The Bean Trees By Barbara Kingsolver Summary and Analysis Chapter 4

Summary and Analysis

Once again, Kingsolver shifts points of view to limited third person. She also shifts the setting to Lou Ann's house in Tucson, Arizona. Lou Ann now has a baby boy named Dwayne Ray. Her mother (Ivy Logan) and grandmother (Granny Logan), both from Kentucky, are visiting to help Lou Ann with the new baby. Lou Ann asked Angel to move back into the house during the women's visit because she doesn't want to admit to her relatives that her marriage is over. Because Angel "[knows] the power of mothers and grandmothers," he does what she asks and they pretend to be a united family. Lou Ann doesn't like lying to her mother and grandmother, but she just can't reveal the truth about her failed marriage. Unfortunately, she is more worried about what others think and feel about her than she is about what she wants for herself. Rather than face conflict, she glosses over the problem by asking Angel to return home temporarily to further the appearance of a happy, picture-perfect marriage.

Throughout their two-week stay, Lou Ann's mother and grandmother do their best to avoid Angel. They help Lou Ann with the baby, and Granny Logan manages to complain about everything — from the Tucson heat to Lou Ann's moving far away from home and marrying a "heathern" Mexican who commits the sin of working on Sundays. She even insists on wearing her winter coat to the bus in eighty-degree heat simply because it's January — at home in Kentucky, it's cold. In describing Granny Logan, Kingsolver uses imagery similar to that found in poetry: "Her old hand pawed the air for a few seconds before Ivy silently caught it and corralled it in the heavy black sleeve."

Getting ready to leave for the bus, Lou Ann's mother brings her suitcase into the room. Lou Ann recognizes the leather belt holding it together: It is the same leather belt that her father used to whip her when she was young. Kingsolver includes this scene to continue to bring readers an awareness of child abuse.

The Kentucky dialect spoken by all three women is realistic. Lou Ann's mother and grandmother "have to git" for home, the bench at the bus stop is "hot as a poker," and without tea to drink on the bus, Granny Logan will be "dry as a old stick fence."

On her way home from the bus stop, Lou Ann stops to buy tomatoes from Bobby Bingo, who mentions that his son sells cars and is in television commercials. When he asks Lou Ann if she's ever seen one of the commercials, Lou Ann reveals that her husband left her and took the television with him, so she hasn't seen any of the commercials. Insightfully, she questions why she can tell the truth about her failed marriage to a stranger when she couldn't tell her own mother and grandmother. However, she doesn't ponder the answer long enough to gain a new awareness of herself.

Angel's coming home to pack his things and leave again prompts Lou Ann to recognize that she feels indifferent toward Angel. Whether or not Angel lives with her doesn't matter. Her feelings about Angel's presence contrast with the feelings she had when her mother and grandmother — women — were "filling up the house." Here, Lou Ann is beginning to recognize the strong female bonds between women, a theme that runs throughout the novel. Kingsolver seems to suggest that women do not abandon women; men do.

Angel's insensitivity toward Lou Ann is evident when he pours the Tug Fork water down the drain. Family members would have understood the sentimental value attached to the bottle of dirty water.

Glossary

Apoplectic a stroke; a condition of great excitement or anger.

crosspatch grouchy.

mustard plaster a soothing treatment containing mustard.

grip a suitcase.

heathe(r)n an uncivilized or irreligious person.

crick a creek.

tarnation damnation.

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