, the head of the... (full context)
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
On the day that the CIA condemned Lumumba to die, Ruth May was feverish and Rachel was turning 17. The CIA told Mobutu... (full context)
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
Orleanna sometimes wonders if there was a way that Lumumba’s life could have been saved. But she always comes to the same conclusion—it’s useless thinking... (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 66
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
After Leah’s condition improved, she and Anatole traveled to Stanleyville, where Lumumba still had popular support. There, she was mocked and despised for marrying a black man.... (full context)
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
...of soldiers from Belgium and the U.S has arrived in the country to suppress to pro-Lumumba forces. Leah weeps for this violence, and for the memory of her imprisoned husband. She... (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 68
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
...Anatole struck up a friendship via correspondence. Anatole sympathized with Neto’s struggle as an educated, pro-Lumumba Congolese man—Neto was beaten up by the police for expressing his political views. (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 70
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
...for Leah, explaining that there will be a Senate investigation into the CIA’s role in Lumumba’s assassination. Leah also notes that Mobutu will be bringing in Muhammed Ali and George Foreman... (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 72
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
...result in a life in prison. Anatole will be placed in the same prison where Lumumba was imprisoned years before. (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 73
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
...Rachel wants to stay in upscale places, while Leah wants somewhere cheaper. Rachel argues that Lumumba and his followers are “followers of Karl Marx,” a proposition that Leah finds absurd and... (full context)