The Bean Trees

by: Barbara Kingsolver

Important Quotations Explained

1
“I have always thought you had a wonderful way with words,” he said. “You don’t need to go fishing for big words in the dictionary. You are poetic, mi’ija.” . . . “Well, thank you for the compliment,” I said, “but that’s the biggest bunch of hogwash, what you said. When did I ever say anything poetic?” “Washing hogs is poetic,” he said.

These lines from Chapter Eight record a conversation between Estevan and Taylor. To emphasize the idea that immigrants should be treated with respect, Kingsolver pointedly makes Estevan, an immigrant, the character with the best command of the English language. He is better educated and more articulate than any of his friends, all of whom use slang and bad grammar. Kingsolver does not condemn those characters who use nonstandard English, as this quotation indicates; rather, she suggests that all forms of English can be considered poetic. Although Taylor wishes she could use bigger words, like Estevan does, Estevan points out that her slang and colloquial expressions are beautiful. Taylor’s “hogwash,” Esperanza’s silence, and Turtle’s vegetable songs all have their own bit of poetry.