The Bean Trees

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The Bean Tree

Write a composition based on the novel you have studied discussing the basis for and impact of individual choices. What idea does the author develop regarding choices?

	Living is about making choices. The choices people make shape their lives for better or worse. Even the decision not to choose has its effects, often not wanted. But the individual who chooses to make positive choices and to act accordingly is more likely to see his or her life reflect his or her beliefs and desires. Usually the individual who chooses to take action is also willing to face the risks and obstacles that such choices involve.

	"The Bean Tree," by Barbara Kingsolver, is a warm, funny story about a personal journey of self-discovery, commitment, and risk-taking which illustrates these facts. Its spirited protagonist, Taylor Greer, grows up poor in rural Kentucky. In her town some families "had kids just about as fast as they could fall down the well and drown," and a boy with a job as a gas- meter man was considered a "high-class catch." Simply avoiding pregnancy was a major achievement for Taylor. She needed to get away from there to get ahead, and when she goes, she leaves almost everything behind, including her real name. Taylor is the name she adopts at the place where her car runs out of gas, in Taylorville, Illinois.

	However, what starts out as a commonplace search for personal opportunities soon turns into a test of her character and beliefs, and of her ability to face and overcome obstacles. On her way west with high hopes and a barely functional car, she acquires a completely unexpected child. The baby girl is given to her outside a bar, by a desperate Indian woman. Taylor moves on to Tucson, Arizona, with Turtle, as she calls the little girl. There she makes new friends, finds work, and settles down to a new life. However, since Turtle is not her legally adopted daughter, Taylor finds herself at risk of losing her to the state authorities in Arizona. She must formalize her relationship with her new-found daughter. She chooses to do what it takes to adopt Turtle. She has to find a way to contact Turtle's relatives in order to get their signatures to adoption papers. She decides to take her out of state, back to Oklahoma, along with Estevan and Esperanza, a refugee couple from Guatemala...

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...s can arise, but choices made with some understanding of the alternatives will usually work out better than leaving matters to chance. Also, if choices are made with the welfare of others in mind they are more likely to be the right ones. In particular, if there is a problem to solve that involves conflict between the law and conscience, the best solution may be to follow one's heart. If a decision is guided by conscience, no one can better tell one what to do, or how to do it. That is how Taylor is able to take her loved ones out of Arizona, even though it means breaking the law. She feels she can not do otherwise, and the law has to take second place. Someone else might not do the same. Everything depends on both conscience and courage, but not everyone has these qualities in the same degree. Nonetheless, if even breaking the law must sometimes be considered, it can best be done by an appeal to common humanity, conscience, and the heart. That is exactly what Taylor does here. But, like Taylor, people must be prepared to live with the possible consequences of their choices and actions. Knowing clearly, however, why one's choices are made, makes such risks or obstacles acceptable.

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