The Poisonwood Bible

by Barbara Kingsolver

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Who are the "Judges" in book 3 of The Poisonwood Bible by Kingsolver?

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Kingsolver does not refer to anyone directly as a judge in book 3 of The Poisonwood Bible. However, Orleanna feels that Ruth May is judging her. Throughout this section of the book, Orleanna and the four girls become critical judges of Nathan. This leads to their gradual rebellion against him as the head of the family.

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Book 3 of The Poisonwood Bible is titled "The Judges." Kingsolver does not explicitly name who the judges are, but the reader can make that determination by way of context. It is likely that the title of this section is partly in reference to the biblical book of Judges. Indeed, it opens by quoting Judges 2:2–3. However, there are clearly people handing down and receiving judgment in this section, namely the women of the Price family. Kingsolver implies that there is a lot of guilt and judgment to go around within this family.

Book 3 opens with a chapter from Orleanna.

Listen, little beast. Judge me as you will, but first listen. I am your mother. What happened to us could have happened anywhere to any mother. (191)

Orleanna is wracked with guilt over the death of her youngest daughter and addresses the long confession and explanation that follows to her. We learn later that "little beast" refers to Ruth May. In this sense, the memory of Ruth May may very well be the family's judge.

Furthermore, the following chapters in this section deal with the family slowly and gradually losing faith in Nathan. They begin to see him as the arrogant, hypocritical, and abusive man that he really is. By the end of this section, the once-obedient wife and daughters are openly questioning and disobeying the family patriarch. They have become the judges and pass a harsh judgment on Nathan.

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