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Kingsolver’s Definition of a Woman What defines a woman? A question that has been continuously disputed over the decades. Yet still to this day, society struggles with a consistent answer. What makes a woman? In the past, the answer might have been that to be a woman, she must clean, cook, marry, and tend to her man. The former definition of femininity was weakness and helplessness. Then again,this outdated conception of women is still present in today’s society, in the form of discriminating social norms. Modern women, such as Barbara Kingsolver, fight to dismantle such injustice in the world and challenges the decrepit idea of a sexist female image. The Bean Trees, written by Barbara Kingsolver, is a novel that explores the life of modern-day women in Tucson, Arizona. The main characters, Taylor and Lou Ann, navigate through their unconventional lives with the support of a community of friends and family. The women face many challenges; however, their friendship strengthens them as they overcome the struggles of daily life. In The Bean Trees, Barbara Kingsolver uses elements of fiction to develop a theme that women are strong, independent human beings, and voices that women are not restricted by oppressing societal norms that requires their independence and freedom to be relinquished.Kingsolver uses the element of characterization to show that women are strong and independent human beings. The first way that the author develops this theme is by the characterization of the main character, Taylor Greer, and. The novel portrays Taylor as a woman who is strong, independent, and fierce. During one of Taylor and Lou Ann’s exchanges about Fanny Heaven, the text says, “Lou Ann shuddered. ‘That door’s what gets me... Like a woman issomething 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. . . What I’m saying is you can’t just sit there, you got to get pissed off’” (Kingsolver 202). In this context, Fanny Heaven is a pornography store and
Nguyen 2represents the sexual exploitation of women. Lou Ann becomes upset with the fact that the door symbolizes the act of devaluing and ignoring women. However, she does not have enough courage to act upon her distress, as Taylor notes. According to Stella Bender and her article "Problem: Not being Taken Seriously", "Often a woman is not taken seriously by … society in general. It's said she has… an unimportant voice. But also, … too often a woman doesn't have faith in herself… Lacking self-esteem, she doesn't speak out, articulate her feelings or assert herself” (Bender). Though Lou Ann could not express herself, Taylor teaches Lou Ann that it’s okay to feel anger at the injustice of the world. She encourages Lou Ann to speak out and nurtures Lou Ann’s faith in herself, reminding her that her voice is important. The author characterizes Taylor as tough and unwavering in her opinions, a symbol of feminism. She does not feel afraid to voice her thoughts or challenge the societal norms. She is a symbol of female