Monday, April 27, 2009

The Bean Trees: A Whole New World

This novel, and its sequel, Pigs In Heaven, is set in a world of its own type of chaos. Oklahoma isn't portrayed as a world of war nor one with extreme turmoil, however Kingsolver has created a society that is in a cultural crisis. What does it take to be an American? What does it mean to be Cherokee? To you, what does it mean to be cultural?
What is home?

For Taylor Greer, a girl quickly turned mom, home is ubiquitous. While at one point "she felt her heart do something strange when she said 'back home,'" she freely gallivants across the map, perhaps in pursuit of that envied location she has failed to stay put in thus far (Bean 61). She left her husband, who "could be there, or not, and it hardly made a difference" (Bean 63). Then suddenly, she is forced into adopting a baby that "was born in a Plymouth" (Bean 17-18). Taylor and her new daughter, Turtle, endure things that I would have never thought of. The new ray of perspective that Kingsolver has shined into our eyes is simply overwhelming. The ideology that we, as humans, are "supposed to love the same person your whole life long till death do you part and all that" is what Kingsolver is aiming to end (Bean 87). That world has past. The world of living, breathing, and taking in life's daily pleasures has come.

But the characters in this novel can't live that way. Estevan and Esperanza, two Mexican immigrants, were forced to change their names to Steven and Hope, in order to live in America. Liberty and justice for all, right? "But Estevan didn't [ever] seem perturbed" by the American, ethnocentric, narcissistic actions (Bean 107). Taylor admits that she "would have murdered somebody" before putting up with the racial stereotyping and discrimination that Estevan and Esperanza tolerated (Bean 107). This Mexican racism issue is but slightly touched upon, however the true issue lies within the nation as a whole, because, according to Taylor, "there's just so damn much ugliness" (Bean 170). She claims that "everywhere you look, some big guy [is] kicking some littler person when they're down" and she suggests those big guys find it "their [(the littler person)] fault in the first place for being poor or in trouble, or for not being white" (Bean 170). She finds that "the whole way of the world is to pick on people that can't fight back" and that "nobody feels sorry for anybody anymore, nobody even pretends they do" (Bean 171). The way she describes it is ideal: "unpatriotic" (Bean 171).

But, the thing is, this is the our world. "For God's sake, what other world have we got?" (Bean 176). Sometimes we may think, "Do I want to try" today (Bean 178)? How would it feel to "not [belong] in any place? To be unwanted everywhere?" (Bean 195). On the playground of life, it would be depressing to wander aimlessly through the different play sets, being ostracized by everyone else, as they have fun.
But to stop trying? To stop reaching for that goal of some kind, any kind, of salvation to our trek, that would be disastrous. No matter where we are, no matter what the state of the world, Kingsolver urges us to always see the light at the end of the tunnel.

~Father Nature, Editor

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