In a novel by William Styron, a father tells his son that life “is a search for justice. ” Merriam-Webster defines justice’ as “just behavior or treatment. ” Deciding what actually quantifies itself as just behavior is completely a subjective process. Everyone, in their own minds, has their own sense of innate justice that drives them to make some of the decisions that they do. Although, the punishments that have been set aside for the breaking of each law in a country is a way of outlining a general standard of justice.
While one’s inner sense of justice might iffer from another, all conform to our country’s overall rules for justice. Schools and places of work also have their own style of defined justice. When one goes to school or to work, they are conforming to that institution’s standard of justice. Many people practice religion, and religions have also defined their own standard for justice. Every religion is different, as they all will vary in how they view justice and in how severely they enforce it.
Overall, while everyone have their sense of justice, they are at all times conforming to a higher established standard of justice, egardless of how it aligns with theirs. It is important to note, that not everyone really cares about all of the overhead standards of justice that have been put in place. Some people believe that their own sense of justice is so just, that no time should be spent conforming to the others. Nathan Price, a character from Roberts 2 Barbara Kingsolver’s novel, The Poisonwood Bible, is one of these people.
Nathan Price is a southern baptist preacher that is married to Orleanna Price with four daughters: Rachel, Leah, Adah, and Ruth May. Nathan takes his family with him to the Congo on a year-long mission trip that ends up being much longer than a year. Nathan is a heavy believer in the bible and his own ability to spread the word of God to the people of the Congo. He is also stubborn beyond reason and will never see any point to turn away from his goal. This makes him an abusive, destructive, and emotionally disconnected husband and father.
He is a person that clearly never had any business getting married or having children, for in the world of Nathan Price, there is no room for the world of anybody else to fit. Throughout the novel, Orleanna will speak from a time past this Congo disaster, in where she gives us some foresight and background into Nathan’s past. So we begin to piece together an idea of what created the monster (that’s what he is) that is now Nathan Price. We learn that Nathan served in World War II, and consequently, he was injured and was taken out of battle.
After he was removed from battle, his entire group died in the Bataan Death March, a brutal event that saw approximately 75,000 American and Filipino soldiers march 65 miles to prison camps after a US surrender to Japan. This gave Nathan an extreme case of survivor’s guilt, as he has always believed that e should have died along with his fellow soldiers. Nathan was rewarded with a Purple Heart, but he viewed this as a symbol of the injustice of his circumstance. In the eyes of Nathan Price, surviving when the rest of his mates died was an extreme injustice.
Nathan rises from this dark time in his life determined to combat this injustice with his own new sense of justice. Roberts 3 When Nathan Price returns home from the war, he more or less began his journey to becoming a full on tyrant. He believes that his best chance for justice, dying with the rest of his fellow oldiers in the Bataan Death March, has passed forever, and that he must do whatever he believes God is telling him to do. Nathan becomes dangerously self-righteous and judgemental. Nathan’s sense of justice becomes parallel to that of the European powers who colonize.
Nathan wishes to control everything and everyone around him to be able to serve God the way Nathan believes God is telling him to do. The countries that are colonizing also seek complete control of their situation, as they push for their colony to serve the mother country any way they can. Most individuals can keep their own personal ense of justice isolated to themselves, for they understand that everyone is different and that everyone also shares the standard of justice decided on by their country, institution, and religion.
Nathan has no regard for any sense of justice but his own. He tries to force his sense of justice onto his wife and his children. In his mind, they are only there to assist him in completing the mission God has given them. Nathan doesn’t even see his family as individuals with their own life of opportunity and choice. Nathan’s understanding of justice is that everyone must follow God like he does. Nathan has no tolerance for anything that contradicts or conflicts this point of view. Everyone is deeply satisfied when their own personal sense of justice is met.
Everyone desires this, and most people understand this is not always possible since other standards of justice must have room to exist. Nathan Price is not somebody who understands this. To Nathan, unless his preferred sense of justice is satisfied, things are bad and he is a failure. He already considers himself a failure for getting injured and failing to die like the rest of his fellow soldiers, so he believes the best he can o is to follow God’s plan on this mission to the Congo. Success for Nathan would, be for him to convert all of the native Congolese and have a perfect family following his every order.
If this is what Nathan would call success, he didn’t even come close. A reasonable person would understand that Nathan’s goal is impossible because of the current dangerousness of the Congo, expecting every native to convert is ridiculous, and his family is a group of individuals who will not always conform to Nathan’s control. The reader of this story can see how obvious f a failure Nathan’s quest for justice is because of all of the events that would negatively affect a sane human being. Nathan and his family experienced many traumatic events, most notably the death of the youngest daughter, Ruth May.
Any mission that contains such hardship would be viewed as a failure, but then again, Nathan Price is not a sane human being. Despite all that happened to his family, Nathan would have probably considered the mission a success if he felt like he succeeded in his search for justice. Unfortunately for Nathan, he never really was able to feel like he succeeded in his search for ustice before he died wandering the jungle recklessly. Considering how things turned out, Nathan Price was probably right for wishing he had died in the war.
When somebody in a powerful position has the need for a personal search for justice, they bring everyone under them along for the ride. In this case, Nathan Price has the power. Nathan’s search for justice is the foundation of The Poisonwood Bible, for without Nathan’s selfish ambitions, the Price family wouldn’t have been anywhere near the Congo. The Price family could have been a normal, happy southern baptist family from Georgia. Conversely, Nathan could have never gotten married, and the life of Orleanna Wharton could have stayed untouched by the danger of Nathan’s goals.
In the novel, Nathan isn’t really one of the main characters, but he is the reason that they are in this perilous situation. Nathan’s desire to succeed Roberts 5 in his mission and continue to stay in the Congo directly results in the death of Ruth May. For a normal person, the death of your daughter would be a traumatic event, but all Nathan Price responded to this news with, “She wasn’t baptized yet,” (Kingsolver 368). Leah Price said it best when she described Nathan’s words as “a pathetically inadequate observation,” (Kingsolver 368).
Nathan’s search for justice created this story, and ruined it for some. Plato once said “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light. ” Nathan Price was afraid of the light. He feared reality and God. His survivor’s guilt was so deep, that he believed himself unfit to be himself and appear before God in heaven. In reality, Nathan had the right to feel guilty, as war is a traumatic thing that is capable of nexplicable damage to a human mind.
Nevertheless, Nathan’s reality was not to ruin his family’s life in Congo in a misguided attempt to please God. As a husband and father, Nathan had a responsibility to his family that he completely neglected in favor of putting all of his focus on his idea of God’s plan. Ironically, Nathan’s response to injustice was a quest for justice that brought him none, and only brought his family injustice. Nathan Price was an abusive and arrogant failure as a husband and father, and therefore, he ironically failed as a man of God.