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May's Book
The Bean Trees
by Barbara Kingsolver
Discussion Questions

Here are some questions that will serve as conversation starters for talking about The Bean Trees.

  • In The Bean Trees, most of the characters are outsiders in one way or another. What special stresses does being an outsider place on people? What conditions must exist for a person to feel a sense of belonging? Are these conditions internal as well as external?

  • How would you characterize Taylor? What influences have shaped her character? How does she change during the novel?

  • Why does Kingsolver choose to use a third-person point of view in Chapter 2, which introduces us to Lou Ann Ruiz? What kind of person is Lou Ann at the beginning of the novel? How and why does she change?

  • Why is Turtle a silent character until Chapter 7? How does she change emotionally over the course of the novel?

  • In a December 2000 interview, Barbara Kingsolver described herself as a “horrible eavesdropper” who grew up hearing poetry that she didn’t even recognize as poetry. How does The Bean Trees reflect her fascination with the poetry of everyday speech, particularly the speech patterns of native Kentuckians?

  • To what does the title of the novel refer? How does this phrase relate to the book’s overall themes?

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