Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 229
In The Bean Trees Kingsolver focuses on a young woman, Taylor Greer, who develops a strong social conscience through her experiences with an abandoned child and a pair of Guatemalan refugees.
1. How are mothers portrayed in The Bean Trees: always positive, or sometimes negative? Compare and contrast the various mother-daughter relationships in the novel: Taylor and her mother, Taylor and Turtle, Lou Ann and her mother, Esperanza and Ismene. In what ways does Mattie appear as a mother figure? What kind of a mother is Lou Ann?
2. Compare and contrast the paired relationship of Estevan and Esperanza with that of Virgie Mae Parsons and Edna Poppy. How do these individuals provide support for one another? What does the "caretaker" in each pair gain from the relationship?
3. Discuss Turtle's affinity for plants and gardening. What significance does this have in the novel? How does this help show her development as a character as the novel progresses?
4. Taylor's two major actions at the climax of the novel (adopting Turtle and transporting Estevan and Esperanza to Oklahoma) are illegal. Discuss Taylor's moral decision-making process, and the ethical implications of her actions.
5. Are the various social issues brought up in the novel handled fairly? Does Kingsolver provide both sides of the story?
6. What does the character of Cynthia, the social worker on Turtle's case, represent? Is she a flat or a well-rounded character?
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