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The Bean Trees Essay
Being a successful captain depends on how well you know your ship. Knowing how much it can handle makes it easier to determine courses of action during a storm. While it is necessary to take care, being overly cautious can have it’s consequences as well. So it is demonstrated in “The Bean Trees” by Barbara Kingsolver. In the inscrutable storms that bump and pitch a person’s ship, their response to this unpredictability determines whether they journey on, stick to the cove, or abandon ship.
Taylor Greer is perhaps the most effective captain in the novel. She is not without faults and string of mistakes, but her honest approach to life helps her see things with proper perspective. When she was in high school, one of the teachers offered her class a job working at the hospital. At first Taylor wants to wait to be chosen by default, when no one else is available. But after talking with her mother, an essential member of Taylor’s crew, Taylor simply goes and asks for the job. Not only does she get a job, she is able to define an essential part of her character: to cut straight to the root of a situation. Later, when a woman drops off Turtle in Taylor’s car, Taylor takes the time to make a rational decision about what to do, since at that moment she is too tired to think straight. By doing this, Taylor gives Turtle a foundation for growing into a thriving child. When it comes to officially adopting Turtle, Taylor doesn’t roll over when she isn’t able to find Turtle’s birth parents. She makes do with what she has, and gets Esperanza and Estevan to help her adopt Turtle. Taylor is then free from a fear of losing Turtle, and is able to enjoy her life with her new daughter. Taylor is a person who doesn’t give up when the storms of life blow. She is able to steer her ship into the open waters when she needs to, and comes back to shore when her mission is completed, ready for the next adventure with the new lessons she has learned.
Unlike Taylor, Lou Ann is a character who tends to give up when things work against her. She keeps her ship close to shore, avoiding taking risks and letting others guide her. After her husband Angel loses a leg, Lou Ann becomes tired of arguing with him and eventually stops talking altogether, hoping that a divorce will somehow wash up on the shore in a neat glass bottle. In doing this, Lou Ann never gets what she wants from him. She subjects herself to letting him make her feel like she is worthless. She does the same thing with her mother and grandmother. For a time she tries to have control of her own house, but eventually she allows the other women to overrule her decisions, even when Lou Ann is obviously right. During their visit, she lives in a dark, stifling house that matches her dull, constricted life. Lou Ann is so terrified of the future and what could happen if even something small goes wrong that she is unable to experience the joy of achieving something risky. Caution becomes psychotic phobia. When she is finally free from the idea that nothing is worth a risk, and that others should make decisions for her, Lou Ann is able to take control and leave the shore to explore a life of self-confidence.
Finally, the most extreme case of poor captaincy is Esperanza. She isn’t even on her ship anymore, simply abandoned it to be beaten by every passing wave. Essentially, her character is one of minimal existence. She is silent and withdrawn, barely a part of the world around her. Consequently, this is most likely why her husband seeks a relationship with Taylor. Esperanza lets herself be moved from place to place without articulating any sort of protest or indication of fatigue. By consistently keeping herself to the sidelines, she is unable to enjoy life, no matter how safe she is. No amount of external stimulus is enough to penetrate the deep depression within her. At last, she isn’t even worth the breath she breathes, and tries to end her life. However, this is perhaps what ends up saving her in the end, and gives her a reason to live. Her attempted suicide shows Taylor how ugly the world can be, and makes her see Esperanza more clearly. A foundation is formed for friendship because of Taylor’s uncensored honesty. By getting a new friend, Esperanza is able to reach out a little more, and eventually later begins to show signs of life. By the end of the book, Esperanza is back on board, willing to learn how to be a good captain.
A person’s response to the changeable nature of life can be just as changeable as life itself. They can switch between being adventurous, overly cautious, or completely overboard, depending on their situation and how they feel about their situation. “The Bean Trees” demonstrates the importance of knowing what your next move is, and to not be afraid to plan for the future. Sometimes the life or death or a person or people they care about depend on them staying at the wheel, even when things look pointless. With every breaking wave, it is important for someone to be loyal to their ship, and in turn, they will get where they need to go in life.
December 15, 2014
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“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.”
~ Romans 15:13