The Bean Trees
The Bean Trees by Barbara Kinsolver is a book that discusses many of
the problems in today’s society. I found it to be over all insightful yet a
little boring at time. There are many hidden meaning and symbols too
many to mention so I’ll look at just a few.
One of the main symbols appears right at the beginning of the novel. The
symbol is the tires and how Missy (later named Taylor) fears them. The
tires come up several times in the story and so does Taylor’s fear of
them. This fear originated from the accident with a tractor tire that
Taylor viewed as a child. Her fear leads to an irony later in the story
when Taylor is asked by Mattie, a friend of hers, to work at a tire shop.
This is very ironic when she takes the job because she has tried to avoid
tires and even got nervous when changing her car tire. Yet she ends up
working in the shop and overcoming this fear with help from Mattie.
This also is an example of how Taylor is a round character and grows
throughout the story. Another irony near the beginning of the story is
when Taylor’s car breaks down and she is given an Indian baby, she
finds herself in the predicament that she was trying to avoid in
Kentucky. Back in Kentucky she was proud that she made it through
high school without becoming pregnant and having to take on that
responsibility. When she leaves her home town she also wants to leave it
all behind. It’s is symbolized by her changing her name and leaving
without second thoughts.
I found it interesting that Kingsolver decided to make Taylor one eighth
Indian and have the baby full Indian. This might have been done to try
and make it seem like there was a type of natural connection between
them to begin with. “I found my head rights, Mama. They’re coming
with me.” The name that the baby was giving also seemed to have
meaning. Taylor says she was called Turtle because of her tight grip, but
she also has another characteristic of a turtle. When a Turtle feels
threatened in the wild it will hide in it’s shell and shut itself off from the
world. Turtle, the child, dose the same thing when she is first found and
also when she is attacked by the stranger. She goes into a daze mentally
shutting herself off from the world.
In the second chapter we meet Lou Ann a soon to be mother that is
having troubles with her marriage. Later she has a baby boy and her
husband ends up moving out. Lou Ann has a parallel situation to Taylor,
they’re both on their own and have to take on the responsibility of a
child. When they move in together they find out that they situations may
be similar, but their personalities are quite different. On one hand
Taylor is a person who is very motivated; she speaks her mind most of
the time. Lou Ann is very timid, never wanting to cause trouble and
doesn’t really stick up for herself or any of her idea’s. Throughout the
story both of them show that they’re are round character, by how they
grow. Taylor realizes the important of friend and family. She finds out
that people you’re close to can become like a family to you. Lou Ann
learns to stick up for herself and what she believes in.
This novel also shows how society has many different classes that people
are put into. Esperanza and Estevan talk about the classes of people
where they come from and how the different classes can’t mix or even
eat together. When they come to America they are put in a class as
refugees. Taylor talks about being knowing as a Nutter back in school
which was like a class she ended up in. Lou Ann, Taylor, Esperanza and
Estevan could all be classified as Nutters in a way they all are kind of
outsiders and find a sense of belonging and of community with each
Family is a very important theme in this story and is developed
throughout the novel. Kingsolver looks at many different family
situations and how families aren’t allways bounded by blood. One thing I
found interesting is how almost all the families in the story had a
demented father figure or didn’t have one at all. Most of the familiess
had been split up in some way or anther. Taylor left her family, Lou
Ann’s husband leaves her, Esperanza and Estevan had to leave their
families. Yet this seems to help form new families. Near the end they talk
about the bean plant and how is needs the rhizobia to survive. This kind
of symbolizes Taylor and her new family and friends. They also learn to
rely on each other.
I think two theme statements for this novel could be:
1 – The concept of family, isn’t always just people who are related by
blood or law. True families are connect by something much stronger.
This is showing by the way Taylor takes Turtle in as a family member.
2 – Passion for a cause dose not relate to passion for the people involved.
This is showing by Mattie being more concerned in her cause, and not
getting caught then about what could happen to the people who help her.
Overall this novel was fairly good for an assigned novel. I thought it gave
a good insight into human nature, and the concept of “family”. On the
other hand I found it a little long. I thought that parts of it seemed to
drag a little bit.
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