The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible

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The Poisonwood Bible Book 3, Chapter 38 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Ruth May isn’t sure if Rachel is going to marry Tata Ndu or not. She’s heard that Rachel is considering marrying Axelroot, instead. Ruth May doesn’t like this, since she finds Axelroot mean. Tata Ndu continues to come to the house to ask about Rachel. He explains to Nathan that Rachel must be taken to be “cut” so that she won’t try to “run around with other people’s husbands.” Nathan is appalled by this information, and shares it with Orleanna. Ruth May is confused, thinking, “Since when did he care about protecting young ladies?”
Ruth May is too young to keep the secret of Rachel’s engagement, so her family doesn’t tell her anything about Rachel—they just leave her to figure it out for herself. This is a disturbing section, because it alludes to female genital mutilation—a common practice in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Female genital mutilation is often cited as an example of extreme misogyny in non-Western culture (Alice Walker alludes to it in this way in The Color Purple).
Themes
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Orleanna insists that Ruth May take her malaria pills. Ruth May has been avoiding taking the pills because she finds them disgusting. Meanwhile, the doctor in Stanleyville has removed her cast. Ruth May wonders if God is punishing her for being bad: for trying to see Nelson naked, not taking her pills, etc.
Ruth May continues to live in fear of God—Nathan has impressed upon her the idea that someone is always watching her and judging her. Because of the way the chapter is structured, the message is clear enough: many cultures try to limit female sexuality in dangerous, misogynist ways.
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Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon