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What were your feelings after reading the opening chapter of The Bean Trees by Barbara...

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softball101 | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 29, 2009 at 2:56 AM via web

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What were your feelings after reading the opening chapter of The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver?

Respond to the text in chapter one of the novel.

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mshargaden | Middle School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted December 29, 2009 at 3:38 AM (Answer #1)

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I wondered at first why Missy changed her name to Taylor, but maybe it is because she wants to get away and change her life as well as her name.  She drives away from her hometown and says that she will name herself after the first town she runs out of gas in.  I think that this means that she really puts a lot of her personal identity into getting out of the bad circumstances she was born in.  The area where she lives seems to be an area that a person would want to get away from.  The isolation and poverty would certainly take their toll on a resident of this area.  Plus, she would want to forget and escape the abuse and death she has seen in her job at the hospital.

Missy and Newt, her almost-brother neighbor, follow different paths in life.  He drops out of school and gets a girl pregnant, like many of their classmates.  She is determined to finish school.  I admire her determination and wonder where she found the strength to be different from her community. 
Missy says that it is her science teacher who has this impact on her life, since he talks about having a “real job” working at Pittman County Hospital. She actually gets the job, which I see as the first real step in her journey to escape her circumstances.

When her friends Jolene and Newt come in to the hospital, Jolene is bleeding from a bullet wound, and Newt is dead. Their father had been abusing them for years and finally Newt had had enough.  Missy throws up from the shock and horror of this. This inspired her to stick with the job, since she figures she has already seen the worst she could see.  I think that this is also incredibly brave and shows that even after she gets a job her community is still bringing her down and making it hard for her to succeed.

As she drives off, Missy plans to change her name by driving until she runs out of gas and naming herself the name of whatever town she ends up in. She ends up in Taylorville, so she changes her name to Taylor. She also promises herself to drive west until her car dies and then settle wherever she ends up.  This sounds exciting and scary.

Her car breaks down in a depressing reservation area in Oklahoma. She stops in a bar and she is followed to her car by a woman with a baby.  The baby has obviously been abused.  Poor Taylor cannot escape this kind of scene even when driving across country trying to get away.  Poverty and abuse seem to follow her everywhere.

I wonder what the rest of the book will hold for Taylor.  She is determined and smart, but violence seems to haunt her life.  I hope that she will be able to find a place to settle down, continue her education, and find happiness ad success.

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