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Friendship in The Bean Trees Essay


In The Bean Trees, friendship is necessary and beneficial to all of the primary characters.

The first two characters whose friendship benefits each other equally are Taylor and Maddie. When Taylor decides to stop in Tuscon, Arizona, a man tells her that she has two flat tires. Taylor is looking for a job to support the new child she has decided to adopt named Turtle, and it seems to be fate when Maddie invites Taylor inside. To cheer Taylor up after she admits she can not afford new tires, Maddie offers her crackers and juice, and shows Taylor her beautiful garden growing in the backyard. She likes Taylors spunk and charm, and Taylor admires Maddies spirit and determination. Later, after Taylor quits her job at the Burger Derby, Maddie again helps Taylor by offering her a job at her auto repair shop, Jesus Is Lord Used Tires. Taylor loves the arrangement, narrating: In many ways it was a perfect arrangement. You couldnt ask better than Maddie. She was patient and kind and let me bring Turtle in when I needed to (Kingsolver 81.) Maddie, a kind and fostering mother-like character, also helps illegal immigrants: She lets them live upstairs in her shop until she can relocate them to somewhere safe. Taylor finally gets a chance to repay Maddie for her friendship when Maddie needs someone to drive two immigrants, Esteban and Esperanza, to a safe home in Oklahoma. In this case, Maddies friendship with Taylor benefited Taylor, and vice versa. Their friendship also benefited Esteban and Esperanza when they needed a ride to a safe home. It was necessary because without Maddie, Taylor would not have had a job, and without Taylor, Maddie would have had to search for a ride for Esperanza and Esteban.

The second characters whose friendship was necessary and beneficial were Lou Ann and Taylor. Their friendship blooms when Taylor needs a place to live. After Lou Anns husband abandoned her and her child, she is looking for a room mate. Within minutes of meeting each other, Taylor and Lou Ann are bonding over their shared hometown and children. Lou Ann, wants her to move in, but is concerned that Taylor will think that they can do better. Taylor responds: I'm just a plain hillbilly from East Jesus Nowhere with this adopted child that everybody keeps on telling me is dumb as a box of rocks (Kingsolver 79.) Lou Ann promptly tells her to move in. As Lou Ann and Taylors friendship progresses, Taylor learns about Lou Anns self esteem problems. She is constantly putting herself down, saying that she looks fat, ugly, and that she has bad hair. She has absolutely zero self-confidence. Lou Ann goes as far as to say: No, I dont want to know what I weigh. If the scale even goes up that high (Kingsolver 105.) Their friendship is necessary and beneficial because Taylor needs a home, and Lou Ann in return gets a best friend who helps boost her confidence. At the end of the novel, Lou Ann has a high position in her job at the factory and is going on dates, which is predominantly thanks to Taylor. Lou Ann also helps Taylor by reassuring her that she is a good mother and deserves to have Turtle when she doubts it. Their mutual love for each other helped both overcome their problems in the story.

The last group of characters whose friendship was necessary and beneficial were Esperanza and Esteban and Taylor. Esteban and Esperanza are two illegal immigrants from Central America. Esteban is sensitive, polite, and ethical. He has a bright and optimistic outlook on the world, even though he endured numerous hardships before he came to Maddies. He talks of torture tactics and how soldiers stole his and Esperanzaa baby: How they had to choose between their child and the lives of twenty people. With Estebans help, Taylor starts to realize all that she takes for granted and should appreciate. Another person who helps her to realize this is Esperanza. Although she is very shy and reserved, Esperanza obviously cares for Turtle because of her resemblance to her daughter, Ismene. Taylor even at one point thinks that Esperanza would be a better mother then her because of how she treats her well and loves her so evidently. Together they help Taylor to become a different, more open-minded and educated person. Taylor helps them in turn by driving them to Oklahoma when they so desperately need a ride to a safe home when they feel they are going to get caught and sent back from Maddies.

Friendship is an imperative theme in the novel. The majority of the plot could not have happened if they characters did not form such tight bonds of friendship with each other. Had they not become friends, Taylor would still be living on the street, Lou Ann would still be extremely insecure and meek, Maddie would have had no one to work at her tire shop or drive Esteban and Esperanza, and they may have gotten sent back to Central America and killed. Friendship is so important and necessary in actuality, which is probably why Barbara Kingsolver made it such a central theme in the novel. In life, people need friendship to survive: It is beneficial to ones health. Friends depend on each other for love and support, which is what the characters in the novel do. Cicero sums it up perfectly in this quote: Thus nature has no love for solitude, and always leans, as it were, on some support; and the sweetest support is found in the most intimate friendship."

Kingsolver, Barbara. The Bean Trees. New York: Harper and Row, 1988.

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