Free Study Guide for The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver-BookNotes|
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SUMMARIES AND NOTES
Taylor and Lou Ann are sitting with their children in Roosevelt
Park, nicknamed Dog Doo Park because of the lack of live trees, grass or anything
else park like. They are discussing Taylor’s mother’s upcoming marriage to Harland
Elleston “of El-Jay’s Paint and Body fame.” Taylor had found out about the wedding
over a warm but surprising phone call with her mother. Lou Ann is trying to convince
Taylor that getting remarried is a good thing for Taylor’s mother, but Taylor
is feeling a little deserted and most dissatisfied with her mother’s choice of
a partner. As they converse, the wisteria vines under which they sit are beginning
to bloom. There are buds with purple petals showing and bees humming around the
flowers. Taylor is amazed at all this life springing from the bare dirt of the
park, The Miracle of Dog Doo Park.
Mrs. Parsons and Edna Poppy happen to pass by, Mrs. Parsons in a matronly black
dress and Edna, once again, completely dressed in red. They speak briefly, Edna
being polite and Mrs. Parson’s being curt, and as they leave mention that Angel
has been around looking for Lou Ann. This surprises Lou Ann to the point of distraction
as Taylor wonders aloud how Edna puts up with Mrs. Parsons. Lou Ann then explains
that when Lou Ann was a child her Granny Logan had treated her in the same demeaning
manner that Mrs. Parsons uses. Taylor figures this is where Lou Ann gets her insecurities.
Finally, Taylor asks right out if Lou Ann would take Angel back. Lou Ann replies,
“Well, what else could I do?”
Taylor has another conversation about Mrs.
Parsons, this time with Estevan, and apologizes to him for the old woman’s rudeness.
She enjoys being with Estevan and often meets with him outside of Mattie’s. Estevan
is charming and flattering. After he leaves, Taylor is depressed and spends some
time with Mattie who explains to Taylor a bit about the history of the neighborhood
and how the people that come here need help.
In light of the child’s past,
Taylor decides to take Turtle to the doctor for a check up. Since Taylor is unable
to answer questions about Turtle’s medical history, the nurse in the office assumes
Taylor is a foster parent. Seeing that this terminology satisfies everyone, Taylor
continues as the “foster parent” while explaining Turtle’s past neglect and abuse
to the doctor. After looking at x-rays evidencing past injuries and fractures,
which cause Taylor to shiver, the doctor remarks that turtle is closer to three
years old, not 24 months as implied by her size and development. He explains the
condition “failure to thrive” resulting from physical and emotional deprivation.
Taylor can hardly bear to listen and peers through the window on which the x-rays
are hanging to watch a bird building a nest among the spiny branches of a cactus.
Taylor has arranged to meet Lou Ann at the zoo after Turtle’s
doctor appointment. There she sees Lou Ann crying because Angel has indeed returned,
but only to tell Lou Ann that he is leaving for good to become a one-legged rodeo
clown. He would be around Colorado and Montana and might not send any checks to
Lou Ann for a while, and there would be divorce papers to sign. Lou Ann is upset
about Angel’s leaving, and also about the prospect of having to get a job. During
the conversation, Taylor, annoyed, points out to Lou Ann that Angel first left
in October and it is now April. Turtle looks up at the sound of the word “April”.
Lou Ann notices and tries saying it again along with other words, then excitedly
exclaims that April must be Turtle’s real name. Taylor and Lou Ann try the word
a few more times and Turtle turns to them, as if on cue, each time they say, “April”.
This discovery relieves the tension Taylor has been feeling about Turtle’s “failure
to thrive” and distracts Lou Ann from her concerns about Angel. The chapter ends
with the two women laughing uncontrollably at a giant tortoise that had been lumbering
after his mate all during their conversation and has finally caught up to her
and is groaning loudly as he mates.
cycles through struggle and symbolic representations of relief or resolution.
The flowers of The Miracle of Dog Doo Park
symbolize how beauty and life can come from what seems like nothing just as
Taylor and Lou Ann have the joy of their children and other precious glimpses
of life’s beauty, though they each came from “nothing”. (They will return to the
park in a later chapter for another “miracle.”)
The bird outside the window
of the doctor’s office, building her nest without hesitation among the horrible,
thick spines of a cactus, represents to Taylor Turtle’s amazing ability to live
her young life in the thorns of abuse and neglect. Perhaps even the old tortoise
with his cumbersome shell, who after an afternoon of plodding pursuit attains
his goal, represents achieving satisfaction even when one’s circumstances seem
difficult or impossible.
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