The Female Characters in The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

The Female Characters in The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

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The Female Characters in The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver


In Barbara Kingsolver’s “The Bean Trees” the main theme of the story lies within the role female characters, yet emphasis of the story is on the female characters, but the male characters have the same type of conflicts as the females throughout the story. Kingsolver’s style of writing raises problems that modern people can relate to: “In her stories Kingsolver addresses conventional relationships in contemporary situations: single mothers juggling responsibility… married couples considering parenthood… estranged lovers or families trying to bridge gaps they do not understand” (Hirabayashi). Both males and females deal with themes such as natural growth, symbiotic relationships, and importance of identity. These themes may be shown from different perspectives since each character has different values, but all conflicts will somehow be resolved.
Character development is symbolized by the natural growth of the Wisteria Plant. Turtle strongly relates to the plant because of her barren beginning, but in the end she grew into something beautiful (Ross). Taylor also comes from a low class family with a crude beginning. She was called a “nutter” in high school just because she had to work to earn her school clothes. Even though Taylor started out rough she is now flourishing in Tucson. She has several friends and a good job. Taylor also has gone through a bildungsroman and developed into a woman instead of the child she once was. The male character that has undergone the same type of development as Turtle and Taylor is Estevan. He was once in Guatemala where the government suppressed him. He then moved into the United States under the protection of Mattie and he is now developing a more satisfying life. He has a job as a dishwasher, but will someday be a schoolteacher. Estevan also has a loving wife and friends that care for him. As a male character in the book, he has undergone the same situations as Taylor and Turtle.
The theme that is brought up several times throughout the novel is that of a symbiotic relationship. The Wisteria plant that lives in the arid park has an ideal relationship with the rhizobia bacteria.

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Without this helpful parasite the plant would not be able to grow. Next, the concept of a symbiotic relationship is displayed with the relationship of Taylor and Lou Ann. Taylor helps Lou Ann with her confidence and her nervousness while Lou Ann gives Taylor the support she needs to be a cautious and successful mother. Another example of an interdependent relationship is how Edna Poppy and Virgie May Parsons relies on each other. Virgie May has to lead the blind Mrs. Poppy wherever she walked, such as a walk through the park, and Edna seems to somehow control Virgie’s offensive personality (Ross). The Male character that has a symbiotic relationship is Estevan. He depends on his wife Esperanza as much as she depends on him. Their child was taken from them and they must be support for each other or they will fall apart. The Guatemalan Government had stole her and was keeping her “like a worm on a hook” (Kingsolver 152). It seems that one could not manage without the other. Estevan needs a symbiotic relationship as much as any female character just to be able to have enough strength to go on living.
Marietta Greer felt that she had to change her name before she traveled to a new place and began a new stage of her life. Even though Marietta and Taylor are the same person, the name Taylor gives her the identity that she wants; without it she would not be as confident and maybe not even as successful in her transformation from an immature person into a responsible adult. When Esperanza and Estevan move to Tucson they also change their names. Esperanza changes her name to Hope and Estevan changes his to Stephen. Estevan feels that he must change his name as much as both female characters to have a new identity at his new home. His friends still call him Estevan while he is at home even though he changed his name. He only believes that he needs an American name to live in America. The importance of names throughout the story is as significant to males as females.
Throughout the novel male characters are faced with the same situations as the females. They are both symbolized by natural growth, need a symbiotic relationship, and need an identity.
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