Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees

Examines role & meaning of unorthodox family, friendship, nurturing in feminist novel.

Barbara Kingsolver’s novel The Bean Trees exhibits a feminist consciousness concerning the meaning of family, which emerges in this novel on several levels. The main character, Taylor Greer, leaves her own family behind as she strikes out on her own to find a more fulfilling life, but along the way she develops a new family group in Arizona. The idea of family projected in this novel is associated with a concept of community, and the latter centers on a group of women demonstrating their growing sense of personal power and identity in a world that often requires them to sublimate both in service of a patriarchal family structure.

Nancy Chodorow notes the way the family structure developed through history and the fact that the Western family has been largely the nuclear family for centuries, being households which…