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The Bean Trees Essay

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In the book, The Bean Trees, Taylor is the central character and one whose outlook on life, sense of humor and intellectual make up, serve as the motivation behind the central themes in the book. Within the book, Taylor has three goals in life: to graduate high school without getting pregnant, to get as far away from Pittman as possible and to change her name. She seeks a whole new identity out in the West and has a “can-do” attitude in the face of opposition and the experience of witnessing a great deal of pain, oppression and the darker side of people, yet she still continues to be an interesting and uplifting character within The Bean Trees.

Taylor has a sympathetic side to her when she meets Turtle and Esperenza. There are few individuals who, when faced with raising another person’s child through the unexpected way in which Turtle was left with Taylor, would still decide to give raise that child as their own.

Most would have felt sympathetic fore the child but would not have spent an entire lifetime raising the child. But that is what a young and unmarried Taylor decided to do. Also, when Taylor realizes that this individual is not a baby but rather an undersized and malnourished victim of sexual abuse, Taylor does not let the severity of her Turtle’s situation dissuade her from continuing to raise the child as her own while facing an almost certain life of abject poverty and hopelessness.

This abuse that is experienced by Turtle does not quell Taylor’s lust for live and her belief in the goodness of people. She is not naive about the dark side of people but chooses rather to hold firm to the friendships that she has formed with other women. In this way, she serves as an archetypal hero in the fact that she leaves her home and family, descends into poverty and hopelessness, only to reemerge in order to accomplish some good for the people around her; specifically, her new daughter Turtle and her friends from Guatemala, Esperanza and Estevan. She also serves as a unique and independent character in the fact that her happiness and her success does not rely upon the actions or assistance of men. The men that she does befriend, serve as a strictly platonic relationship and are not central to the intellectual make up of Taylor.

Taylor learns to grow up fast as she is now a mother with a troubled and young child. What complicated and threatens her upbeat and optimistic look on life is when she becomes aware of the plight of immigrants and a system, in her mind, which has left them behind. This comes with the befriending of Esperanza once Taylor decides that the only job left to take is working at Mattie’s tire barn. She cares for her child with the same tender heart that she cares for the plight of Estevan and Esperanza. Estevan’s outlook on life seems to shape Taylor’s as well. “Estevan explains that in hell people do not help one another, but in heaven they do.” Taylor takes to heart the troubles of others. In the end, receives as much from her friends as she gave. Even though Taylor is portrayed as an independent woman and a different type of heroine, she still requires the support that she gets from these people. In this way, her outlook on life is one that cannot be reconciled without good people surrounding her.

Taylor’s outlook on life comes from social consciousness through the treatment of immigrants by the government and the injustice that, in her mind, shapes her opinion about social issues as it has the same effect on Kingsolver, the author of The Bean Trees. But in the end, her humor and optimistic outlook on life cannot help but be increased through her newfound sense of motherhood. “It didn’t seem to matter to Turtle, she was happy where she was. . . . She watched the dark highway and entertained me with her vegetable-soup song, except that now there were people mixed in with the beans and potatoes: Dwayne Ray, Mattie, Esperanza, Lou Ann and all the rest. And me. I was the main ingredient.” It has become established that Turtle finally defines Taylor as being her true mother and the woman that has cared enough to take care of her when it was not convenient to do so.

And lastly, the fact that Taylor now defines herself as being the main ingredient in the happiness and well being of Turtle, her only daughter is what keeps Taylor optimistic and upbeat in the fact of contributing factors that would cause the weaker individual to give in and become embittered by those experiences. The story ends with the reader being convinced that Taylor and Turtle will live a full and enjoyable life, despite the probability that there will be more troubles to come.


Kingsolver, Barbara. The Bean Trees. New York: Harper Collins, 1988.

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