Jolie SimpsonJanuary 17, 2018Period 4The Bean Trees Essay The key to reaching the point of thriving in life is to be compassionate and selfless towards others – humans would not survive without generosity. The necessity of generosity and empathy in society is a prevalent theme in the novel The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver. As generosity is displayed towards and from the individuals, they flourish in character growth and life. Kingsolver’s use of this theme is to emphasize how it is also present in real society; humans cannot thrive without generosity and empathy. When Turtle first enters Taylor’s life, it is apparent that the small child has been detrimentally deprived of kindness and love; however, under the generous, motherly care of Taylor, Turtle is able to learn to thrive for the first time in her life. Five months into their time together, Taylor takes Turtle to the doctor’s for a health check wherein he informs them about Turtle’s past traumas and stunted growth. He explains the situation by saying, “‘It’s a condition we call failure to thrive.'” Taylor interrupts, “‘But she’s thriving now. I ought to know, I buy her clothes'”(Kingsolver 166). This explanation relates directly to the theme of how humanity requires generosity to survive. Before Turtle was with Taylor, she wasn’t fully living – she was simply existing. Her traumas and the absence of love in her life cause her growth to stunt not just physically. Once introduced to a life a safety and kindness, Turtle has time to heal and begin to thrive. As with the necessities of food, water, shelter, Turtle represents how humans also must fulfill the need to feel companionship and love. Had it not been for Taylor to supply this for Turtle, the child would have never fully healed. Evidence of the importance of Taylor and of all of her other adopted family to Turtle is shown at the very end of the novel. As the two of them are driving back to Tucson, it says, “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” (Kingsolver 312). The people featured in Turtle’s vegetable soup song are the ones who have loved her and helped her on her journey to becoming whole again. Without them, there would be no cheerful Turtle, and there would be no vegetable soup song. Each person gifted her with their empathy and compassion which was key in her healing from her time with those who abused her. In turn, Turtle unknowingly gave the joys of motherhood to Taylor and all the other ‘ma’s’ in her life. The generosity and empathy traded between people are what give life purpose and meaning, and a life with these things makes all the difference in one’s ability to thrive. This is true in The Bean Trees, for Turtle, and this is true in reality, for everyone. Most of Mattie’s life has been centered around making sacrifices and creating sanctuaries for those in need. She is a beacon of generosity to all in the novel. First, her kindness to Taylor is shown and appreciated when Taylor says, “You couldn’t ask for better than Mattie. She was patient and kind and let me bring Turtle in with me when I needed to” (Kingsolver 105). Mattie recognizes Taylor as someone out of her element and in need of care and empathy. By giving Taylor a job, fixing her car, providing a safe space for Turtle, and acting as a motherly figure, Mattie helps Taylor acclimate to the sudden changes in her life – such as the new environment and new motherhood. Taylor relies on Mattie for her job and childcare, but also for the empathy and understanding Mattie gives. In this situation, Mattie represents in reality how people need someone to rely on and to feel safe with. The support and connection Mattie gives to Taylor allows the young woman to be able to thrive and adapt smoothly under the wing of the older woman’s care and direction. As with Taylor, Mattie also takes care of others who need her help in acclimating into life in Arizona and more specifically, the United States. The first glimpse for Taylor of what Mattie does for people in secret is when she appears on the news. It says, “Signatory to the United Nations something-something on human rights, Mattie was saying, and that means we have a legal obligation to take in people whose lives are in danger” (Kingsolver 139). On a much grander scale than subtle, neighborly generosity, Mattie also takes in fleeing refugees despite the risky secrecy and major sacrifices. Mattie is an example of someone who will do what she feels is right regardless of risks. She knows that these people’s’ lives are in danger, and because she is in a position to help, she will wholeheartedly do so. She quite literally gives the ones she takes in a way to survive, yet she also provides them with hope, kindness, and opportunity. Maddie’s selfless generosity is akin to those outside of literature who make daily sacrifices to those in need. Their humanity and compassion is the key to the survival of others, which is a very literal take on ‘humans cannot survive without generosity.’Esperanza and Estevan are characters who further the theme of the novel. At the start of their’s and Taylor’s drive to Oklahoma, Mattie is skeptical and worried for the outcome. To this Taylor says, “Estevan and Esperanza are my friends. And even if they weren’t I can’t see why I shouldn’t do this … Wouldn’t anybody? It’s a sad day for us all if I’m being a hero here” (Kingsolver 252). Taylor has been shaped throughout the novel to notice the impact of generosity on her life and on the lives of her new family in Arizona. To her, the value of helping and caring for goes unmatched. She sees how it has helped in her life, and in return, she knows her duty as a person is to do all she can to spread generosity to others. So, that is why, in response to Mattie, she explains how she is only doing her part as a human. To most, helping is a natural thing to do, – a trait of humanity – so Taylor has come to realize this and help her friends to safety. Esperanza and Estevan are selfless as well when, once in Oklahoma, they help Taylor gain legal custody of Turtle. Once the adoption is final, it says, “I could see the relief across Estevan’s shoulders. He held Esperanza’s hand. She was still drying tears but her face was changed. It shone like a polished thing, something old made new” (Kingsolver 290). In this special instance, it is shown how both the couple and Taylor benefit from this act of generosity. Taylor gets Turtle permanently, and Esperanza and Estevan finally get the closure they needed from their past trauma with Esmene. Before this, Esperanza had been closed off and struggling, much like Turtle in the beginning. This moment of change in her, however, shows how her own act of kindness has left her better off than before. There is future promise due to this that she will be able to move on and thrive. She will be able to find purpose in life even after tragedy. Thus, generosity and empathy truly do hold high importance in people’s lives – being generous and empathetic not only helps the subject of the attention, but also the giver of it, who can also grasp a better understanding of what it takes to thrive. There is not one prominent character in The Bean Trees who is not bettered by, or betters others, through kindness, compassion, and the instinct to help those in need. Barbara Kingsolver made the message clear through her novel that one’s own humanity is their best asset for themselves and everyone around them. A life without generosity and empathy towards and from one another is a life that will fail to thrive.