In The Bean Trees, the landscape and the locations that are used in the story, serve as an important backdrop to the story line and the understanding of what is taking place in the motivation of Taylor and the other main characters within the book. Taylor first leaves Kentucky in the hope that doing so will keep her from getting pregnant at such an early age and experiencing the plight that too many of her impoverished high school classmates have experienced. At first, she finds the landscape of Arizona to be daunting.
The rattlesnakes and other wild life finds her scared and confused about this new land, hundreds of miles away from rural Kentucky. But it was her motivation from the start to get as far away from Kentucky as possible. And the land and its people are beautiful enough to convince Taylor and Turtle to stay and try to make a life for each other. Taylor expresses a strong concern for the environment. Once she becomes aware of the plight that illegal immigrants have in America, she also wonders what other social ills, in her mind, are impeding the potential that America has for its citizens.
In the optimism that Taylor carries with her, no matter what the circumstance, decides to focus on the beauty of the land and not the destruction of the environment. She is aware of the harm that pollution and industrialization has on the land, but living in Kentucky, Oklahoma and now Arizona, such factors have affected these areas to a lesser degree than in other industrialized parts of the country. Also connected to her respect for the land, mirrors her respect for Native Americans and the fact that the heritage, which we learn later in the story is hers as well, is so intertwined with the land.
Taylor does not identify with her native America roots to a complete degree until later in the book. It is also this love for the earth and the displacement of the animals as they compete with humans for the land, that she associates their plight with the plight of other displaced people; specifically Esperanza and Estevan as they live out a meager existence out of fear that their illegal immigration status will be discovered. It is this connection between the birds and her friends from Guatemala where she realized that the displaced, whether people or birds, will be hunted and may receive a similar fate.
Arizona becomes the last place where Taylor and Turtle will stay in The Bean Trees. The landscape of Arizona is described in humorous detail. “puffy looking rocks” are shaped like “roundish” people and the ‘clouds are pink and fat and looking like the hippo ballerinas in a Disney movie. ” Taylor did not have a similar experience with the landscape in neither Kentucky nor Oklahoma. Her experience with the land in Kentucky was affected by the dissatisfaction that she had with everyone and everything around her. She disliked the lot in life that many like her had of getting pregnant and barely surviving in a cruel and unsympathetic world.
This was contrary to her idea of life and was what finally promoted her to move. Oklahoma did not provide a much better experience since Taylor grew tired of the seemingly never ending landscape that the state had to offer. “eyes had started to hurt in Oklahoma from all that flat land. ” The monotonous and flat land depressed her but also served to help her appreciate Arizona that much more once she and Turtle finally arrived. Its natural beauty and peaceful colors was what endured Taylor to Arizona. The land to Taylor is just as important as the people within it.
If both are not reconciled within an area, then it does not serve as attractive in the mind of Taylor and thus, in the mind of Turtle as well. Her first days in Arizona do not go well. Taylor and Turtle run into a hail storm and with their car not having any windows, the storm could serve as an impediment to their optimistic outlook but such occurrences do not damper Taylor’s resolve, due in part to the life that the landscape of Arizona brings to Taylor. WORKS CITED Kingsolver, Barbara. The Bean Trees. New York: Harper Collins, 1988.
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