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The Bean Trees
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The Bean Trees

Metaphor Analysis

Plants

In The Bean Trees, plants are everywhere.� Turtle's most prominent vocabulary has to do with vegetables, and Mattie grows a wonderful garden.� The plants serve as a running metaphor for the lives of the people.� Like people, plants cannot flourish if they are not nurtured.� Taylor points out that Roosevelt Park is pretty much all dead.� The plants and the earth have no life to them, and the vines around the arbor seem as dead as everything else.� Yet, in the spring, they bloom into wisteria vines with beautiful flowers that later become beans (119 and 151).� Kingsolver juxtaposes this description with the doctor's explanation that Turtle suffered failure to thrive when she was not nurtured.� Like the plants, Turtle needs the right environment and then she too blossoms.

 

Taylor learns that both plants and people can blossom when the time and conditions are right.� She gets to see a night-blooming flower that comes to life only once a year.� Being in the desert, she realizes many plants are like that.� Mattie tells her that "all the things that looked dead were just dormant.� As soon as the rains came they would sprout leaves and grow" (170).� She gives Turtle a similar opportunity by providing the right nurturing.� Taylor, too, changes when she has the right circumstances of friends and a child to love.� Like the plants in the desert, she sprouts leaves and grows.

 

Vehicles

Taylor is terrified of tires because she once saw one blow a person into the sky. However, much of her life is decided by vehicles.� She was conceived in an automobile in Marietta, which is why she has that name.� And that is just the first time a car decides her life.� She worked and saved money to buy a car, saying "In this car I intended to drive out of Pittman County one day and never look back, except maybe for Mama" (11).� This is just what she does, taking her fate into her own hands by buying the car.� The car represents freedom and control over her life.

 

However, automobiles are not always without their risks.� The movement and change they represent can be fraught with danger.� Turtle, for instance, is born in a car.� Without a permanent home, she is born into a situation that is destined to be fleeting and difficult.� She is fortunate that she happens to land in Taylor's car, which is headed in the right direction, metaphorically.� If she had remained where she was, she would have been hurt more, so the key for Turtle is finding a vehicle going the right way.

 

This is the way it is with all cars in this book.� Cars can be wonderful for attaining freedom, as long as someone responsible is at the wheel.� Driving Mattie's car, Taylor brings her friends to safety, but the journey is terrifying because it is illegal and could bring them all to harm.� Fortunately, they have a caring driver and a safe automobile that is headed in the right direction.

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