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Topic #1: Malthace, Leah, and Other Women as Protagonists

I. Thesis Statement: Although some readers might feel that Daniel is the chief protagonist of Speare’s novel, the women of The Bronze Bow exemplify behavior that is both extraordinary and heroic. Malthace proves intelligent, brave, and loving. Leah, despite her trauma, overcomes her enormous personal “demons” to become a thoughtful young woman whose work in the home is invaluable. Throughout The Bronze Bow, major and minor female characters act in ways that make them true protagonists.

II. Malthace overcomes traditional prejudices about the abilities of women.

A. Malthace is portrayed as an equal to her twin from the first chapter. She travels with him on holiday and is portrayed as an athlete, scampering up the rocks “like a mountain goat.”

B. Thacia correctly interprets the meaning of David’s verse concerning “the bronze bow.” Even though it is her brother who is the scholar, Malthace has an innate ability to analyze and think things through.

C. She insists that she be allowed to take the vow to fight for freedom and offers solid argument for her position by citing other women in the Bible who have served God.

III. The character of Leah is a more traditional but still valuable female protagonist.

A. Leah, without any modern means of counseling, overcomes the unbelievable trauma of witnessing her parents’ and grandmother’s deaths, her brother’s slavery, and his extended abandonment of her.

B. Leah does work in the home that Daniel is unable to do. Without her efforts, the home would not function.

C. Leah’s loom, a metaphor for her ability to keep the family together, also brings in needed income. Her fine work also garners the respect of the community.

D. Leah is the first to extend her love beyond her ethnic group by falling in love with Marcus, a Roman soldier.

IV. Minor female characters also act in admirable ways.

A. A woman believes in the healing power of Jesus without having to visually inspect her son’s injured hand.

B. Though she fears Leah’s supposed demonic possession, one woman nonetheless brings the gift of a wick and some oil when Daniel’s grandmother is dying.

C. A woman offers Daniel the gift of a needle when he buys cloth for Leah.

Topic #2: The Importance of the Law in Jewish Society and Jesus’s Radicalism

I. Thesis Statement: One cannot properly understand how radical the ideas of Jesus were without a workable knowledge of the importance of the Law of Moses to Jewish society. The Law informed every aspect of an observant Jew’s life—from hand washing to festival preparations to the requirements surrounding deaths and births. For Jesus to come and dismiss the Law as secondary to anything else was unthinkable for most, but not all, Jewish people.

II. Ritual and adherence to the Law was paramount in Jewish life.

A. Joel and Malthace transported water up the hill to stay under observant rule.

B. After the “second call” of the Sabbath, it was forbidden to work.

C. Women were required to eat apart from men.

D. The Pharisees (for example, Rabbi Hezron) believed that the Law would last longer than any aggressors.

III. Allusions in the novel to biblical figures give credence to the importance of the Law.

A. David, who calls for action in his verse “the bronze bow,” defeated a giant with only a rock.

B. Enoch—the prophet from whom Daniel, Joel, and Malthace draw inspiration—said that God would send thousands of men to judge everyone and punish the guilty for their crimes.

C. Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego trust God to deliver them from the fiery furnace.

IV. Jesus’s radicalism is perceived as a threat to the authority of the Law.

A. Jesus tells women that the ritual washing of hands is “not needful.” Furthermore, Jesus is as open to listening to women and children as he is to men. In a strictly segmented society, such fraternization was decidedly unsettling and sometimes illegal.

B. Jesus insists that everyone can have God’s grace. The opening of the kingdom of God is akin to blasphemy to the Jews, who believed that the Law denied salvation to “unclean” Gentiles.

C. Jesus teaches during times that are restricted by the Law. The scribes and priests feel that Jesus is “too free” and want to kill him for threatening both the Law’s authority and their own.

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