Barbara Kingsolver's
The Bean Trees

"The One To Get Away"

Visitors Since 9/8/99
Last Update

Some Opening Comments and Ideas to Reflect on about Chapter 1

1. The titles of chapters in the book act as clues or symbols of ideas that are important. Taylor, the narrator or "I" of this chapter, is the one to get away, much like the lunker (the large fish) that always gets away, a fish that she talks about in this chapter. The Hardbines are typical of those who do not get away. Try to identify what are the characteristics of society that Kingsolver wants people to see as bad--something people should run away from. Or, do you think Turtle is "the one to get away?" How does this change your view of the chapter? What if both Taylor and Turtle are "the one"? Can two people be "the one"?

2. Notice all the "thrown away" and "rejected" women and children in this chapter. Which father wants his child aborted? Which father calls his own daughter a slut? Which child is sexually molested and left in bar parking lot? Which child is hit by its own grandfather? Compare and contrast Mama, Jolene, Missy/Taylor, and the Indian woman in the way they cope with fathers, husbands, or children and life in general.

3. Consider also the way groups of people are oppressed because of race, such as the Cherokees, whose land is robbed in the misleadingly named "Jackson Purchase" and who then are starved and walked to death by the government on the Trail of Tears. How does Taylor use her sense of "entitlement" over the past oppression of her Indian ancestors to justify a questionable act? HINT: What are "head rights" and why does Taylor imply such "head rights" justify her "adoption" of Turtle?

4. Think about the symbolism of the narrator's name changes--she has three in one chapter! As the child of the cleaning lady, Taylor is not permitted to talk to the other children of the town as an equal. This leads to her wanting to be "Miss Marietta," and her first name change. Examine each name change. How do the name changes indicate changes in the personality of the narrator? What might be the symbolism of "Taylor"? Is there any connection between the narrator and tails, tales, or tailors?

5. Ethically how do we judge Taylor? Given her state of hunger, her lack of experience with any police, the isolation of the bar, her own youth and ignorance of the law, is she behaving morally when she takes Turtle with her to a motel? What other factors are involved? What crimes could she be accused of? What alternatives did she have? What were the risks to Taylor and to Turtle?

Picture of a Gas Station Sign

Picture of a BudweiserPicture of a Tractor and Kids

Picture of a Lunker
A Lunker

Picture of a Trashed VW Bug

Taylor's VW, however, didn't even have windows, so this would be a step up for her!

Note: How likely was it legal to drive her car? Do you think she had insurance? Could she risk contacting the police?

Picture of Pea Pods

Picture of a Potato Bug
A Potato Bug

Picture of a bottle of Old Grand Dad Picture of a Cosmos Flower
Old Grand Dad/Cosmos

Picture of a Jesus Bug
Two Jesus Bugs

Picture of Marigolds

Old Map Showing Jackson Purchase, 1818
Old Map Showing
Jackson Purchase, 1818

Picture of Platelets

Picture of a Rocker Arm
A Rocker Arm

Picture of a Silo

A silo

Picture of a Yellow Mud Turtle
A Yellow Mud Turtle

Picture of St. Louis Arch

St. Louis Arch

image of fabric worn by candy stripers at hospitals

Candy stripers often wear pink seersucker uniforms, hence the name, since the cloth looks like stripes of candy

New Characters
  • the narrator, Missy, Miss Marietta Greer, Taylor Greer
  • Mama (Alice Greer)
  • Newt Harbine
  • Newt Harbine's father
  • Norman Strick
  • Jolene Shanks Hardbine
  • Mr. Hughes Walter
  • Lynda Walter
  • Earl Wickentot
  • Medgar Biddle
  • Foster Greer
  • Foster Greer's mother
  • Henry Biddle
  • Eddie Rickett
  • Doc Finchler
  • Nurse MacCullers
  • Sparky Pike
  • Bob Two Two
  • Taylor's great-grandpa on her mother's side
  • Earl
  • Mrs. Hoge (the lady at the Broken Arrow Moter Lodge)
  • Turtle (the Indian child)


The Setting: Imaginary Places
  • Pittman County
  • Greenup Road or Steam-It-Up Road
  • Pittman County Hospital
  • the Mustang Motel
  • the Broken Arrow Motor Lodge
  • Floyd's Mill Road
Cultural and Historical Allusions
  • Paul McCartney
  • candy stripers
  • Stephen Foster
  • "My Old Kentucky Home"
  • Bobbie Brooks
  • Old Grand Dad
  • the Jackson Purchase
  • '55 Volkswagen bug
  • Budweiser
  • Plymouth
  • rocker arm
  • silo
  • Polaroid memory
  • the Cherokee Tribe
  • the Cherokee Nation
  • the Trail of Tears
  • "head rights"
  • Oral Roberts University
  • Kenny Rogers
  • "A Rose for Emily"
  • Psycho
  • Norman Bates
Related Links
Last Verified 5/2/3
Jackson Purchase
Jackson Purchase
Volkswagon Bug
The Cherokee Nation
Natural and Geographic Allusions
  • lunker
  • Jesus bugs
  • peas
  • marigolds
  • Hot Tamale cosmos
  • platelets
  • potato bugs
  • Homer, Illinois
  • Sidney
  • Sadorus
  • Cerro Gordo
  • Decatur
  • Blue Mound
  • Taylorville
  • Cincinnati
  • Tennesse, "the Volunteer State"
  • Missouri, "the Show-Me State"
  • Great Plain
  • Wichita, Kansas
  • Oklahoma
  • Pioneer Woman Museum
  • Ponca City
  • St. Louis, Missouri
  • St. Louis Gateway Arch
  • a blue moon
  • mud turtle
  • Kentucky Lake
Related Links
Last Verified 5/2/3

Jesus Bugs
Jesus Bugs
Garden Peas
Potato Bugs
Kentucky Lake
St. Louis Gateway Arch
Pictures of the St. Louis Gateway Arch
Great Quotes
Page numbers from the large-sized paperback edition
  • "Mama always said barefoot and pregnant was not my style." (3)
  • "I had decided early on that if I couldn't dress elegant, I'd dress memorable." (5)
  • "'[A] person isn't nothing more than a scarecrow. You, me, Earl Wickentot, the President of the United States, and even God Almighty, as far as I can see. The only difference between one that stands up good and one that blows over is what kind of stick they're stuck up there on.'"(5)

Picture of a Scarecrow

  • "These orderlies came in from the emergency room yelling for Eddie to get ready for a mess in x-ray."
  • "'[M]y daddy'd been calling me a slut practically since I was thirteen . . .'" (9)
  • "There were two things about Mama. One is she always expected the best out of me. And the other is that then no matter what I did, whatever I came home with, she acted like it was the moon I had just hung up in the sky and plugged in all the stars. Like I was that good." (10)
  • The most amazing thing was the way that child held on. From the first moment I picked it up out of its nest of wet blanket, it attached itself to me by its little hands like roots sucking on dry dirt. I think it would have been easier to separate me from my hair."(22)
  • "It looked like carrying blood and pee was to be my lot in life." (22)

Paper Topics based on Chapter 1

I. One-Paragraph Papers

A. Example Papers

1. Taylor is very independent.

2. Jolene is abused by the men in her life.

3. Taylor's mom is a good mom.

4. Taylor's father is a bad father.

5. A key theme in Chapter 1 is what matters about people are their personalities and other "inner qualities," not outer qualities, like appearance, wealth, or social status. (This may require more than one paragraph to cover well.)

B. Contrast Papers

1. Taylor and Jolene are different in several ways.

2. Taylor and Newt are different in several ways.

C. Argument Papers

1. Taylor should have taken Turtle.

2. Taylor should not have taken Turtle.

3. Taylor's upbringing was superior to Jolene's upbringing.

II. Essay Topics

1. Write a complex comparison/contrast of the parents and children in the chapter. Consider the role of encouragement, violence, education, social opportunities, and social expectations in leading to the "success" or "failure" of particular characters. You will need to define what you mean by "success" in life. Note the key differences in ways characters judge success and how this also contributes to how they judge themselves and their roles in the community.

2. Use the chapter to make an argument about whether or not people are able to overcome or not the social circumstances they are born into and the way they are raised, educated, and treated.

3. Discuss the use of symbols in the chapter and how they introduce and reinforce the themes.

The Author Chapter One, "The One to Get Away"
Chapter Two, "New Year's Pig" Chapter Three, "Jesus is Lord Used Tires"
Chapter Four, "Tug Fork Water" Chapter Five, "Harmonious Space"
Chapter Six, "Valentine's Day" Chapter Seven, "How They Eat in Heaven"
Chapter Eight, "The Miracle of Dog Doo Park" Chapter Nine, "Ismene"
Chapter Ten, "The Bean Trees" Chapter Eleven, "Dream Angels"
Chapter Twelve, "Into the Terrible Night" Chapter Thirteen, "Night-Blooming Cereus"
Chapter Fourteen, "Guardian Saints" Chapter Fifteen, "Lake O' the Cherokees"
Chapter Sixteen, "Soundness of Mind and Freedom of Will" Chapter Seventeen, "Rhizobia"


Picture of a Lunker Picture of a VW Bug Picture of a VW Bug at a Gas Station Picture of a 1958 VW Bug Picture of Cosmos Picture of Cosmos Picture of Marigolds
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