The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible

Ruth May Price Character Analysis

The youngest of the Price children, Ruth May is a plucky, adventurous five-year-old when the novel begins. The chapters narrated from her point of view tend to be short and to-the-point, as there are many times when Ruth May can see, very clearly, what the older and more experienced characters in the book struggle to understand. For much of the novel, Ruth May is dangerously ill, since she refuses to take her malaria pills. Just when she seems to be regaining her health, she’s bitten by a snake, and dies suddenly. Ruth May’s untimely death sets in motion the events of the second half of the novel: Orleanna’s flight from the Congo, Leah’s powerful sense of guilt, etc. In the novel’s Epilogue, she’s presented as a spirit, looking back at her family with love, wisdom, and affection.

Ruth May Price Quotes in The Poisonwood Bible

The The Poisonwood Bible quotes below are all either spoken by Ruth May Price or refer to Ruth May Price. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Harper Perennial edition of The Poisonwood Bible published in 1999.
Book 1, Chapter 3 Quotes

God says the Africans are the Tribes of Ham. Ham was the worst one of Noah’s three boys: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Everybody comes down on their family tree from just those three, because God made a big flood and drowneded out the sinners. But Shem, Ham, and Japheth got on the boat so they were A-okay. Ham was the youngest one, like me, and he was bad. Sometimes I am bad, too.

Related Characters: Ruth May Price (speaker)
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 2, Chapter 15 Quotes

The boys said, “Patrice Lumumba!” I told Leah that means the new soul of Africa, and he’s gone to jail and Jesus is real mad about it. I told her all that! I was the youngest one but I knew it. I lay so still against the tree branch I was just the same everything as the tree. I was like a green mamba snake. Poison. I could be right next to you and you wouldn’t ever know it.

Related Characters: Ruth May Price (speaker), Leah Price, Patrice Lumumba
Page Number: 124
Explanation and Analysis:

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Ruth May Price Character Timeline in The Poisonwood Bible

The timeline below shows where the character Ruth May Price appears in The Poisonwood Bible. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 1, Chapter 2
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
...Rachel jokes with Adah, her sister. When the family disembarks in Leopoldville, Leah’s younger sister, Ruth May , faints. She revives very quickly, but the incident disturbs Orleanna. (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 3
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
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Women and Sexism Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Ruth May Price begins by reciting something her father taught her: the Bible argues that the Africans are... (full context)
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age 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... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 4
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
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Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
...outnumbered: there’s a huge crowd in the street. She feels a wave of sympathy when Ruth May , who’s only five years old, faints. Rachel thinks to herself that Ruth May is... (full context)
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
...crowd, Rachel takes a good look at her siblings: the twins (Leah and Adah) and Ruth May . Adah is shorter than Leah because of her “handicap.” Together, the Price children are... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 6
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Leah watches as her sisters explore their new home. Ruth May is scared of the neighbors, claiming that they’ll eat her alive. Rachel claims that she’s... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 8
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Ruth May notices the children in her new home. They have strange names and, in spite of... (full context)
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Ruth May considers her other neighbors, like Mama Mwanza. Mama Mwanza’s house burned down several years ago,... (full context)
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Ruth May reports that Rachel has become badly sunburned. Nathan thought that being in the Congo would... (full context)
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
Ruth May remembers her father’s rocking chair back in Georgia, a chair that only Nathan was allowed... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 14
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
...knowledge of their own language. She also wishes she had friends to play with. Eventually, Ruth May finds other children to play with. Leah notes that Ruth May is amazingly strong-willed for... (full context)
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One day, Leah returns from spying on Axelroot to find Ruth May playing “Mother May I?” (a children’s game) with a group of young Congolese children. One... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 15
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
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Imperialism Theme Icon
Ruth May breaks her arm while spying on the “African Communist Boy Scouts.” To begin her story,... (full context)
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
Ruth May slips and falls out of the tree after the Jeune Mou-Pro march by. She’s able... (full context)
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
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Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
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Nathan flies with Ruth May to the nearest reliable doctor, as Axelroot flies them out of the town in a... (full context)
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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... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 19
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
Ruth May reports that she tried to see Nelson naked. When Nelson gets up in the morning... (full context)
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Nelson tells Ruth May that the people of the village have “one foot in the church and one foot... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 22
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Imperialism Theme Icon
...Axelroot to pick up more quinine pills (necessary for treating diseases like malaria). Rachel, unlike Ruth May , is careful to always take her pills—she’s too vain to risk catching a disease. (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 23
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
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Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Ruth May reports that Nathan and Leah flew away “on the plane.” This isn’t Axelroot’s plane, but... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 29
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
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Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Ruth May describes lying down with her mother and looking at the world sideways. As she lies... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 30
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
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...cut off the Prices’ stipend, leaving them wanting for food. At this time, Orleanna and Ruth May become sick and feverish. Nathan ignores them, however. He just continues with his preaching, leaving... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 31
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
After some three weeks, Leah manages to get Ruth May out of bed, in spite of her sickness. Leah reads books to Ruth May and... (full context)
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
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...all of what he said. With this, Anatole bids Leah farewell, and Leah returns to Ruth May , who seems listless and tired. Leah realizes that there’s a very real chance that... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 32
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
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Ruth May is confined to bed, where she has feverish dreams about black children playing with her... (full context)
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Ruth May wakes up from her delirium and sees Nelson sitting in front of her. Nelson tells... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 33
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
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Women and Sexism Theme Icon
While Ruth May continues to be sick, Orleanna gets better. Leah wonders if she’s accidentally made Ruth May... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 34
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Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Ruth May (who’s been feeling better lately) greets “Mr. Bird” with curiosity. Bird is calm and thoughtful.... (full context)
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
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Imperialism Theme Icon
Before Fowles leaves, Orleanna asks him about Ruth May ’s fever. Fowles admits that there are few good doctors around, but Celine suggests that... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 35
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Ruth May ’s condition gets worse once again, even though she’d been improving immediately before Reverend Fowles’s... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 36
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Meanwhile, Ruth May isn’t doing well—she has horrible rashes all over her body. One day, the Prices are... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 38
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Ruth May isn’t sure if Rachel is going to marry Tata Ndu or not. She’s heard that... (full context)
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Orleanna insists that Ruth May take her malaria pills. Ruth May has been avoiding taking the pills because she finds... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 39
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
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...bracelet. Rachel thanks Orleanna, but is dismayed when Orleanna then returns to taking care of Ruth May . (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 40
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...is bangala,” but he pronounces “bangala” in such a way that it means “poisonwood.” Meanwhile, Ruth May makes a quick recovery from her disease, and yet Nathan seems strangely indifferent to the... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 46
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
Ruth May describes the scene in the village: everyone screams as they run away from the ants.... (full context)
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Women and Sexism Theme Icon
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Ruth May and Orleanna reach the river, where they see Adah. Orleanna moves to talk to Adah,... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 47
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
...however, she was able to wake up and move away just in time. Orleanna carried Ruth May out of the house, saying that Nathan had already run out. Adah tries to keep... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 48
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
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Imperialism Theme Icon
...the river, noticing that Anatole is behind her, carrying Adah. He explains that Orleanna and Ruth May have gone ahead with Tata Boanda. Rachel, Anatole says, is a “demon,” and Nathan is... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 49
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
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Imperialism Theme Icon
On the day that the CIA condemned Lumumba to die, Ruth May was feverish and Rachel was turning 17. The CIA told Mobutu that he would have... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 50
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It’s been a tough couple of months for the Prices, with the drought, Ruth May ’s illness, and the ants. Lately, Leah has also been unimpressed with Nathan’s enthusiasm for... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 52
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
...the forest. Adah joins some of the elderly women, who carry ceremonial torches. Orleanna and Ruth May also walk along, surveying the hunters’ progress. Men light most of the forest on fire,... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 55
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
The hunt ends, and the villagers celebrate by dancing and shouting. Ruth May is scared of the celebration and hides in Orleanna’s arms. Meanwhile, a few of the... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 58
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Leah, staring at the chicken house, hears a sudden gulp—it’s Ruth May , who’s secretly been climbing the trees above the chicken house. Ruth May falls down,... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 59
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Adah notes that she was not present when Ruth May was born, but she was there when Ruth May died. She sees her little sister... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 60
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Women and Sexism Theme Icon
Rachel has just learned from Leah and Adah that Ruth May is dead. Rachel, as the eldest child, decides that she will tell her parents of... (full context)
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
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...the last year pretending that her life in the Congo isn’t real. But now that Ruth May is gone, she can’t pretend anymore—her sister’s death brings home the shocking reality of her... (full context)
Book 4, Chapter 61
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Leah describes how Orleanna takes the news of Ruth May ’s death. She’s eerily calm, as if she already knew what had happened. Nathan’s reaction... (full context)
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
Imperialism Theme Icon
...making a “funeral arch” out of leaves. Leah and her sisters pray to God for Ruth May ’s soul, mostly out of habit. It begins to rain, and Nathan stares out at... (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 62
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
...that her grief will follow her wherever she goes. She once had a daughter named Ruth May , and now she doesn’t. Ever since her child’s death, she’s been trying to “stay... (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 63
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
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...his post in Kilanga for any reason. In the last few months, since just before Ruth May ’s death, Leah has grown much closer with her mother than her father. Leah imagines... (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 64
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...that she must have “done something right,” as she didn’t die in the Congo, like Ruth May , after all. (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 68
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...17, the anniversary of the day on which the Congo lost its newfound independence and Ruth May lost her life. (full context)
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
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...works as a secondary school teacher. Yet Leah carries the memory of her little sister, Ruth May , deep inside her. (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 73
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
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Race, Racism, and Culture Theme Icon
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...legendary “five wives” must have been a reference to the rest of his family: Orleanna, Ruth May , Adah, Leah, and Rachel. (full context)
Book 5, Chapter 74
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
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...Orleanna tells Adah that not a single woman in Georgia has ever asked her how Ruth May died, or about Nathan the “crazy evangelist.” Adah only says, “I despised him. He was... (full context)
Book 7
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
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...her to be still. She describes a scene: Orleanna leading her four children—including the youngest, Ruth May —through a forest, until their movements disturb an okapi. The narrator explains that because of... (full context)
Freedom, Growth, and Coming-of-age Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
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...scene—Orleanna leads her three children through a market. They have come to say goodbye to Ruth May , but also to say goodbye to Orleanna, who’s quite old, herself. The narrator reports... (full context)
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Orleanna sees a man who’s about the age that Ruth May would be if she’d survived her snakebite. As Orleanna thinks about this, the narrator explains... (full context)