The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible Book 2, Chapter 15 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Ruth May breaks her arm while spying on the “African Communist Boy Scouts.” To begin her story, Ruth May explains that she was climbing up in a tree when she noticed a group of young men dressed in uniforms. Ruth May climbs trees in the afternoon, since Orleanna encourages her to study in the morning (Nathan, by contrast, insists that women shouldn’t go to college). On this particular day, Ruth May witnesses the young men marching by. Later, Nathan and Orleanna tell her that these men are the “Jeune Mou-Pro,” and warn her to avoid them. (Ruth May thinks that Orleanna is saying “Jim Crow.”)
Here we’re reminded that Nathan hates the notion of women educating themselves, but also that Orleanna’s loyalty to her children is so great that she’s defying her husband’s orders. Jeune Mou-Pro was a real-life Congolese Communist group that lobbied for political autonomy from the European and American powers during the early 60s. “Jim Crow” is just the opposite of what the Jeune Mou-Pro represents: instead of accepting their status as second-class citizens on the international stage, the Congolese Communists are fighting for their freedom and equality.
Themes
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
Ruth May slips and falls out of the tree after the Jeune Mou-Pro march by. She’s able to run back to her home, her arm in great pain. Orleanna discovers that Ruth May has broken her arm. She is angry with Ruth May, but she’s afraid that if Nathan finds out that Ruth May was climbing trees he’ll whip Ruth May. Eeben Axelroot is around the area, and he comes to the house to treat the broken arm. He provides a sling and other treatments for the injury. Axelroot insists that Ruth May needs to be taken to a doctor—but this will require her flying out of the town.
It’s telling that even with Ruth May in great pain, Orleanna is afraid to tell Nathan what happened—clearly, she knows that Nathan will hurt his family if he finds out. It’s a little too convenient that Axelroot is in the area immediately after a meeting of the Jeune Mou-Pro: it’s suggested that he’s been spying on them, the same as Ruth May herself.
Themes
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
Nathan flies with Ruth May to the nearest reliable doctor, as Axelroot flies them out of the town in a plane he owns. The doctor asks Nathan about the Jeune Mou-Pro, and seems surprised that they’ve come to Kilanga already. The doctor also seems to take issue with Nathan’s being a missionary—he suggests that it’s a bad way to “deliver the social services.” Nathan is furious. He claims that he’s bringing salvation to the Congolese, and the doctor yells back that Nathan is delusional. He says that nothing has changed in the Congo: first the Belgians enslaved the Congolese, and now the Americans have condemned them to survive on slave wages. Nathan claims that the Belgians and Americans brought civilization to the Congo, like roads. The doctor points out that the only roads the Belgians ever built were for transporting diamonds and rubber out of the country. He also mentions a young leader named Patrice Lumumba—the “new soul of Africa.” This man, the doctor claims, has a bigger following than Jesus. Lumumba has been sent to jail for his political views, but will be released shortly.
This is a key scene because it provides a snapshot of what the educated population in the Congo (i.e., a doctor) thought of the Congolese liberation movement. While some, like Nathan, believe that the European and American intervention in the Congo has been useful for the country, the doctor in this scene can see that European intervention hasn’t made the country a better place at all: it’s mostly just deprived the Congo of its natural resources. (The Belgians established factories and mines in the Congo, beginning in the late 19th century, that were internationally condemned for their systematic brutality and cruelty to the Congolese people, who were often forced to work as slaves.) This is also the first we hear of Patrice Lumumba—he already appears as a symbol of Congolese independence from Europe.
Themes
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
Back in Kilanga, Ruth May nurses her injured arm. She notices that the Belgian Army shares territory with the “Jimmy Crow” boys. Some of the young boys in the community shout the name “Patrice Lumumba!” Ruth May tells Leah that Lumumba represents the new soul of Africa.
After decades of European tyranny, the Congolese want to be in control of their own society, and in this respect Patrice Lumumba represents hope.
Themes
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
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