The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible Book 1, Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Ruth May Price begins by reciting something her father taught her: the Bible argues that the Africans are the children of Ham, the “worst of Noah’s three children.” Ruth May sometimes identifies with Ham, because they’re both youngest siblings, and Ruth May, like Ham, is sometimes bad.
Ruth May is referring to an interpretation of the Bible that used to be quite common: the idea that black people are descended from Ham, Noah’s youngest, “cursed” child. For centuries, the story of Ham was used as a justification for slavery, colonialism, and other racist atrocities.
Themes
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Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Ruth May describes how black people back home in Georgia conduct themselves: they’re forced to attend different schools, and never really associate with white people. Ruth May is afraid to go to Africa, because one of her classmates warned her that the Africans would boil her and eat her. She consoles herself by bringing comic books on the airplane: Cinderella, Donald Duck, etc.
Ruth May is brought up in the Jim Crow South, meaning that she’s probably been exposed to many racist ideas (like the Ham thesis). But she’s also young enough that she hasn’t had much time to internalize these racist beliefs, and so she retains a kind of innocence the rest of the family can’t access.
Themes
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon