Kingsolver addresses various issues in this best-selling novel. Using a young Kentucky woman as the main character, the writer explores several concerns facing middle-class Americans in their daily survivals. A brief overview of the writing points out Taylor Greer as a woman with strong intentions. She had made up her mind in life not to be impregnated during her teenage and also not end up as a tobacco farmer’s wife like her mother. Her ambitions make her leave Kentucky and head west in search of adventure in her Volkswagen. What follows is a series of events that portray the strong-willed woman she is.
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There are various themes exposed in the novel. What stands out most though is the theme of families. Kingsolver focuses on this subject matter and brings it out as the major idea. The turtle was abandoned in Taylor’s Volkswagen. Taylor decides to take up the child and make her hers. Taylor is later on accommodated by Ann Lou who had a son and together the four make up a family. Though neither of them can afford much, they combine their efforts and share whatever they have thus even making their family stronger and surviving all the impenetrability that comes with life.
Ann Lou disregards biological attachment that usually defines a family. She contents in regarding Taylor and Turtle as part of her life because they have gone through life’s hard times together. This is what makes up a successful family. These two ladies depict that a family is more than blood ties and that sometimes water can be thicker than blood. Their relationship develops into one of perpetual camaraderie and real love towards each other. This unrestricted acceptance of each other characterizes the true meaning of a family. With it comes the priceless poignant and psychosomatic support for one other.
Apart from the family of Taylor and Ann Lou, there is also the family unit of Edna and Virgie Mae. Despite Edna’s blindness, she gets the full support of Virgie Mae and together they sail through the hurdles of life. The political immigrants in Mattie’s house are her grandbabies (Kingsolver 46). This is a family to Mattie even though the state considers these people illegal citizens. They are individuals who also need the care and support that usually comes with a family unit.
In this novel, Kingsolver defines a family in the way people help each other. Taylor accommodates Turtle and gives her the best that a family can provide. Though Taylor is not recognized by the law as the lawful parent to Turtle, she disregards this fact thus stressing that a true family is not formed by state rules but by true love. Taylor tells Estevan “I spent the first half of my life avoiding motherhood and tires and now I’m counting them as blessings” (Kingsolver 144). Taylor embraces this unmitigated family and together with Turtle, Ann Lou, and her son, they decide to become one happy unit.
This book depicts that a family is not really defined by a father and a mother but by people who come together and support each other unconditionally. These families are not defined by tradition although Alice’s unconditional support for Taylor can be described as traditional. Their family does not have a father which prompts Taylor to remark “I was lucky that way” (Kingsolver 9).
Kingsolver, Barbara. The Bean Trees: A Novel. New York: Harper & Row, 1988. Print.
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