The Bean Trees



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This essay examines the way each individual character develops emotionally while being portrayed through other animals, characters and plants in Barbera Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees. Focusing mainly on the three important characters: Taylor, Turtle and Lou Ann who have the most extravagant transformations. Taylor, a young girl looking to find her own path in life, leaves town to avoid all the disagreeable affairs surrounding her. Throughout the novel she is able to look past her opinion of men and raise a new life although that was what she was trying to run away from.

Turtle, the young girl who was brought up into this world has run into more horrible things than most people encounter in their lifetimes. She is introduced to make a strong point about how women are born a burden already as it is because of their gender. Despite all these horrible actions drawn upon this young life, Turtle manages to emotionally grow the most, which is often represented by birds. Lou Ann, their great friend which Taylor and Turtle encounter, becomes family towards the end. She would always have a very negative view of herself and would never speak up.

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Most of her voice seemed to be taken away once her husband left her. Once she is finally able to gain her own independence we begin to see the original Lou Ann again, strong, confident woman who is finally able to stand up for her own opinion. From Kingsolver’s novel, one can draw that no matter how bad life seems there is always a better way of looking at it and one is able to get by optimistically. Word count: 272 Characters are what make novels what they are, without them; there would be no way to express what the author of the novel is trying to say.

When focusing on the characters and their development one gets a meticulous view of what each character has experienced and how they have grown to become what they are in the end. Throughout many examples in this novel, Kingsolver has amazingly shown how life goes on even when death comes in the way, as life is continuous. When certain things die, new experiences come out of it which brings a sense of freedom. When The Bean Trees was published in 1988, it was very well appreciated since it touched many social issues happening during American history at that time.

Most critics were impressed with the way Kingsolver could produce such a great dialogue while touching on these issues. Karen Fitzgerald in her 1988 review of the book in Ms. asserted that: “in spite of the novel’s strong political views, Kingsolver’s characters are vivid and believable enough that they never become “mouthpieces for the party line,” causing politics to overshadow plot”1. Some however disagree, a review of the same year in the New York Times by Jack Butler made comments on how “the characters are not believable, seeing them “purified to types” as the novel progresses, and thus lacking depth and color”2.

Throughout the novel, Kingsolver shows us in different ways how each individual develops as well as giving the reader a feel of how tough it was in America in those days for women especially. This essay examines the way each individual character develops emotionally while being portrayed through other animals, characters and plants in Barbera Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees. Taylor Greer, the protagonist of the novel starts off in a small town where women are very dependent of men for the most part.

Except for Taylor who has created some sort of ‘negative identity’, she has managed to stay out of trouble and her mother knew this as well: barefoot and pregnant was not my style3. Taylor is meant to represent Kingsolver’s childhood as she mentions in an interview where she states that: In her time of adolescence there was immense pressure on girls to play some sort of a Russian roulette with our bodies. And if you won, you could be the most popular girl in the class. But if you lost you were a pregnant 15-year-old girl, way out of luck. I saw this happen to my classmates, beginning in the 7th grade.

4 We can see that she has to overcome her relationship with men, who she claims are very alarming as she even goes as far as saying that she is happy she never had a father to overpower her. “I told her I didn’t know, because I didn’t have a daddy. That I was lucky that way. “5 However not having a father in her life has made her lose part of her identity and the only way to surmount her identity loss is through other people, including men. When Taylor leaves town, the reader is able to see that she wants to find her independence on her own, to be a person who finally belongs where she is as well as being herself, she even renames herself.

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