The Bean Trees Essay

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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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