The Bean Trees By Barbara Kingsolver Summary and Analysis Chapters 11-12

Summary and Analysis

Lou Ann's self-confidence increases when she begins working at Red Hot Mama's salsa factory. Within no time she receives a promotion. Because of Lou Ann's more positive self-image, Taylor enjoys her company more than usual. However, Lou Ann still feels that she is "completely screwed up." She always looks for disasters and worries about things that haven't happened. For example, she relates a dream about Dwayne Ray to Taylor in which an angel came to her and said that her baby wouldn't live very long. This dream is one reason she is so protective of Dwayne Ray.

In these chapters, the tone changes from contentment to bewilderment, for everything seems to be changing at once. Lou Ann receives gifts from Angel and an invitation to live with him in Montana. Terry, the doctor who takes care of the people in Mattie's sanctuary, has moved to a Navajo reservation. The priest, Father William, who transports the people to and from Mattie's, is overly nervous. And Mattie goes "birdwatching" often and is hardly ever home; when she is home, she talks about "trouble in the air." We also learn that Estevan and Esperanza have to move to another safe house or they will be arrested, deported, and probably killed. Although Taylor instinctively wants to minimize the injustices in the world that Estevan and Esperanza's plight symbolizes, she must at least acknowledge their existence, for people in her community whom she has come to love are being affected.

Taylor's experiences cause her to mature. Chapter 12 begins with a joyful tone as Mattie takes Taylor, Estevan, and Esperanza to the desert to witness the coming of rain. In this scene, Kingsolver again uses her natural history and biology background to create a spectacular sight in which she likens the desert plain to a "palm stretched out for a fortuneteller to read." She describes lightning as "white ribbons" and personifies the mesquite trees as able to "shiver," much like a person who is cold would. The rain falls, and after months of sun, it is an unbelievable relief. After dancing in the rain, the group makes its way back to Mattie's truck and heads home.

The peaceful and idyllic feeling is abruptly shattered and changed to frustration, anger, and despair when Taylor finds out that Turtle was hurt while in the park with Edna. Ironically, Taylor can't console the traumatized Turtle because she herself is overwhelmed with guilt. Instead, she helps Virgie Mae free a bird trapped in the house, a symbolic representation of Taylor's wish to free Turtle from her catatonic state. Luckily, Turtle wasn't molested. She has a bruise and was a bit shaken up. Although a social worker tells Taylor that Turtle will most likely speak again, as children are quite resilient, the social worker's encouragement does nothing to relieve Taylor's feelings of despair. She feels that she is an incompetent mother because she wasn't able to protect Turtle. Overwhelmed with the "ugliness" in the world, she is upset about people hurting children, people hurting people who can't fight back, and people not feeling sorry for other people anymore. Her world has changed, and she has difficulty knowing what to do about it.

Glossary

cilantro a leafy herb popular in Mexican and Italian cooking.

cicadas a type of insect; male cicadas make a loud buzzing sound by rubbing body parts together.

Keno a bingo-type lottery game.

Quickdraw McGraw a cartoon horse that was a sheriff in the southwestern desert of the U.S.

pungent having a sharp odor.

catatonic lacking activity, movement, or expression.

anatomical resembling the human body.

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