Detailed Analysis of "The Bean Trees" by Barbara Kingsolver including themes, plot summary, major and minor characters and more.

Essay by pancakemushJunior High, 9th gradeA+, December 2003

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The Bean Trees

-Title and Genre: The Bean Trees - Historical Ficton

-Author: Barbara Kingsolver - April 8, 1955; lives in Kentucky; still living

-Publication Date: 1988

-Plot Summary: The Bean Trees follows the story of Marietta Greer who lived in Kentucky, but eventually drove away. On her way west, she arrives in Taylorville where she changes her name to Taylor and involuntarily is given an abused Native American baby girl whom she names Turtle. Then, in Tucson, she meets Mattie, who owns her own tire shop that doubles as a safe-house for illegal Native Americans. After working at the tire company for a while, Taylor releases an ad that she is searching for a roommate. She rooms with Lou Ann Ruiz and they become good friends. Her friendships grow with Turtle, Lou Ann, Mattie, Estevan, and Esperenza, the illegal Native Americans. The climax of the story is when Taylor risks her own safety to sneak Estevan and Esperenza into a safe church house in Oklahoma, and Estevan and Esperenza pose as Turtle's parents so Taylor can legally adopt her.

Everything runs smoothly and Taylor becomes more appreciative of everyday miracles and realizes a new definition of family.

-Themes: Some themes of The Bean Trees was first of all gender. In the story, there are many instances where females are portrayed as supporting one another, committing selfless deeds, or just being friendly, unlike many of the male characters. It also discusses how females are continually taken advantage of. Another theme is that of political injustice. Throughout the story, the Native Americans were mistreated, and forced to continually relocate or face serious consequences

-Major Characters:

o Taylor Greer - Protagonist; Gutsy, kind, main character. Adopts Turtle and leaves her home in search of more freedom

oTurtle - Native American baby left to Taylor. She was sexually and physically abused, did not talk until felt secure with Taylor. Likes vegetables and earth related organisms

oMattie - owner of the "Jesus is Lord Used Tires" store. Wise and strong, helps house Native American refugees

oLou Ann Ruiz - Kentucky woman who settled in Tucson. Her husband, Angel, left her and their baby, Dwayne Ray. She becomes roommates and good friends with Taylor. She is kind, but has a low self-esteem

oEstevan - Native American who was an English teacher in Guatemala. Taylor loves him, but never have a relationship. He is strong, and nice.

oEsperenza - Estevan's wife, constantly in despair. Turtle is only person that cheers her up because Turtle reminds her of her lost daughter, Ismene

-Minor Characters:

oIsmene - daughter of Esperenza and Estevan, represents horror of political corruption

oAngel Ruiz - Rodeo rider, husband of Lou Ann. Has a fake leg that is a source of sadness to him

oAlice Greer - Taylor's mom; supports Taylor and motivated Taylor to venture out

oNewt Hardbine - Taylor's old classmate; represents all of the reasons why Taylor wanted to leave home

-Significance of the Title: The title is called The Bean Trees because in order to survive, bean trees must sustain a mutual relationship with rhizobia, to survive. Bean trees are symbolic of people and how people need other support and help from friends and family to survive


oPittman, Kentucky - Where Marietta once lived in the beginning of the story

oTaylorsville, Oklahoma - Where Taylor received Turtle, and later adopts her legally there

oTucson, Arizona - Main setting of story, Taylor meets Mattie, Estevan, Esperenza and Lou Ann.

-Conflicts: Throughout the story Turtle, an innocent child, was abused sexually and physically by others. Another conflict was Estevan and Esperenza's troubles with the corrupted government. The corrupted government forced them to flee, and leave their daughter Ismene behind

-Point of View: Having Taylor narrate the story definitely makes you feel closer to Turtle and the other characters. Also, since she is partially Native American, she can relate more to Estevan and Esperenza and feel more sympathetic for them. The author also makes it important that the theme of this book is about women because it is only Turtle, a girl, who is sexually abused, and it is only the women in the story that support each other in tough times.