“Muntu,” Adah thinks, is the Congolese word for man. She’s interested to learn that it’s also the word for corpse, baby, and God—the Congolese don’t make the usual distinctions between the living and the dead. Nelson teaches Adah this and other words, including “mvula,” the word to describe Rachel.
Adah finds that certain Congolese words have interesting double meanings that illuminate certain qualities of the things themselves (for instance, the equation of man, baby, and God seems relevant to Nathan, a babyish adult who thinks of himself as omnipotent).
Nelson asks Adah what happened to the Price family before Adah’s birth—in other words, what tragedy were the Prices being punished for with Adah’s medical condition. Adah is confused until she realizes that Nelson isn’t talking about her blood disease, but the fact that she’s a twin. She learns that often, infant twins are sent “to the forest” to die. Twins are seen as “too much” by the Congolese.
It’s interesting that we’re only now learning about this aspect of Kilanga’s society—a practice that seems incredibly barbaric. Kingsolver doesn’t want to excuse infanticide; rather, she’s trying to convey the enormous differences between two cultures.
Adah learns other words, such as “batiza,” or “baptism,” the practice that Nathan has worked so hard to introduce to the Congo. Interestingly, “batiza” can also mean “to terrify” if pronounced in a slightly different way. Adah finds this amusingly appropriate.
Once again, the double-meanings of Congolese words can be used to study real problems. As the word “Batiza” suggests, Nathan’s preaching is terrifying to the Congolese.