Below you will find five outstanding thesis statements for “The Bean Trees” by Barbara Kingsolver that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the themes in “The Bean Trees” by Barbara Kingsolver and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of “The Bean Trees” in terms of different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them for your essay. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from “The Bean Trees” by Barbara Kingsolver at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: The Burden of Womanhood in The Bean Trees
Throughout Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees, the women throughout the novel form fast friendships and become important support networks for one another. Each of the women is going through an issue that has been thrust upon them and has a large psychological impact because of their sex. Lou Ann is abandoned by her husband, Esperanza is coping with the loss of her daughter and Taylor is trying to learn how to live with a child that has been thrust upon her. However, through it all, the three women fight to find a better future, not just for themselves, but also for one another. In the beginning of The Bean Trees, Taylor says of Turtle that being born a woman has already affected her, due to her abused body and mind. In what ways does Turtle embody the various troubles that the women in The Bean Trees face?
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: Motherhood in The Bean Trees
The three women in Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees have many similarities, but they find their common bond in motherhood. Neither Esperanza, Lou Ann, nor Taylor have conventional views on motherhood, and none of the women are raising their children in a normal family setup. Lou Ann’s husband has deserted both herself and the baby; Taylor has had an Indian child thrust upon her as her own; and Esperanza has left her child behind in her homeland with kidnappers in an attempt to save the lives of many other people. Taylor’s situation is especially significant as she was determined to make it out of Kentucky without any responsibilities. In which ways do these characters share the same parenting techniques? Although their situations are all very different, how does Kingsolver explore the different kinds of love they have for their children?
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: The Importance of A Name in Relation to Identity in The Bean Trees
In Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees, the idea of rebirth through name change is very common. Marietta changes her name to Taylor when her car runs out of gas in a city of the same name. Esperanza and Estevez shed their Guatemalan names when they immigrate to America, and become Steven and Hope when they move away from Tucson. No one knows Turtle’s real name, though she was given the name Turtle because of her clingy and frightened nature; once Taylor gains legal custody of her, she becomes April, signifying the start of spring and yet another season of rebirth. The issue of names is clearly something that is important in The Bean Trees. In what way do the characters represent their new names and how do they grow as people after each name change?
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: The Issue of Illegal Immigration in The Bean Trees
It is clear that Kingsolver feels sympathy for the illegal immigrants in The Bean Trees. Mattie, who is very caring and a likeable character, is deeply entrenched in the immigration movement into Tucson, even going so far as harboring the men and women on her own property. In which ways does Virgie act as a foil to Mattie’s sympathetic nature towards the immigrants? Also, how does Kingsolver bring up other issues regarding illegal immigration, such as political crackdowns and language barriers? Do you think that the portrayal of Estevan and Esperanza is realistic?
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #5: Reciprocal Relationships in The Bean Trees
With the exception of Angel and Lou Ann’s relationship, it seems like every personal interaction in The Bean Trees is equal parts of give and take. For example, Virgie Mae helps Edna Poppy who is blind, while Edna Poppy runs interference on Virgie’s inappropriate remarks. Lou Ann teaches Taylor how to hone her abilities, and Taylor calms and reassures Lou Ann. Even Estevez and Esperanza are symbiotic; they have been through so much, with their illegal immigration that they cannot function outside of one another. In what ways do these relationships, and the other, less prominent relationships in The Bean Trees promote a network of reliance? Think of the quote, “It takes a village to raise a child", how do these reciprocal relationships enable the mothers in the novel to provide a wide family base for their children?
This list of important quotations from “The Bean Trees” by Barbara Kingsolver will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from “The Bean Trees” listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned and explained. Aside from the thesis statements for Kingsolver's “The Bean Trees” above, these quotes alone can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way. All quotes contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of the text they are referring to.
“Turtle's main goal in life, other than hanging on to things, seemed to be to pass unnoticed.” (81)
“I feel like the only reason I have any friends at all is because I'm always careful not to say something totally dumb, and if I blow it just one time, then that's it.”(89)
“You can go and visit heaven. What? You see a room just like the first one, the same table, and the same pot of stew, the same spoons as long as a sponge mop. But these people are all happy and fat.” (113)
“There was a cactus with bushy arms and a coat of yellow spines as thick as fur. A bird had built her nest in it. In and out she flew among the horrible spiny branches, never once hesitating. You just couldn't imagine how she'd made a home in there.” (130)
“There seemed to be no end of to the things that could be hiding, waiting it out, right where you thought you could see it all.” (172)
“Starting right now, you've only got one Ma in the whole world. You know who that is?” (238)
“Lou Ann shuddered. “That door’s what gets me. The way they made the door handle. Like a woman is something you shove on and walk right through. I try to ignore it, but it still gets me." “Don’t ignore it, then," I said. “Talk back to it. Say, ‘You can’t do that number on me, you shit-for-brains.’ . . . What I’m saying is you can’t just sit there, you got to get pissed off."’ (150)
“It didn’t seem to matter to Turtle, she was happy where she was. . . . She watched the dark highway and entertained me with her vegetable-soup song, except that now there were people mixed in with the beans and potatoes: Dwayne Ray, Mattie, Esperanza, Lou Ann and all the rest. And me. I was the main ingredient." (240)
“The petals stood out in starry rays, and in the center of each flower there was a complicated construction of silvery threads shaped like a pair of cupped hands catching moonlight. A fairy boat, ready to be launched into the darkness.” (249)
“I found my head rights, Mama. They’re coming with me." (32)
Source : Kingsolver, Barbara. The Bean Trees. New York: HarperTorch, 1988. <