The Bronze Bow Essay Questions
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...
(The entire section is 742 words.)
The Bronze Bow is set in Roman-occupied Israel during the time of Jesus. Eighteen-year-old Daniel bar Jamin is living in the hills above Galilee. He has been there for five years, having escaped a life of slavery.
Daniel, however, also had other reasons for fleeing his home. At the age of eight, he witnesses the execution of his father and uncle by the Roman forces. His uncle’s original crime had been failure to pay taxes. Instead of saving money, Daniel’s uncle impetuously buys his wife a gold shawl for the naming ceremony of their first child. He intends to do extra work to make up the loss before the due date, but the tax collectors arrive early. He is arrested and destined for a short life of hard labor in the quarries. Daniel’s aunt nearly goes insane.
Moved to help them both, Daniel’s father and some friends plan to free the uncle as the troops lead their prisoners to the quarries. They attack, but all are captured. The punishment for the rebellion is crucifixion.
Daniel’s mother is inconsolable. She stays by the crosses for two days and nights to be near her husband. As a result, she contracts a deadly illness. She too dies a few weeks later.
But the tragedy does not stop there. Daniel’s sister, Leah, just five years old at the time, is so traumatized that she appears to lose her mind. Although it may appear obvious to modern readers that her condition is caused by the horror of losing her parents, the explanation for her subsequent odd behavior is that Leah is possessed by demons.
Care of the children falls to their aging grandmother. She tries to support Daniel and Leah, but she is little more than a peasant. Financial hardship forces the grandmother to sell Daniel to the local blacksmith, Amalek, for a period of ten years.
After the third year of his slavery, Daniel has had enough. Hatred for the Romans consumes him. He thinks of nothing but his desire to avenge his parents and to see his country free of Roman rule. He makes a solemn vow to God that he will fight until this is accomplished or until he dies.
In the mountains, Daniel meets a radical rebel leader, Rosh. Rosh too is fueled by hatred of the Romans. He leads a ragtag group that attack and usually kill any Roman who crosses their path. Rosh teaches Daniel that stealing is acceptable, even from fellow Jews, arguing that support for the rebel fighters is necessary and that no true Jew would resent the loss of a sheep or a few dollars if it helps support the cause.
To young Daniel, Rosh is just the sort of leader Israel has been waiting for: one who actively tries to oust the Romans instead of passively sitting by. Daniel is more than glad to contribute to the rebellion. He hones both his smithy skills and his hatred, sharpening them to lethal force every day that he spends serving Rosh.
Although Daniel shares with his rebel clan the bond of hatred, he feels alone. But one day, while out on watch on the mountain, Daniel spies two young people, a boy and a girl. Longing for contact, Daniel comes out from hiding, and the three teenagers meet face to face.
Daniel knows the pair—Joel bar Hezron and his sister, Malthace—from the synagogue school. Joel is excited to learn that Daniel is one of Rosh’s men....
(The entire section is 1351 words.)