The Bean Trees

Did Taylor change or did she remain the same throughout the book?


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Taylor Marietta Greer

The protagonist and narrator of the novel, Taylor Greer is the daughter of an impoverished single mother who nevertheless resists the pitfalls that befall many of the girls of her status in her small Kentucky town in Pittman County. She is independent and assertive, believing that she does not need and will never need a man, and fiercely avoids marriage and children until, upon finally leaving Pittman County, she is given an abandoned Indian child. Taylor adopts her name after leaving Pittman County; through the first chapter she retains her birth name, Marietta. Although Taylor is quite confident and headstrong, she is not unwavering in her determination, and frequently sustains herself through the confidence in her that her mother and her best friend, Lou Ann Ruiz, feel. The Bean Trees is in many ways the story of Taylor's growth and maturation, as she begins to realize her place in a vast world and learns to accept the possibility of love, both romantic and parental.



The final chapter of The Bean Trees ties together the disparate themes of the novel and demonstrates the evolution of each of the characters throughout the novel. The beginning of the chapter resolves the final material conflict of the novel, as Estevan and Esperanza safely reach the new sanctuary in which they will stay. Yet more importantly this chapter fully explains and resolves the dynamics between Turtle and Esperanza as well as Estevan and Taylor. The incident at Armistead's office serves as a catharsis for Esperanza; as she transferred her fictional custody of Turtle to Taylor, she found some relief concerning her lack of a real transfer of custody of Ismene. Estevan makes clear that Esperanza was saying goodbye to Ismene in the notary office.

The resolution of the relationship between Taylor and Estevan is one-sided by necessity. Taylor realizes the depth of her love for Estevan, but also realizes that she had to give him up because he is not hers. The importance of the relationship is the very fact that Taylor realizes her ability to love; she makes a final break from the idea that no man could satisfy all of her needs, and allows one to affect her deeply. It is once again Mama Greer who places this in perspective, giving her perspective and strength in this time of need, much as she did after the incident with Newt Hardbine and Jolene Shanks early in the book.

Two major themes of the novel, natural growth and female reciprocity, come together with the final anecdote concerning the wisteria vines. The information about the wisteria vines growing because of a symbiotic relationship, as Taylor explicitly states, parallels the various relationships of the novel. This highlights the fact that the growth of each character is not an independent thing: Taylor teaches Lou Ann to become more independent and assertive, Estevan teaches Taylor to open herself to love, Mattie helps Taylor take a more vast look at the world, and so forth. Lou Ann also contributes to this theme with her insistence that she and Taylor form a family: just as Mama Greer reminds Taylor, a family is not simply blood, but a bond between those who love one another. Taylor accepts this definition of family as she did not before, for it is a relationship of equality and reciprocity.

Barbara Kingsolver thus ends the novel almost as it began, with the journey of Taylor and Turtle Greer back to Tucson. Yet they return as a family engaged in a world larger than their own experiences, bound to others who similarly care and depend on one another.