The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver, is a book with extreme depth, resulting from the many symbols and motifs present. Although the story line is above and abroad, the depth in which the symbols go into put an entire different intellectual perspective upon the book, making it represent all the different ideas and opinions that Kingsolver wishes to get across, but through furtive ways. A principal motif in the story is that of motherhood, an ever reoccurring theme, mainly displayed in Taylor and Turtle’s relationship, but also through the rest of the characters, who all have a mother or mother-like role or relationship.
Motherhood and the role of a mother plays a predominant part in The Bean Trees. Taylor Greer, the protagonist, had a very good childhood with a mother who loved her and only her. “There were two things about Mama. One is she always expected the best out of me. And the other is that no matter what I did, whatever I came home with, she acted like it was the moon I had just hung up in the sky and plugged in all the starts. Like I was that good. ” (pg. 10) By instilling this confidence and security in Taylor, she thus becomes a secure and confident person.
However, all the parents in Pittman county, the first setting of the story, exert nearly opposite behavior exhibited by Taylor’s mother, such as Newt Hardbine’s and Jolene’s fathers provides a counter example to their behavior. Obviously, Newt Harbine’s father was a bad example of parenthood, thus leading his son, Newt, to want to kill him. Depending on the example the parents put forward is what their kids will follow, and by being abusive to Newt, Newt was obviously not even going to be given a chance to become a good person.
After the homicidal attempt, Jolene “started telling [Taylor] how it was all Newt’s daddy’s fault, he beat him up, beat her up, and even had hit the baby with a coal scuttle” (pg. 9). However, although physically abusive, Newt Hardbine’s father’s behavior doesn’t vary in its brutality from Jolene Shanks’ father. When asked why she ended up with Newt, what Jolene simply replied was “‘Why not, my daddy’d been calling me a slut practically since I was thirteen, so why the hell not? Newt was just who it happened to be. You know the way it is’. ” (pg.
9) Unlike Taylor, Jolene Shanks had a father who didn’t care for her and was very abusive in his words, thus showing how much the treatment and amount of respect and affection can affect a child and their behavior. Later in the book, when Taylor is speaking of parenthood to her mother on the phone, her mother says “‘I don’t think blood’s the only way kids come by things honest. Not even the main way. Its what you tell them, Taylor. If a person is bad, say, then it makes them feel better to tell their kids that they’re even worse. And then that’s just exactly what they’ll grow up to be.
You remember those Hardbines? ‘Yeah. Newt. I especially remember Newt. ‘ ‘That boy never had a chance. He as just doing his best to be what everybody in Pittman said he was. ‘” (pg. 223) showing that whatever example one sets for their children, their children can end up no better than that example. Taylor’s mother set an excellent example, and Taylor turned out to be a perfect model of self confidence and independence. Jolene Shanks’s and Newt Hardbine’s fathers were nothing but abusive and curt to their children, resulting with a homicide, a suicide, and a widowed teenage mother.