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Free Study Guide for The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver-BookNotes

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KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS


SETTING

The novel begins in Pittman, Kentucky, a fictitious place that has the character and type of people you might find in any small Kentucky town. The characters pass through the Cherokee Nation area of Oklahoma. However, most of the action takes place in Tucson, Arizona around the imaginary Roosevelt Park, surrounded by low-rent homes, a porn shop, a Chinese grocery and a tire repair shop.



CHARACTER LIST


Major Characters


Taylor Greer
She begins the novel as Marietta ďMissyĒ Greer and changes her name as she travels west. Her life changes when an abandoned child is placed in her car. Taylor is the protagonist and narrator of the novel.

Turtle
This abused child that ends up in Taylorís care is the focus of much of Taylorís conflict. She is 2-3 years old, a Cherokee, and speaks little more than the names of vegetables.

Mattie
She is the owner of Jesus Is Lord Used Tires, which doubles as a safe house for Central American refugees. She is wise and tough enough to handle problems. Taylor is often reminded of her own mother when she is with Mattie.


Lou Ann Ruiz
She is an attractive young blonde, and the mother of a baby boy, Dwayne Ray. Her husband has left her. She has low self-esteem but develops confidence after sharing her home with Taylor and Turtle.

Estevan
He was an English teacher in Guatemala but is now a refugee. He and his wife stay with Mattie, then, with Taylorís help, move on to the next safe house in Oklahoma. Taylor falls in love with Estevan but keeps the relationship platonic.

Esperanza
She is Estevanís wife. She is in despair throughout most of the novel because of the loss of their daughter, Ismene, who resembled Turtle.


Minor Characters


Mama
Taylorís mother, though not an actual player in this story, is a presence throughout the novel. Taylor remembers her, quotes her, and speaks on the phone to her. Mama gives Taylor self-confidence and courage by always showing pride in Taylorís accomplishments, no matter how small.

Angel Ruiz
He is Lou Annís husband. He lost his leg in an accident and, unable to get over it, he leaves Lou Ann. He stays in contact with Lou Ann, then eventually joins a rodeo.

Sandi
She is the waitress at the Burger Derby who befriends Taylor. She talks Taylor into taking a job and shares the responsibility of checking on her child and Turtle at Kid Central Station while she and Taylor work.

Granny Logan
She is Lou Annís complaining, condescending grandmother from Kentucky.

Ivy Logan
She is Lou Annís mother. She and Granny Logan come from Kentucky to visit Lou Ann and help out when Dwayne Ray is born. Lou Ann and Angel pretend they are still together while the relatives are there.

Virgie Mae Parsons
She is Lou Annís condescending, matronly neighbor. She lives with and guides Edna Poppy.

Edna Poppy
She is Lou Annís friendly neighbor who, along with Virgie Mae, sometimes baby-sits for Turtle and Dwayne ray. She always dresses in red. Edna is blind.

Ismene
Estevan and Esperanza's daughter who was kidnapped and left behind in Guatamala. She was being held as bait to capture Esperanza and Estevan.



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