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

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Estevan has come to Taylor, though Taylor cannot understand why. He explains that Esperanza, in attempt to kill herself, has taken a bottle of baby aspirin and is with Mattie at a clinic in South Tucson where “you don’t have to show papers.” Taylor feels that Estevan has been through this before. He seems to know the routine and even that Esperanza will be all right. Shaken and not knowing how to respond, Taylor offers food or conversation - Estevan’s choice.

Taylor talks about Lou Ann being at Angel’s family reunion without Angel, then about a boy from high school that committed suicide, and then about the social stratification of her hometown where she was labeled a “Nutter”, the social “bottom of the pile.” She is feeling angry about what Esperanza has done and asks Estevan why Esperanza would want to leave him. He describes, to Taylor’s confusion, how electricity is used for interrogation in Guatemala City. When Taylor catches on she excuses herself to the kitchen and comes back with the rest of the six-pack of beer they are drinking.

They settle on to the sofa and Estevan goes on to explain, again to Taylor’s confusion, that Esperanza had been through much more than Taylor knew. Esperanza’s brother and two friends had been killed in a raid on her neighborhood and her daughter, Ismene, was taken away. Esperanza and Estevan were being sought after because of their knowledge of a list of teacher’s union members. Ismene was being held like “a worm on a hook” and the couple was compelled to choose losing their daughter to save the lives of seventeen other people. Ismene would probably be raised by a government couple that could not have children of their own. Taylor’s heart was pierced realizing that she lived in a world where people have to make decisions like this.

Taylor and Estevan continue to talk, drifting in and out of sleep. Taylor feels comfortable sleeping next to Estevan, but thinks of Esperanza and the pain, emotional and physical, she is going through. Part of that pain is a child that looks like Turtle. Taylor slides off the sofa and goes into her own bed feeling pain, confusion, and the distance of the morning.


“Esperanza tried to kill herself.” The opening line of this chapter immediately evokes pity for the quiet, sad woman that the reader already suspects is running for her life. As Esperanza’s story is disclosed, we feel just as Taylor does, appalled and saddened at the cruelty people suffer while we, as Americans, go about our lives in ignorance. Kingsolver is not a stranger to making a point about domestic and international politics in her work and uses the characters of Esperanza and Estevan to express disapproval of America’s support of the oppressive regime.

This is a turning point for Taylor. Her heart aches with desire for Estevan, but at the same time it grieves for Esperanza. She has a new and greater depth of respect for these two and for their relationship. To add to the fullness of the emotion here, Turtle appears twice during Taylor and Estevan’s conversation, solidifying maternal feelings within Taylor for the child of whom she was not the “rightful owner.”

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