Reference no: EM13160739
The Bean Trees
In the novel The Bean Trees, author Barbara Kingsolver brings together memorable characters with different personalities and explores their individual hardships that require important decisions as they consider their plight as outsiders with a common bond.
The Bean Trees metaphorically analyses the central theme of being an outsider with many challenges and focuses on the connection that is developed between each character as they adapt to their predicaments. Taylor Geer, who is one of the main characters, is tempestuous and practical. The feisty protagonist leaves her rural home in Pittman County, Kentucky to begin a new life with a new identity “When I drove over the Pittman line I made two promises to myself. One I kept, the other I did not. The first was that I would get myself a new name. I wasn’t crazy about anything I had been called up that point in life” (12). Lou Ann Ruiz is Taylor’s roommate and friend who is insecure and frighten of everything. Lou Ann develops low self–esteem after her husband Angel leave her and their baby Dwayne Ray because he can not cope with the reality of being an amputee. Lou Ann confides to Taylor "I feel like the only reason I have any friends at all is because I'm always careful not to say something totally dumb, and if I blow it just one time, then that's it” (89). Mattie is a kind and patient widow who owns Jesus is Lord Used Tires. Mattie strays from the law when she participates in the Sanctuary movement to help and shelter political refugees from Central America. She hires Taylor to work in her shop and they quickly become friend because of Mattie’s goodwill to immigrant strangers. Mattie relates the relationship that can be shaped when helping people in need this way “…have you ever heard of a sanctuary? It’s a place they set aside for birds, were nobody can shoot them. Well they’ve got them for people too” (82). Turtle is the nickname of a three-year Cherokee girl who is abandoned as an orphan and left on the car seat of Taylors Volkswagen by her dead mother’s sister. Turtle who’s real is April is catatonic from physical and sexual abuse. The withdrawn little girl find comfort and assurance in Taylor, but prefers to go unobserved. Taylor explains, “Turtles main goal in life, other than hanging on to things, seemed to be passed unnoticed” (81). Estevan and Esperanza are two married political refugee from Guatemala. They are in America illegally and are receiving help from Mattie because they cannot obtain they’re goal of political asylum since they lack proof of persecution. Estevan is an English teacher with good moral principles, but has to endure the ignorance and bigotry of some American citizen who see illegal immigrants as a threat to the welfare of the country. Estevan expresses his view of the American mindset to Taylor “You believe that if something terrible happens to someone, they deserve it” (123). Esperanza is extremely depressed and attempted suicide because of a choice she made in Guatemala to give up her daughter who was taken by the authorities because they refused to divulge the names of people wanted by the government. “You cannot know what Esperanza has had to go through,” Estevan said To Taylor (142). Each character reveals what it’s like to be an outsider. Each person has a unique circumstance that sets him or her apart from each other, but brings about a type of connection that make them feel collectively like insiders. As the novel progresses, the characters change drastically. They learn about the conditions of human behavior and personal conviction toward each other.
Taylor Geer discovers important things about herself and life. Taylor becomes more worldly as she witness the cruelties of human suffering and becomes sympathetic to the personal tragedy of a tormented little girl, political refuges on the run, and a friend who struggles not to offend people for fear of rejection. By bringing love to Turtle, Taylor is able to restore the damaged little girls hope in people and give her the confidence to speak for the first time. In a conversation with Mattie she recounts the irony of her life, “Do you know, I spent the first half of my life avoiding motherhood and tires, and now I’m counting them as blessings” (144).
Lou Ann is a single mother after her husband Angel leaves her because of his failure to deal with his disability. Lou Ann is forced to care for their son Dwayne Ray, by her self with a meager income and the lacks self-confidence to face confrontation. After she and Taylor become roommates, they establish a bond that is more like a family. Taylor helps Lou Ann break out of her low self-esteem and become more opinionated. One day Lou Ann laments about things that have bothered her in the past, but will no longer ignore, “That door’s what gets me. The way they made the door handle. Like a woman is something you shove on and walk through. I’ve tried to ignore it, but it still gets me” (165).
Three-year-old Turtle spent must of her young life trying to be quite and anonymous. The abuse Turtle had endured left her an empty shell and invisible until Taylor came along. After Turtle felt safe enough in the world, she began to respond to the people around her through her trust in Taylor. She would develop an immense love for vegetables and everything that came from the earth naturally. Turtles first word uttered was “Bean” after Taylor and Mattie were teaching her how to plant seeds in a garden (102). Turtle would again withdraw from the world when she was nearly molested by a stranger in the park. However, Taylor’s love would persevere.
The women in The Bean Trees are a reflection about the burden of Womanhood and tough decisions. Each female character is conflicted with heavy responsibilities and only has the support of each other. The issues that are thrust upon them require noble actions that also have risky consequences. Taylor Geer made an important decision in her life when the woman form the reservation told her to “Take this baby” (18). Taylors initial instincts were that if she wanted a baby she would have stayed were she was from. Taylor and Turtle experience a large psychological transformation that develops after assumes responsibility of the baby. Lou Ann discovers her inter fortitude and become self determined after receiving encouragement form Taylor and the people in her life. Turtle regains her original name April after she feels confident enough to respond to it. Each female personality undergoes a symbolic rebirth that is brought on by shared hardship and personal misfortune.
The Bean Trees is a novel about change and transformation. It promotes the reliance of conviction and courage to survive as an outsider. There are metaphorical suggestions about nature and growth and the willingness to adapt. Most importantly The Bean Trees is about family and love coming together under any circumstance.
Kingsolver, Barbara. The Bean Trees.
First Harper Perennial Modern Classics edition. Print. 2009.