Book Three: The Judges Chapter twenty-six

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Book Three: The Judges
Chapter twenty-six


  1. What do you think the title of this book might foreshadow?

Based on the Biblical quote on the title page of book three, this book could foreshadow major problems that Nathan will have in trying to spread Christianity; that is, it may foreshadow that the gods of Kilanga will be thorns in his side. Alternatively, it may foreshadow the in­verse: that Nathan’s Christian god will be a thorn to the Kilanga natives. Either way, the title and the quote leading this book seem to indicate major conflict between “the inhabitants of this land” and the Price family.

  1. Why does Orleanna begin this chapter with reasons women can’t throw stones at their husbands? What motif does this exemplify?

Orleanna, again apparently addressing her child or children, and again speaking with a tone of incredible guilt, begins this chapter trying to explain why she did not leave Nathan or the Congo. She claims to have not enough power or influence, and she claims that Nathan’s reli­gious fervor influenced her as well. Her lament over the plight of being a woman exemplifies the motif of the struggles that women face.

  1. How does Orleanna liken herself to the Congo? Why?

Orleanna refers to herself as “occupied as if by a foreign power.” Nathan’s will has completely dominated her, conquered her as one country conquers another. By the time her children were born, Orleanna no longer recognized herself as the free spirit she was before she met Nathan Price. Orleanna has ended up with the same lot as the Congo, the “poor Congo, barefoot bride of men who took her jewels and promised the Kingdom.” By linking herself with the Congo, Orleanna tries to absolve herself of some responsibility. Like the Congo, she is a conquest, a victim of a stronger power. Orleanna does not deny all responsibility, obviously, as she is racked with guilt. But by linking herself with the Congo, Orleanna tries to place some of the blame where it belongs: on the arrogant, imperialistic conquerors.


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The Things We Didn’t Know
Chapter twenty-seven


  1. Why is it significant that Leah feels “a throb of dread” when she arrives back in Kilanga?

Leah feels this dread upon her arrival back in Kilanga because she realizes how different her circumstances are now. No one is awaiting her arrival and no great feast has been planned. Now that the Congo is independent, Leah knows that her status in the village could change quickly. Additionally, it is very significant that it is Leah who feels this dread. The other Price family members have been doubting Nathan for a while, and now Leah is beginning to have real, persistent doubts as well.

  1. How has life changed for the Prices now that the Congo is independent?

Without their stipend of fifty dollars a month, the Prices now truly have to survive in the Congo just as the natives do. They can no longer buy meat or fish from their neighbors, so daily life has become a great deal more difficult for them.

  1. Explain the significance of Nelson misunderstanding the story of Job.

Like everything else the Prices have brought with them, their Bible stories have become changed on African soil. Rather than understanding the story of Job as a story of a test of faith, Nelson understands it is a story of a curse. Leah tries to explain the difference, but Nelson merely shrugs away the explanation. Nelson’s understanding of Job’s story is just one of countless examples of how Africa has changed what the Prices brought.


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Chapter twenty-eight


  1. What theme is emphasized as Adah speaks of Nathan’s “wildly half-baked Kikongo”?

The power of language is a theme that is receiving more and more attention as the Price fam­ily learns more about the language. Of all the Prices, Nathan is the least interested in learn­ing about the language. As a result, his sermons suffer from mispronunciations that change the meaning of the sermon entirely. Adah recognizes the arrogance and tragedy in her father’s mispronunciations.

  1. How does this chapter further develop the theme of guilt?

In this chapter, Adah explicitly recognizes that she and her family are guilty by association. Al­though they may not be as arrogant, flawed, and casual with mispronunciations as Nathan is, Adah realizes that they are not innocent. They align themselves too closely with the astounding­ly egotistical man to be considered innocent, Adah believes. “We his daughters and wife are not innocent either,” she says. She sees herself and the rest of her family as dominated by Nathan, and she sees no way to escape this guilt by association.

Chapter twenty-nine

Ruth May

  1. What is Ruth May’s primary feeling toward her father?

Ruth May fears Nathan. Although she believes that Jesus wants her to love everyone, Ruth May knows that she does not love her father. She voices this fear to Orleanna, whispering, “I hope he never comes back.”

  1. Why do you think this chapter is so short compared to those around it?

Both Ruth May and Orleanna are bed-ridden at this point in the novel, and this is a chapter that Ruth May narrates. Thus, the abbreviated length of the chapter could be indicative of the difference between the complex situations of those who are active and involved in life and the hazy, imprecise experiences of those who are sick and bed-ridden.


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Chapter thirty


  1. How does Nathan respond to Orleanna and Ruth May’s sickness, and what does this say about his character?

Nathan believes that Orleanna simply needs to pull herself together rather than rest or tend to her illness. He seems to believe that Orleanna is disobeying the will of God by capitulating to her illness. Nathan pays no attention to Orleanna whatsoever. Nathan continues to prove himself to be cruel and careless, regardless of what he may preach.

  1. Why does Adah claim that the Price girls have lost their childhoods overnight? What does this allude to?

With Orleanna bed-ridden, the Price girls suddenly have the responsibility of caring for the family thrust upon them. Although the girls were more than competent in Georgia, they have virtually no survival skills in the Congo. This hearkens back to Leah’s revelation in chapter fourteen about childhood: that “the whole idea and business of Childhood was nothing guaranteed,” and was likely invented by white people. The children of the Congo do not get to enjoy a childhood, and now neither do the Price girls. They have been forced to suddenly mature in order to survive.

  1. How does Adah’s wordplay in this chapter challenge Nathan’s idea that the Lord works in mysterious ways?

Although Adah keeps her contemptuous ideas about religion to herself, she makes sure the reader is aware of how she feels with her wordplay. When Nathan tells Orleanna that the Lord works in mysterious ways, Adah thinks, “Serious delirious imperious weary us delete­rious ways,” trying out rhyming words, all with negative connotations. To Adah, Nathan’s God is not mysterious, only harmful. Her wordplay expresses her disdain towards a god who would put the Prices in such a predicament.

Chapter thirty-one


1. When Leah asks if her country has done something bad, Anatole responds, “Not you, Béene.” How is this significant?

When Leah asks her question, she reveals that she feels complicit—and thus guilty by associa-tion—in anything America does. Her use of the pronoun “we” is especially important. She does not know what Anatole is about to accuse America of doing, but she nonetheless asks the ques­tion as if she were involved. Anatole’s response, vindicating her (but not her country), pleases her very much. This exchange develops the theme of guilt, and it also establishes Leah’s feelings for Anatole. She does not know why Anatole can make her heart rejoice, but he can.


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  1. Leah and Anatole’s conversation covers many topics. What theme (or themes) of the novel does the conversation emphasize?

Leah and Anatole speak briefly of cultural guilt (see question above), a key theme of the nov­el. However, this is not the only theme apparent in their conversation. They speak at length of justice, of what would be fair for the Congo on a global scale. They also speak of justice on a local scale, as they discuss the village children who have died in the recent epidemic. Leah asserts that no child should ever have to die, and that it’s not fair for people to die young. Anatole, on the other hand, informs Leah that if everyone lived to an old age, the village and its resources would be unsustainable. This idea of justice and balance is a prevalent theme throughout the novel.

  1. What does the conversation between Leah and Anatole reveal about Leah’s changing attitudes towards the Congolese?

Several times during the conversation, Leah thinks of how few real differences there are between the Congolese and her family. At one point, she even thinks, “People young and old are more or less the same everywhere.” In addition, Leah subtly reveals her tender feelings toward Anatole in this chapter. For Leah to find a native of the Congo attractive reveals a major change from her close-minded stance at the beginning of the novel.

  1. Why is the reader presented with news of tumultuous political events through Leah’s narration?

In this chapter, Leah’s narration is again characterized by an interest in people. Specifically, in this chapter, Leah is interested in Anatole, as the chapter recounts a long conversation be­tween the two of them. The author chooses to present the political information in this way to demonstrate Leah’s interest in others, which is becoming one of Leah’s defining characteris­tics. Although the news that Anatole gives Leah is indicative of danger for whites in the Con­go, Leah’s primary feeling after the conversation is not fear. Rather, she is interested in how ordinary Anatole is, and how pleasant her conversation with him was, because she knows this stands in direct contrast to the way most Americans view his race in the Congo.

  1. How does the final paragraph of the chapter reveal a change in Leah’s characterization?

Leah says that “it’s frightening when things you love appear suddenly changed from what you have always known.” Though she is referring to the optical illusion that makes Ruth May’s “shadow legs” look like those of an antelope, the reader should recognize that she means more than she is saying. Her attitudes on several subjects—the United States’ moral stand­ing, her father, wealth and material possessions, and family—are all shown in this chapter to have changed substantially from what they were at the beginning of the novel.


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Chapter thirty-two

Ruth May

  1. Why is the reader presented with news of tumultuous political events through Ruth May’s narration this time?

Ruth May receives the same news that Leah does, news of violence in Stanleyville and in oth-er places in the Congo. Ruth May does not respond to this news in the same manner, however. Ruth May feels outright fear when she hears this news, as she is afraid that her family may be next. Kingsolver presents Ruth May’s reaction directly following Leah’s, demonstrating how differently these two narrators respond to the same information.

  1. How do Nathan and Orleanna interpret “The meek shall inherit” differently?

Nathan uses that particular verse of scripture to apply to himself and his family, thinking that if they stay in the Congo to meekly follow God’s will, God will protect them. Both Orleanna and Nathan have heard that the Congolese have been attacking whites in the cities. Orleanna un­derstands the verse to apply to the natives of the Congo. She believes that they have been meek for years, under the rule of a foreign power, and that they are about to finally exercise their own power, or “inherit the earth.”

  1. What is Ruth May’s nkisi, and what is its function? What might Nelson’s giving the nkisi to Ruth May foreshadow?

Ruth May’s nkisi is a small bone with a hole in the middle; Ruth May blows into it to put her spirit inside of it, and Nelson seals the hole to keep her spirit inside. Ruth May is to think of a safe place so that her spirit will go there if she dies.

Nelson’s giving of the nkisi to Ruth May foreshadows that she will die. She has been sick for a long time; this is probably why Nelson gives her the nkisi.

Chapter thirty-three


1. How does Orleanna’s newfound voice affect Leah?

Leah says that she is “shocked and frightened” to see Orleanna flout Nathan’s authority, but then she confides that she feels something similar toward Nathan herself. Orleanna is voicing things that Leah would never say and is strengthening Leah’s doubts as a result.


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2. Discuss Leah’s doubts about her father. What theme does her doubt develop?

Leah doubts her father more than ever in this chapter. The beginnings of these doubts come as she wonders whether they are really safe in the Congo and why Nathan doesn’t protect his family even though he is the one responsible for keeping them in the Congo. Her doubts then expand to include much more than their current situation. She begins to doubt the “clean, simple laws” that Nathan uses to view the world. These laws include everything from his religion to his belief in the proper place of women. As Leah begins to thoroughly doubt one thing about her father, she begins to doubt everything about him and his lessons. Leah’s doubts develop the theme of cultural arrogance, as Nathan represents cultural arrogance perfectly. In addition, her struggle to understand how she, as a woman, can fit into Nathan’s plan highlights the motif of the plight of women.

Chapter thirty-four


  1. Contrast Brother Fowles’s ideas about the Bible with Nathan’s.

Brother Fowles looks at the Bible as a non-literal and manmade vessel for God’s word. Fowles points out to the Price family that the Bible has been translated time and time again, and that he believes some of it has been lost in translation. He even claims that some parts of the Bible do not apply well in the Congo. Brother Fowles prefers to see God’s word through nature, made fresh every day. Nathan, on the other hand, sees the Bible as absolute and flawless. He believes that attempting to dilute or change its message for the Congo is nothing short of sinful.

  1. Contrast Brother Fowles’s ideas about the Congolese with Nathan’s.

Brother Fowles has great respect for the Congolese and for their faith. Even though they are not Christian, Brother Fowles sees how devout the natives are, saying that “Everything they do is with one eye to the spirit.” Nathan, on the other hand, sees the Congolese as nothing more than heathens worshipping pagan gods. Brother Fowles has taken on the Congo as his home, embracing the Congo method of shaking hands and even taking a Congolese wife. Nathan would never consider letting the Congo influence him, as he sees everything about the Congo as unchristian and sinful.

  1. How does Brother Fowles serve as Nathan’s foil?

Brother Fowles, like Nathan, is a Christian missionary to the Congo. Beyond that similarity, Brother Fowles and Nathan serve as opposites to each other. Brother Fowles is flexible, open-minded, and respectful of the natives of the Congo and of their religion. He is willing to allow the Congo to change him, making him into a more effective missionary and a more helpful man. Nathan has none of these traits. Rather, he is rigid, stubborn, and arrogant. It is signifi­cant to note that Brother Fowles is very popular in the village, even with Tata Ndu. Nathan is quite unpopular; some of the villagers even hate him.


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4. What lasting effect did Brother Fowles have on the doctrine of marriage in Kilanga?

Although Brother Fowles attempted to sell the idea of monogamy to the natives of Kilanga, he failed in that attempt. Nonetheless, Brother Fowles remained on speaking terms with Tata Ndu and ultimately convinced him to stop beating his wives. As a result, many private alters to Jesus appeared in the kitchens of Kilanga.

Chapter thirty-five


1. Why does Tata Ndu want to marry Rachel? What does this suggest about his character?

Although Nathan considers Tata Ndu his archenemy, Tata Ndu is not without compassion for the plight of the Prices. It is obvious that all of the Prices are thin and unhealthy because of the drought, and Tata Ndu wishes to help the Price family make ends meet. Since he knows Nathan is too proud to accept gifts, especially from him, the chief begins bargaining for Ra-chel’s hand in marriage, presenting the Prices with gifts of food. This action reveals that the chief is not without compassion or sympathy, and that he wants to help the Prices survive even though Nathan treats him as if he were evil.

Chapter thirty-six


  1. What is peculiar to Leah about the native system of government?

Unlike the system to which she is accustomed, the village of Kilanga does not govern itself on the idea that the majority rules. Rather, the inhabitants of the village argue, make deals, discuss, and debate until everyone is in agreement. The village requires unanimity before any major decision is reached. Leah finds this peculiar because she is unfamiliar with it as a system of governance.

  1. What do the Prices find stuck to the wall behind Ruth May’s bed?

They discover all of Ruth May’s quinine pills, one for every week they have been in the Congo. It becomes obvious to the Prices that Ruth May must have malaria.


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Chapter thirty-seven


1. Look at the last paragraph of the chapter, in which Rachel says, “I prefer to remain anomalous.” How is this particular malapropism significant, and how do Rachel’s continued malapropisms define her character?

Rachel certainly means to say “anonymous” instead of “anomalous.” However, her mistaken use of language reveals a lot about her character. Rachel is obviously vain and not terribly concerned with education. She wishes to return to Georgia and lead a normal, American life, forgetting entirely about Africa. However, anomalous means deviating from what is standard, normal, or expected. This is exactly the opposite of what Rachel wants for her life. The irony inherent in her malapropisms indicates that Rachel is quite oblivious to the world around her. Her self-centered nature has not changed a bit since her arrival in the Congo.

Chapter thirty-eight

Ruth May

  1. How does circumcision become a point of discussion for the Prices? How do Nathan and Orleanna respond?

In the Congo, it is apparently a requirement before marriage for a woman to undergo circum­cision (which Ruth May mistakenly hears as “circus mission”). Both Orleanna and Nathan are horrified by the idea. Tellingly, Nathan uses this practice of circumcision as evidence of how much he still needs to teach the Congolese. Orleanna points out his hypocrisy, as this is the first time he’s demonstrated any concern at all for women. Yet he still neglects his daugh­ters, endangering their lives by choosing to remain in the Congo.

  1. In this chapter, Ruth May chooses where she will disappear if she uses her nkisi. Where does she choose?

Ruth may has chosen that her spirit will vanish and reappear somewhere in the branches of a tree. Her spirit will not inhabit the tree itself, but whatever she has chosen, she will be the “same color, same everything” as the tree.


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Chapter thirty-nine


1. How do Rachel’s sisters disappoint and anger her on her birthday?

Rachel, in her trademark self-centered fashion, is outraged when she doesn’t receive enough attention on her seventeenth birthday. Ruth May is still very ill, and has a very high fever, Adah gets stung by a scorpion, and Leah ignores her birthday entirely. Rachel assumes, of course, that all of these things have happened just to “detract attention away” from her.

Chapter forty


  1. What themes are emphasized by Nathan’s mispronunciation of bängala?

It is from this mispronunciation that the novel gets its name. Nathan is so oblivious to the complexities of the Kikongo language that, as he tries to declare that Jesus is precious and beloved, he instead declares that Jesus is poisonwood. He makes this meaningful mistake over and over again. This underlines the theme of cultural arrogance, as Nathan is so sure he is preaching the inerrant Truth that he ends up preaching the opposite. This mistake also underlines the theme of the power of language. Just a small error in pronunciation has caused Nathan’s message to be threatening rather than redeeming.

  1. Why is the fact that Adah is the first narrator to mention Nathan’s mispronunciation consistent with her characterization?

Adah has been the narrator most interested in the culture and setting of her new surroundings since the beginning of the novel. In keeping with Adah’s expert ability to observe her surroundings and to notice things her family does not, she is the first to point out Nathan’s linguistic mistake. Adah remains the character most likely to notice Nathan’s many ineptitudes in his interactions with the natives.

  1. Discuss Adah’s technique of spelling each of her family member’s names backwards. What does this reveal?

Adah realizes that the Congo has changed her family. Because of her special relationship with language, Adah illustrates this by spelling their names in reverse, demonstrating the changes in their characters by the changes in the spelling. Tellingly, Nathan’s name is virtually the same backwards as it is forwards, illustrating that he has not allowed the Congo to influence him. This demonstrates his inflexibility and close-mindedness, as he is still “the same man however you look at him.”


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  1. What does Leah’s growing interest in language reveal about her character?

The theme of the power of language is being more and more developed as the novel continues. Leah is demonstrating a newfound interest in learning languages, thanks to the fact that Ana­tole is her teacher. Adah recognizes this “strange behavior regarding men,” noting the interest that Leah is taking in Anatole.

  1. How do the natives feel about Leah’s skill with a bow?

The natives call Leah bákala—an insulting term—because they see her behavior as bizarre and

unfeminine. This foreshadows future conflicts with the natives over Leah’s newfound skill.

  1. Explain Adah’s allusion to Hester Prynne.

Hester Prynne is the protagonist of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. Hester wears an embroidered scarlet A on her chest as punishment for adultery. Adah likens Leah’s bow—which has the shape of the letter D—to Hester’s scarlet letter. Just as Hester Prynne’s letter advertised her crime to the rest of her town, Leah’s bow advertises her breach of social customs in Kilanga.

Chapter forty-one


  1. How does this chapter emphasize the theme of cultural guilt?

In another of Leah and Anatole’s long conversations, they discuss the fact that the schoolboys do not respect Leah’s teaching. One of the reasons is that she is a girl, but the reason they discuss more than that is the color of Leah’s skin and her nationality. Although Leah has been living in their village for more than a year, the schoolboys still see Leah as representative of a greedy nation. Leah wonders about whether the color of her skin makes Anatole hate her or think less of her. As Leah ponders these questions, the theme of cultural guilt is emphasized. Later in the novel, the theme of how to deal with this guilt will take precedence.

  1. How does Leah refer to her father’s ideas in this chapter, and how does it reveal the development of her character?

Leah continues to undergo many changes in her way of thinking. While speaking to Ana­tole, she describes her father’s intentions as: “Crazy. It’s like he’s trying to put rubber tires on a horse.” Leah realizes, finally, that what her father is trying to bring to the Congo does not suit the place. Leah is continually developing a sense of cultural understanding, while Nathan remains stubbornly attached to the ideas he brought with him. It is also significant that Leah speaks so candidly to Anatole. She speaks to him about her father’s flaws without reservation, revealing the respect and affection she has for Anatole.


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Chapter forty-two


  1. Why does Rachel not believe Axelroot’s news that Lumumba is to be murdered? Does the reader have any knowledge that Rachel does not?

Rachel believes Axelroot is merely trying to impress her by claiming to have heard about these secret plans via his radio. Rachel believes that no one in the village owns a radio, so she believes he is making it up. However, the reader knows that Axelroot does, in fact, own a radio, thanks to Adah’s spying.

  1. Explain the significance of having the plot to murder Lumumba revealed during one of Rachel’s narrative sections.

Of the five narrators, Rachel is the least concerned with the outside world. Even the six-year old Ruth May is more concerned with events in the Congo than Rachel, who cares about politi­cal events only when they directly affect her. Thus, at this point in the novel, it is quite unusual for Rachel to reveal to the reader such an important plan. Tellingly, Rachel is not even aware of the significance of the revelation from Axelroot. Instead of pondering what this revelation could mean, she instead thinks that Axelroot has made it up in order to kiss her again. Kingsolver has perhaps put this information in one of Rachel’s sections in order to indicate that even world-changing news can mean nothing to someone so tragically self-centered. Additionally, Rachel is not prepared to believe this information because she is entirely devoted to America and believes that her own government can do no wrong.

Chapter forty-three


1. Discuss Nathan’s belief that the Congolese mothers have “a lack of genuine grief.” Is his

belief correct?

Nathan finds that the mothers who have lost children to the epidemic do not wish to speak of their dead children. Nathan tries to explain to them that if the children had been baptized, they would now be in heaven. The mothers find this to be largely irrelevant, as a dead child, whether in heaven or not, is unable to help with survival in the Congo. Nathan believes the mothers take this tone because they are not attached to their children. In fact, the mothers take this tone because the function of religion in the Congo is quite different from the Christi­anity Nathan attempts to import. The mothers need their children alive in order to help them survive on a day-to-day basis. The idea of an afterlife matters little to the Congolese when life is so precarious and dangerous.


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  1. What does Adah’s shock at discovering the murder plot reveal about her character?

Adah has always been a cynical, detached girl. Even when her family first arrived in the Congo, it was clear that she did not share the faith of her family, and that she often held them in contempt. However, Adah is genuinely shocked when she hears that the American presi­dent has orchestrated a plot to murder Lumumba. This reveals that even Adah had at least a certain amount of trust in her own culture. She had a faith that her own president would not seek to murder anyone. Her shock reveals that even the cynical Adah had a belief in the supe­riority of her own culture. In addition, her shock stands in direct contrast to Rachel’s refusal to believe the same information in the previous chapter. Rachel simply dismisses the news because she finds it implausible; Adah, on the other hand, is intelligent and analytical enough to understand that it is true.

  1. Why does Adah’s shock wear off so quickly?

Although she was quite shocked to discover Eisenhower’s plot, once Adah heard and accepted it, she began to understand it. She realizes it was foolish of her to assume that her own coun­try could be exempt from corruption or wrongdoing. Because Adah is so adaptable and so cynical, it is not difficult for her to see her own president as a barbarian, “a man with a bone in his hair.”

Chapter forty-four


1. Why is Leah so wracked with guilt, even as the nsongonya continue to threaten the village?

Leah realizes that in running for her life she has left behind her slow, crooked twin. She feels guilty for leaving her behind, even though she ran from the house out of terror and instinct. Leah feels that she has left Adah behind too many times, from their days in the womb together until this nightmare of ants.

Chapter forty-five


1. How does Rachel’s method of survival in the stampede of people reflect her character?

Rachel has proven herself to be self-centered many times in the novel. By jamming her elbows into the people beside her and allowing herself to be carried along “on everyone else’s power,” Rachel again reveals this selfishness and self-centeredness. In addition, she reveals a level of shrewdness that she has not revealed before. Although Rachel is not the smartest of the Prices, she exhibits a level of cunning in her survival skills. This newly revealed shrewdness in her character will serve her well later in her adulthood.


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Chapter forty-six

Ruth May

  1. What does Ruth May believe caused the ants to attack?

Ruth May, again revealing her fear of Jesus and her belief in a punishing God, believes that the ants are attacking out of vengeance. She believes that Jesus saw Leah feed the small ant to the ant lion and that this attack is the ants’ revenge.

  1. How does Ruth May escape the anguish of the nsongonya?

Ruth May imagines herself using the power of her nkisi. She goes to the safe place in her mind by becoming a green mamba snake in a tree, perfectly camouflaged and in a position to watch the whole world.

Chapter forty-seven


  1. How does Adah surprise herself during the attack of the ants?

Adah surprises herself merely by wanting to survive. Adah has lived her life quite detached, almost a voluntary exile. She has always been a cynical observer, and that has been how she protects herself against the injustice of her life. This night is surprising for Adah because she finds that she wants to save herself. She finds that she considers her own life precious.

  1. How does this event mark Adah’s life’s “dark center”?

Adah suffers an immense crisis during the attack of the ants. She suddenly realizes that she finds her own life precious, while also seeing Orleanna choose to save Ruth May’s life instead of hers. Adah realizes she can no longer be merely a cynical observer—she is now an active participant in her life. This is made especially painful, as she sees her mother abandon her.


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Chapter forty-eight


  1. How does this chapter mark an abrupt and final change in Leah’s faith?

While in the boat with Anatole, Leah describes an extremely important sensation: “I felt the breath of God grow cold on my skin.” The nsongonya serves as the breaking point for Leah’s belief in a god of justice. Before she came to the Congo, Leah believed in a simple God who rewarded good deeds and faith and punished bad deeds and disbelief. Since her arrival in the Congo, she has seen many things that have caused her to doubt her beliefs. The attack of the ants serves as the event that causes her to reject the clean, simple laws of her father’s religion. She describes the night as “the night God turned his back on me.”

  1. What replaces Leah’s faith immediately?

As soon as Leah suffers this final crisis of faith, her love for Anatole fills the void left behind. She repeats his name and describes this repetition as taking the place of prayer. Repeating Anatole’s name anchors her and strengthens her, and this is the first time she tells him she loves him.

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