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Free Study Guide for The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver-BookNotes

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CHAPTER SUMMARIES AND NOTES


CHAPTER 4


Summary

Lou Ann has had her baby, a boy, Dwayne Ray. Her mother and grandmother are visiting her in Arizona to help out. Angel agreed to move back in during his in-laws’ visit because “he knew the power of mothers and grandmothers”. If the women knew that Angel and Lou Ann had split up, it would escalate their derogatory insistence that Lou Ann and the baby go home with them. When it is time for the older women to leave, Granny gives Lou Ann a Coke bottle filled with water from the Tug Fork Creek with which to baptize the baby, and reminisces about Lou Ann’s baptism in that same creek. Then, refusing to wait for Angel to get home from work to drive them to the station, the two women board a bus to downtown and say their goodbyes. Lou Ann almost feels like running after the bus to join them.

After seeing her relatives off, Lou Ann stops at a vegetable stand to buy tomatoes and strikes up a conversation with the vegetable man, Bobby Bingo. She mentions to him that her husband has left her, surprising herself that she could be so frank with a stranger. Bobby shares his disappointment in his own son who is a successful Cadillac dealer that doesn’t appreciate what his father does. Bobby offers Lou Ann this philosophy, “Whatever you want the most, it’s going to be the worst thing for you.”


At home, Lou Ann is feeling sad that her mother and grandmother have gone. When Angel arrives after work he packs up his things. His scent and the sounds that he makes in the house are familiar to Lou Ann, yet for a moment she perceives him as a stranger. She hears him pour the Tug Fork water down the drain and her heart aches.


Notes

Another short chapter, Tug Fork Water returns us to Lou Ann Ruiz’s aching loneliness. Her own life has taken a downward turn and she seeks the comfort of familiarity with her mother and grandmother. The vegetable man serves as a sounding board that helps Lou Ann sort out her feelings and accept her situation. At home, she decides that it doesn’t really matter to her if Angel is there or not. Though she aches, she knows that her attitude of indifference toward him is good.


CHAPTER 5


Summary

Taylor took the job at the Burger Derby. She had developed a friendly working relationship with Sandi and they would take turns checking on their kids at Kid Central Station. Turtle did not adjust to Kid Central Station. That, coupled with, “Three twenty-five and hour plus celery and you’re supposed to pay for drycleaning your own [uniform] shorts” was enough to make Taylor quit after only six days. Her manager said that she didn’t have the right attitude. She had agreed that she didn’t have the “proper reverence for the Burger Derby institution”, and thrown her hat into the trash compactor.

Taylor began looking through newspapers left on the tables at coffee shops to find a cheap place to live. She chose two ads looking for roommates as possibilities. The first was a commune of young people just starting a soymilk collective. They asked about Turtle’s “spirit name” and scorned the fact that she had eaten half a hotdog that day, since in their opinion it was loaded with toxins. Taylor fielded their unusual questions in her down home way and decided to move on to the next house.

The second house was across the park from Jesus Is Lord Used Tires and belonged to Lou Ann Ruiz. Lou Ann and Taylor hit it off immediately. Coming from similar backgrounds, their honesty and easy manner made them fast friends. They talked about the children, the cat, and the ex-husband. Lou Ann felt good to finally have someone with whom she could relate.


Notes

This chapter showcases Taylor’s wit and adaptability both in her dealing with the Burger Derby manager and her interview at the commune. She never lets show any of the self-doubt she may have, knowing that her outward self-assurance and strong moral code will get her through.

In the conversation between Taylor and Lou Ann, the reader begins to sense that Taylor is going to help Lou Ann come around. It is here that we get a taste of Lou Ann’s negative self-image and her perception that her own self-worth is based on physical appearance alone. She delights in Taylor’s like home dialect and feels accepted. Momentarily the feeling of struggle is lifted.


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