The Bean Trees By Barbara Kingsolver Summary and Analysis Chapter 13

Summary and Analysis

In this chapter, things go from bad to worse. Taylor finds out from Cynthia, the social worker, that because she doesn't have a legal claim to Turtle, the state of Arizona could take Turtle away from her. Because she already blames herself for what happened to Turtle in the park and feels inadequate as a parent, Taylor contemplates withdrawing into a protective shell and denying that she has responsibilities to people other than herself. She feels victimized. However, Kingsolver reverses the roles that she's established for her main characters by having Lou Ann, who is usually the victim, get mad at Taylor. Here, Kingsolver once again emphasizes the important interdependence between people. Lou Ann tells Taylor to do what Taylor has told her to do: to stand up and fight. Lou Ann's uncharacteristic reaction underscores the fact that Taylor, Lou Ann, and their children have become a family. They stick up for each other and prove that family values prevail over unjust laws.

Taylor is relieved when, after only a few weeks, Turtle begins to speak again. During visits to the social worker, Turtle plays with the anatomically correct dolls and often puts them under the blotter on Cynthia's desk. Note that Taylor is convinced that Turtle is "planting" the dolls. Here, Kingsolver foreshadows the future as Cynthia expresses her concern about Turtle "burying" the dolls.

Confused about what would be best for Turtle, Taylor talks to Mattie, who encourages Taylor to look at the situation from a different perspective: to ask herself whether she wants to try to raise Turtle. Taylor and Mattie's conversation emphasizes that mothers can only do their best to keep their children safe; nobody can protect a child from the world.

During a visit from Taylor, Cynthia realizes that Taylor has made the decision to keep Turtle and gives Taylor the name of a man to contact in Oklahoma after she locates Turtle's relatives. Note that Taylor asks Cynthia about the cameo brooch that Cynthia often wears, wondering if Cynthia has to shop at the Salvation Army because she doesn't have a lot of money or if she likes "rummaging through other people's family heirlooms." Taylor's comment is a metaphor for Cynthia's job as a social worker.

Taylor decides that she and Turtle will go to Oklahoma to find Turtle's relatives so that Taylor can adopt her. Taylor will also take Estevan and Esperanza to a safe house in Oklahoma. Kingsolver creates suspense as Mattie discusses the penalties involved in transporting illegal immigrants, including jail and stiff fines. Esperanza and Estevan will be deported and killed. And Turtle will be taken away from Taylor. However, to her credit, Taylor is not swayed from her decision.

Kingsolver balances the ugliness of the world that Taylor has to endure with the beauty of nature. The night before Taylor, Turtle, Estevan, and Esperanza are to leave for Oklahoma, Virgie Mae comes to Taylor and Lou Ann's door saying that she wants to show them something. Taylor and Lou Ann wake the children and take them to Edna and Virgie's front porch, where they see the most beautiful night-blooming cereus, a plant that blooms only one night each year. The sight portends a positive outcome to Taylor's trip to Oklahoma, according to Lou Ann. "Something good" will happen.

Note that Mattie gives Taylor an envelope full of money before Taylor sets out for Oklahoma. Here, Mattie acknowledges that different people play different roles in life: Some people take risks, succeed, and are called heroes; others work behind the scene but are as important as the more public heroes. To Mattie, what Taylor is doing is heroic.

Glossary

coerced forced.

notarized certified as authentic by a public officer.

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