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The Bean Trees

Barbara Kingsolver
Characters Mattie
Characters Mattie

Mattie acts as a mother to hundreds of people, including Taylor. She does not fit the typical portrait of a mother figure, however, for although she is wise and loving, she is also fearsomely intelligent and tough. Her combination safe house, garden, and tire shop symbolize Mattie’s combination of qualities. Mattie does not push anyone to act heroically, as she herself acts, but she does inspire heroism through her own actions. She also breathes fresh air into the lives of her provincial, undereducated friends with her work as an intellectual. The other characters only dimly grasp her work as an activist and an intellectual, but the fact that it exists points to a world outside the novel’s scope.