Female Identity In The Bean Trees By Barbara Kingsolver

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The Bean Trees, Barbara Kingsolver’s debut novel, was written while she was pregnant with her first child. The novel was published 1988, soon after the second wave of feminism, and shortly before the third wave. The Bean Trees follows the journey of Taylor Greer, as she leaves her hometown in Kentucky and travels across the country in her push start Volkswagen, to escape the traditions of Kentucky – such as teenage pregnancy, getting married at a young age, and frittering away her life. She is then given a child, Turtle, on her way through Oklahoma, who she must care for, as she is supported by fellow women she meets when her car breaks down in Arizona. The Bean Trees conveys many differing identities, including the stereotypical male identity; …show more content…
The novel also volunteers an alternate female identity; the strong, independent, confident identity, through the narration provided by single mothers, Taylor and Lou Ann. Different aspects of context have influenced my response to the novel, such as my belief in feminist ideologies, including that single mothers should receive support (as opposed to America at the time, which did not support single parenthood), and that although traditionally more masculine men are considered more attractive, and were in the time period of the text, the contraceptive pill had just been introduced, and the hormone replacements causes women to find less masculine, more caring and support men, more attractive.

In The Bean Trees, the traditional male identity, represented as brutish, insensitive, and blunt, is constructed through the characterisation of Angel and his relationship with the character, Lou Ann. Traditional masculine qualities Angel
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This identity is constructed through the characterisation of Lou Ann and her relationship with Angel. In the exposition of the novel Lou Ann displays the behaviour typically expected from women perpetuating the stereotype – she is submissive towards Angel, allows him to adopt a sense of superiority over her, and makes feeble attempts to control her own life, as well as feeling insecure about herself and her abilities. This is demonstrated particularly when Lou Ann is first introduced; as she is sitting in the doctor’s waiting room, and the nurse calls her “Mrs. Angel Ruiz.”. Lou Ann does not correct the pronunciation, in contrast to Angel, who “always” corrects it. This constructs the female identity as feeble and submissive by creating an atmosphere in which it is inferred that Lou Ann does not feel it’s her place to correct her own name. Lou Ann’s insecurities also form a large part of her character; “…she caught sight of herself in the mirror and thought she looked disgusting...”. This characterisation constructs Lou Ann as self-doubting, which is almost expected of the stereotype female identity, both now and in the 1980’s. Lou Ann’s insecurities are also brought to light when she is drunk and talking to Taylor. She suddenly notices that she is intoxicated and starts to worry “…that she might lose control and do something awful.”, causing her to “…blow it just one

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