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Family In The Bean Trees Essay

1683 words - 7 pages

Since the times of our primate ancestors, we humans have lived in groups affiliated by consanguineous, romantic, or simply mutually-advantageous relationships. However, the exact definition of these human social groups we call “family” varies wildly depending on social norms and moral and religious values. In the United States, and in other nations, many still steadfastly assert that in order for a family to be legitimate, and functional, it must follow the “traditional” standards. This, of course, means there should be a breadwinning father and a subservient wife and children. Needless to say, in most of the world, especially the West, this idealization of what a family should be is less and less common, with blended families, homosexual couples, and other “untraditional” families becoming more common and socially acceptable. Barbara Kingsolver believes very strongly in the legitimacy of these “untraditional” families and her novel The Bean Trees explores this topic thoroughly. Personally, I define “family” as any group of people who care for and look after each other and call themselves a family. Families--both conventional and otherwise--help each other immensely and are an essential system of support for both children and adults alike, as shown time and time again in The Bean Trees.As I’ve stated, families don’t need to be conventional to be effective, and this novel starts and ends with unconventional families. At the beginning of the Kingsolver's novel, Taylor Greer, the resilient young woman of humble origins who serves as the main character, talks of her family and her childhood in Pittman County, Kentucky. Raised by a single mother, she manages to get out of her somewhat backwards hometown. Her mother, despite lacking a high school education, a spouse, and a well-paying job, is able to instill toughness, heart, and kindness into her daughter and to give her the best opportunities she could. For instance, she convinces Taylor to ask her teacher for a sought-after and important job at the local hospital by challenging her to be courageous and just ask for it. That strategy works, and the job ends up earning her the money needed to fund her journey out of Pittman County. Furthermore, she lets Taylor go and supports her decision to leave for a distant state, but doesn't let her go unprepared. She makes sure she can change her tires and even partially fill them up with a bicycle pump. Many people would dismiss Taylor's chances, based on her history, but she manages to make something of herself, thanks to the support of a caring mother.In extension, convenetional families are often broken and ineffective like the stereotypes of their unconventional counterparts. Taylor's classmate Newt Hardbine, for one, came from a conventional family. Newt and Taylor were both poor, rural children from the same town. Taylor even says, “If you were to look at the two of us, myself and Newt side...

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