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Lydia Davis

4:20 M

The Milagro Beanfield War is a story that rests heavily on themes of power struggle,
willpower, and internal conflict. It is a perspicaciously written novel by John Nichols about
deep-rooted personal and societal issues, yet he manages to disguise it as a comedy. The town of
Milagro is full of tenacious people whose lives are best summarized by Lialah Gifty Akita who
said, "In the midst of turbulence, we hold on to hope." With a close examination it becomes
apparent that The Milagro Beanfield War is far more than just a comedy, it is a story about the
unrelenting strength of a people despite the difficulties of their reality.

Amarante Cordova is the first character introduced. Nichols vividly paints the picture of a
man who against all odds refuses to die. He bore thirteen children in his life who had
scatteredto the four winds, five of which died in one-way or another. Cordova had numerous
close calls with an array of diseases and each time his faithful daughter Sally notified the rest of
the family by mail to come home for their fathers last moments. Fewer and fewer came each
occasion firmly believing that that time wasnt the time and eventually they simply replied to
notify them after he died. It is my opinion that the unwillingness to expire is more than a simple
entertaining tidbit. I believe Nichols created Amarantes character and backstory to embody the
essence of the town. I equate the ailments that repeatedly threaten to end Cordova to the conflicts
that constantly plague Milagro. Both the ninety-three year old body of Amarante Cordova, and

the spirit of the townspeople it seems, will never give up. This expertly illustrates the theme of
willpower in the novel.

According to Maslow, there are five levels of human need. They are, in order:
physiological, safety, love/social, esteem, and self-actualization. Maslow stated, One must
satisfy lower level basic needs before progressing on to meet higher level growth needs. The
people of Milagro are essentially at war not only amongst themselves, and with nature, but also
with big businesses. My diagnosis is that because of the hardships that nature and the Ladd
Devine cause them the people of Milagro are forced to revert back to level two, safety and
security. A study conducted in 1998 stated that A man in this state, if it is extreme enough and
chronic enough, may be characterized as living almost for safety alone. I believe that this
reflects the state of most of the townspeople, most of them are just trying to protect what little
they have. The study also found that the need for safety is seen as an active and dominant
mobilizerin emergencies, e.g.,chronically bad situations which explains the will to fight
Milagro has, much like a mother bear fights for the safety of her cubs.

The VISTA volunteer Herbie Goldfarb although a troupe, makes a good example of
willingness to fight for safety. There is a comical passage in the second part of the book when
Goldfarb goes through an adjustment period in his new home. Essentially Herbie had a snake
problem and after discovering the snakes in his sleeping bag for a second time he takes charge of
the situation. with an anguished moan, Herbie chopped his first snake in twoDesperately,
Herbie banged away at the serpent with his shovel until all the pieces were stilled. Dont tread
on me. He remembered sickly. And: United we stand...'" (137) . The last bit of the quote "Don't

tread on me." Is not only iconic, it reflects the feelings of the people in Milagro in reference to
the Ladd Devine Company.

Devine's company has taken up most all of the land and in addition, it has also denied the
water rights of the townspeople. I. Truth the only good thing Devine has done is wake up the fire
in the heart of Milagro awakening people like Ruby Archuleta. She gave a moving speech at the
church meeting that captures the essence of the town and its strength. She said"... When I wake
up in the morning sometimes I want to cry. I think of recent history, and then I think of this
Indian creek dam and the Indian Creek Conservancy District, and I know that if they come about
it will be the end for most of us. And I cannot bear to let this happen without a fight." (146)

Throughout the story comedy is evident however, The Milagro Beanfield War is so much
more than that. Strength is to me, the main theme. It can be observed in almost every scene and
in most every character from the bold Joe Mondragon to the meek VISTA volunteer Herbie
Goldfarb. John Nichols composed this novel not just to entertain as it appears on the surface, but
to empower. To be an illustration of the power even the smallest people can have with a little of
bravery and a bit of persistence. Milagro is a town with people that are less than fortunate and
have to work hard for what they have, but it is that diligence and perseverance that in the end
serves them well.

Works Cited
Akita, Lialah. 'Quotes About Battles (109 Quotes)'. Goodreads.com. N.p., 2015. Web. 21 Oct.

Maslow, Abraham H. "A theory of human motivation." Personality: Critical concepts in

psychology (1998): 169-188.