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Taylor Greer was called "Missy" for most of her childhood. When she was three, she says, "I stamped my foot and told my own mother not to call me Marietta but Miss Marietta" (2). From her early years, Taylor had a sense of personal pride and knew how to stand up for herself. These are wonderful attributes, but until she grew more mature, Taylor was unable to really fulfill her potential. Through the course of The Bean Trees, Taylor develops traits that augment her courage and make her a much stronger and more compassionate person.
When Taylor learns how cruel the world can be, she becomes committed to using her courage for the good of others. Initially, her gumption is manifested in her determination to preserve herself. She buys a used car and gets herself out of Pittman County. When she is in Tucson, however, she comes to realize that people are in much worse situations than her own. As she tells Estevan, "I keep finding out that life can be hard in ways I never knew about" (141). This realization frightens her for a time. However, she eventually marshals her courage and helps her friends get to a safe haven. When she learns how much danger they are really in, she comes to realize that her strength can allow her to help others.
Taylor also learns to value her obligations to others, so she reaps the benefits of interpersonal bonds. In her youth, Taylor does everything she can to avoid being tied down. She says that "I knew the scenery of Greenup Road, which we called Steam-It-Up-Road, and I knew what a pecker looked like, and none of these sights had so far inspired me to get hogtied to a future as a tobacco farmer's wife" (3). She wants the freedom to escape, and she does, leaving everything behind her. Once Turtle comes into her life, however, Taylor is fortunate to recognize the value of caring about another person. She explains that she is terrified because, "I realized I had no business just assuming I could take responsibility for a child's life" (186). Due to her love for the child, Taylor decides to take on that challenge, and she is rewarded by Turtle's love.
Taylor's courage made her independent, but her ties to others and her maturing understanding of the world make her truly strong. Her final trip with Estevan and Esperanza is a sign that she has learned how to use her strengths for others, and in return, other can help her. By the end of The Bean Trees, she has grown into a remarkable person.