SYMBOLISM IN BOOK THREE – THE JUDGES
These chapters let the reader know that things aren’t always what they appear to be. For instance, Anatole believes that Lumumba is bluffing about the Congo having Russia as an ally. Anatole describes this bluff, “… like a hen who puffs up her feathers like so, very big, to show the snake she is too big to eat (Kingsolver: pg. 233).” Here the snake represents the Europeans or westerners.
Another example is when Leah is pushing Ruth May on the swing and she see’s Ruth May’s shadow transform into another image “….her shadow legs were transformed into the thin, curved legs of an antelope, with small rounded hooves at the bottom instead of feet …but still it’s frightening when things you love appear suddenly changed from what you have always known (Kingsolver: pg. 236).”
Orleanna Price also transforms in these chapters from a submissive wife to an independent thinker and doer. She makes her mind up that it’s time to leave the Congo with the children no matter what Pastor Price, her husband thinks.
This is also a turning point for Leah who starts to doubt her father’s judgement. She questions the reasons why her father brought them to the Congo in the first place and starts to wonder if her father could be wrong about other things.
Rachel begins to see similarities between the Congolese and Christians symbols. She notes that the Christians wear crosses around their necks just like the Congolese wear their evil-eye fetishes. Furthermore, the Price girls start to realize that the Congolese are very religious people and not evil just because they pray to their pagan gods. “Everything they do is with one eye to the spirit. When they plant their yams and manioc, they’re praying. When they harvest, they’re praying (Kingsolver: pg. 246)”.
Also Pastor Price gets a lesson from Brother Fowles about the Bible and how many translations there are and any person who reads it can interpret things differently. Brother Fowles also teaches Orleanna, “…there are Christians and then there are Christians (Kingsolver: pg. 255)” where he implying that Pastor Price’s intent to save the Congolese people is off.
Tata Ndu’s courting behaviours were also mistaken for something different. The Price’s thought he was being friendly and helping them but in fact he wanted a wife, Rachel.
Ruth May’s world begins to collapse around her. She begins to discover that people aren’t who they appear to be.
Book Three ends with African army ants invading their village and everyone is left to fight for their lives. Orleanna chooses her youngest, Ruth May, to save and Adah fends for herself.
Importantly, these chapters show how easy it is to get things mixed up. Pastor Price shouts at the end of his sermons that ‘Tata Jesus is Bangala!’ which, however you pronounce it could mean either something precious and dear or the poisonwood tree.