University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
Author use many symbolism in the book The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver. She uses symbolism because it makes it easier for readers to understand the deeper meaning or feeling of the character or the events that are happening. For example, author uses the symbolism of bean trees as transformation and Ismene as the abandoned children to show the deeper meaning of them.
“Turtle was staring up at the wisteria flowers. “Beans,” she said, pointing… We looked where she was pointing. Some of the wisteria flowers had gone to seed, and all these wonderful long green pods hung down from the branches. They looked as much like beans as anything you’d ever care to eat.” (143-144). This quote is important because it’s the moment where the life of Turtle starts to change. The bean trees, another name for the wisteria vine that Turtle found at Dog Doo Park, symbolize the transformation. Transformation in this book is significant because Turtle has been abused, raped and been hurt which caused her to stop growing. But from this moment Turtle start to transform, start growing like a bean tree. A bean tree start off with a small, hard, and dry bean, first few days it seems like it will never grow but after few days, it will start to grow dramatically. This symbolizes the transformation of Turtle how now Turtle is a small, hard, and dry, not growing, but soon she will start to grow dramatically.
“I was afraid to understand this. I asked him if he meant that Ismene was their daughter, and Estevan said yes, that she was. She was taken in a raid on their neighborhood in which Esperanza’s brother and two friends were killed… It’s hard to explain, but a certain kind of horror is beyond tears.” (136). This quote is significant in the book because it explains what happened to Estevan and Esperanza’s child Ismene. Ismene is important because it symbolizes all the abandoned children and twin of Turtle. Since we never met Ismene in the story, we only could see what she meant to her parents only, which make her nothing but just a symbol. The deeper meaning of Ismene is to show what could have happen to Turtle if Taylor didn’t rescue Turtle from her original life she would have been killed. Also Kingsolver uses Ismene to show the corruption of the government.
“Our mouths opened and shut and we froze where we sat. I suppose we could have honked and waved and it wouldn’t have raised any more pandemonium than this poor mother already had to deal with but instead we held perfectly still. Even Turtle, after a long minute or two the quail got her family herded off the road into some scraggly bushes” (96). The birds are significant symbolism in this book. They often appear in the book to symbolize Turtle; Kingsolver did this to show Turtle is a strong survival instinct child. First, when Taylor took Turtle to doctor and discovered that she has been abused and raped.
As she makes this discovery, she sees a bird nest on a cactus. This shows that Turtle, in spite of her surroundings she keep persists. Also, when Turtle met the robber, a sparrow got caught in Lou Ann’s house, the bird getting scared shows the Turtle’s confusion and fright. But sparrow survives and leaves the house; this shows that even though Turtle is going through confusion she will survive. Finally, the quote shows the moment when Lou Ann and Taylor found a family of birds on the road. This quote symbolizes how Turtle is satisfied with her small family, feel safe, and she is happy.
In conclusion, Kingsolver uses the symbolism to show the deeper feeling or meaning of each character, or the events that happens in the story. She does this to show the readers about the abandoned children, corruption of the government, small families, and single moms. Authors often use the symbolism to help readers connect the story to the main idea that author is trying to explain. Kingsolver used symbolism well enough for readers to understand what she is trying to let readers know about her thoughts on those factors. I think that birds are the most important symbolism in this book because it always symbolized Turtle and showed the deeper meaning that Turtle was feeling and events that were happening to her.