It is Easter Sunday, and Rachel is disappointed that there are no new clothes for her or her siblings. Rachel and the rest of the Prices head to the town church, and Rachel notices that her sisters don’t seem to mind their dirty clothes. Rachel also notices the townspeople who are going to church, and criticizes their ugly dress sense—they pair bright colors together in a way that she finds garish.
Rachel’s superficiality is almost comically exaggerated here—she’s so ignorant that she judges the Congolese for wearing unusually colored clothes (even though they’re probably judging her fashion choices, too).
Nathan has organized a Christian pageant, Rachel thinks, designed to attract as many visitors as possible. Recently, there have been few people in church on Sunday. Nathan comes up with the idea of a pageant, featuring the Christian resurrection story. The locals volunteer to dress up as Roman soldiers.
Nathan’s ideas about converting the Congolese seem condescending from the start—one associates Christian pageants with elementary school Christmas plays—which is to say, with small children.
Rachel considers the locals who’ve dressed up for the day. She doesn’t really care for the men in the pageant—she’s not used to being around black people, since in America they mostly kept to their own part of town. The townspeople also eat funny meats like antelope, which Rachel has had to choke down many times since arriving in Africa.
Rachel mentions that the black men she’s used to stay in “their part” of town—suggesting that she has no problem with the policies of segregation that characterized life in the South in the 1950s.
Nathan’s first idea for the pageant, Rachel recalls, was that the children of the village would be baptized in the nearby river, the Kwilu. However, the locals vetoed this—they wanted to keep their children far away from the water for safety’s sake. Nathan has planned a church supper in order to “lure” the townspeople closer to the river. The supper consists mostly of fish, which Rachel finds disgusting.
Nathan will spend most of the rest of the novel trying to compel the people of Kilanga to allow their children to be baptized. From the beginning, though, this mission seems futile: he has to resort to luring the Congolese to his church event because he has no other way of attracting their interest.
Locals show up for the supper, mostly women with their children. Rachel notices that the townspeople are wearing clothes, suggesting that word has spread that Nathan doesn’t approve of nakedness. Everyone stares at Rachel, which Rachel is used to. She’s blond, with beautiful blue eyes. Rachel thinks to herself that most of the Congolese people she’s met seem not to have “much hair.”
It’s interesting that the Congolese make changes in their appearances to please Nathan, who’s angrily condemned them for their nakedness. This suggests that the Congolese are actually being hospitable to their guests, the Prices: although Nathan doesn’t appreciate this at all.
The Prices have prepared extra food for the supper: fried chicken. The chickens were a gift from Mama Tataba, who rounded them up and protected them from hungry villagers in the weeks leading up to the Prices’ arrival. Rachel notices that Orleanna, who fixed the fried chicken, has truly “won the crowd.” Nathan looks sad and lonely, however. He just stares out at the river, where no one is being baptized.
This is a slightly ambiguous passage, but it says a lot about the kind of man Nathan is. From Rachel’s perspective, Nathan is sad because nobody is being baptized, but we can also sense that he’s irritated that Orleanna has had more success with “recruiting” Congolese people than he has: he’s so obsessed with being a “savior” that he can’t enjoy his own wife’s success.