The Bean Trees

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The Bean Trees Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The chapter begins by introducing Lou Ann Ruiz, a woman from Kentucky who now lives in Tucson, Arizona. Lou Ann is married to a Latino man named Angel, who is planning to leave Lou Ann this Halloween. Three years earlier, on Christmas Day, Angel got in an accident at his job at the rodeo that left him with an artificial leg and a terrible attitude about life. Lou Ann, now pregnant, hopes that her child will not be born on Christmas Day and bring back bad memories.
The first glimpse of Lou Ann defines her in terms of her husband, a dynamic that holds true in their marriage. Angel takes the lead in their relationship, especially after he feels emasculated by his accident. Lou Ann reacts to this accident by becoming superstitious. She chooses not to deal with tragedy, just worrying about the possibility that disaster will strike again.
Themes
Feminism and Solidarity Among Women Theme Icon
Disaster and Survival Theme Icon
Lou Ann knows that she and Angel will likely separate, but does nothing to either hasten his departure or make him stay. They argue more often, and Angel accuses Lou Ann of cheating on him because he has a bum leg. Lou Ann doesn’t mind Angel’s artificial leg, knowing that a leg is a small price to pay for the accident that should have killed Angel, and actually misses being able to take care of Angel the way she did right after the accident. Lou Ann doesn’t understand why Angel can’t recuperate emotionally from the accident now that he has physically healed. Angel focuses on the fact that he can no longer wear cowboy boots even though he can do everything else he used to do.
Lou Ann passively does not act in her marriage and her life, allowing Angel to set the tone for her marriage. In order to feel like a man, Angel must feel dominant to Lou Ann. This forces Lou Ann to stay in the background and make no choices for herself. The only time that Lou Ann felt needed was when Angel was incapacitated by his accident, but Angel was also extremely unhappy during that time. He still feels that his bum leg makes him less of a man, seen in his desire to wear cowboy boots as a sign of his masculinity.
Themes
Feminism and Solidarity Among Women Theme Icon
Disaster and Survival Theme Icon
Angel leaves on a Friday because it is pay day, apparently unaware that it is Halloween. Meanwhile, Lou Ann is at a doctor’s appointment for her seven-month prenatal exam. She worries over the baby’s due date, knowing how hard Christmas has been every year since Angel’s accident and that kids with Christmas birthdays are overlooked in the holiday bustle. She is brought out of her reverie by a nurse announcing that “Dr. P” is ready for “Mrs. Angel Ruiz.” Lou Ann doesn’t correct the nurse’s pronunciation of Angel, though Angel himself is very particular about the proper Mexican pronunciation “Ahn-hel.” Lou Ann’s mother (Ivy) dislikes Angel because of his Mexican heritage, but it makes no difference to Lou Ann. Now that she lives in Arizona, Lou Ann does not consider Mexicans to be a “foreign race.”
Angel himself does not notice the auspicious timing of the day he left, showcasing how Lou Ann looks for the superstitious meaning in everything that happens to her – even the possibility of the baby’s birth on Christmas. Lou Ann’s passive demeanor carries over to her treatment at the doctor’s office, where Angel would have forcefully let everyone know the proper way to say his name. The question of how to pronounce Angel’s name mirrors the ambiguity of whether or not Angel is considered “foreign” or “not belonging” due to his Mexican heritage.
Themes
Feminism and Solidarity Among Women Theme Icon
Disaster and Survival Theme Icon
Belonging and Homeland Theme Icon
At the doctor appointment, Dr. P warns Lou Ann again that she is gaining too much weight. Lou Ann has barely thought about her weight because she was previously so skinny. The doctor gives her a dietary pamphlet printed in English and Spanish. Lou Ann wishes she could send it to Ivy as proof that Mexicans need help having babies just like Anglos. She then reconsiders, not wanting to remind her mother of the growing Mexican population in the United States or tell her that Angel’s family wants the baby to be given a Catholic baptism when it is born.
Lou Ann, like the woman who gave Taylor the baby, is also made much rounder by motherhood, though she was previously very skinny. The bilingual dietary pamphlet highlights how much Arizona belongs to both American and Mexican cultures. Lou Ann’s mother would see a catholic baptism as another, lesser form of superstition rather than a real religion.
Themes
Family and Motherhood Theme Icon
Belonging and Homeland Theme Icon
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Lou Ann gets on the bus to go home and continues to look at the pamphlet, wondering why prenatal care information always shows pictures of mothers and children rather than pregnant women themselves. She decides that the pamphlets are mostly written by men who do not like the look of pregnant women. She realizes how much she likes being pregnant, because she can ride the bus peacefully without any unwanted male attention. She compares this feeling of freedom to the “magic circle” that her grandfather taught her to draw around herself with a jack-knife when she was a child.
Lou Ann relishes the freedom that pregnancy gives her to exist outside of the male-dictated beauty standards in society. While she is pregnant, she does not have to live up to conventionally attractive measures or receive sexual attention that otherwise follow women in the United States. Kingsolver points out again how limiting those standards are for women.
Themes
Family and Motherhood Theme Icon
Feminism and Solidarity Among Women Theme Icon
Lou Ann gets off the bus in front of a shop called “Jesus Is Lord Used Tires.” The tire shop has a large mural of Jesus on the wall with a tire painted underneath his left hand like a yo-yo. Beside the tire shop is a night club and adult entertainment store called “Fanny Heaven.” This store has a woman painted on the door with the door handle as her crotch – an image that always makes Lou Ann shiver. Lou Ann walks past both shops and tries not to give either much thought.
“Jesus is Lord” echoes the television ad “1-800-The-Lord” that Taylor saw in the bar, setting it up to be another place of salvation for people in need. If the tire shop represents salvation, the adult entertainment store next door represents damnation. Lou Ann is intensely uncomfortable with this reminder of misogyny that she has to walk past every single day.
Themes
Feminism and Solidarity Among Women Theme Icon
Disaster and Survival Theme Icon
On her walk home, Lou Ann goes to the Lee Sing Market to buy some of the new foods from the dietary pamphlet. The proprietor, Lee Sing herself, tells Lou Ann that the baby will be a girl, but Lou Ann says that she would be happy either way. Lee Sing scoffs, saying that having a daughter is like feeding the neighbor’s New Year Pig: a lot of work put into something that will eventually benefit another family. Lou Ann is offended, but acknowledges that neither she nor her brother remained particularly close to their family once they grew up. Her brother married a Canadian woman and had four daughters, but Lou Ann can’t remember their “Eskimo” names.
Lee Sing’s Chinese market is another reminder of the great diversity on American land, even though some Americans like Lou Ann’s mother would say that these non-white immigrants do not belong here. Lee Sing also extolls a male-centric culture, arguing that daughters are a waste of time because they do not continue the family name. In Lou Ann’s experience, both sons and daughters can choose to distance themselves from their families. Lou Ann’s brother even left American land altogether, a choice that Lou Ann supports even if she does not understand the new culture that her brother has chosen to be a part of.
Themes
Family and Motherhood Theme Icon
Feminism and Solidarity Among Women Theme Icon
Belonging and Homeland Theme Icon
Lou Ann makes it home, grateful that none of the neighborhood homeless tried to talk to her. She notices that Angel has come home, taken his things, and left for good. Rather than being truly upset, Lou Ann is interested to see which things Angel took for himself after four years of marital sharing. Lou Ann doesn’t mind that some things are gone, but hates how empty the house now looks. Angel took clothes, a few books, some toiletries, and a picture of him in the rodeo with a bull drugged on PCP. Angel had performed as “Dusty,” short for “Angel Dust.”
After Angel leaves, Lou Ann seems to miss the idea of a husband more than Angel in particular. Angel has shown his true character as he takes apart the house that they built together. Even his name takes on a new dimension. Originally connoting innocence and purity like a religious angel, his name now carries the drug reference of the nickname Angel Dust for PCP.
Themes
Family and Motherhood Theme Icon
Disaster and Survival Theme Icon
Lou Ann has forgotten that it’s Halloween, and so when some children come to the door, Lou Ann realizes she has no candy to give them. Unable to give them things that are unwrapped (for the children’s safety) or turn them away with nothing (for her own safety), Lou Ann empties out a Mickey Mouse bank and hands out pennies to the neighborhood children. She had been saving the pennies to buy a washing machine for the baby’s diapers, but Angel had always called that a fool’s mission anyway.
Lou Ann’s worrywart tendencies show again as she imagines the kids being poisoned by unwrapped cookies or food. Instead, she gives the kids pennies that she had saved up for a washing machine that would make life easier with her own child. Angel, in another sign of how he does not respect Lou Ann, does not see the use in trying to make Lou Ann’s life easier.
Themes
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Disaster and Survival Theme Icon
At 11 pm, Lou Ann gives up on the trick-or-treaters and goes to bed. As she gets ready for bed, she realizes that her feet are so swollen and her belly is so big that she can’t get her shoes off without Angel here to do it for her. She puts her nightgown on over her pantyhose and shoes, thinking that she looks “pornographic,” like she belongs at Fanny Heaven. She lies in bed, feeling the baby move and half-listening to see if Angel will come back home. Finally, she cries herself to sleep, feeling the salt water sting her eyes as they had when she kept her eyes open in the ocean. Angel had warned her not to keep her eyes open underwater, but Lou Ann had been too worried that she wouldn’t see what was lurking in the deep.
Lou Ann’s dependency on Angel was almost absolute, as she cannot even take her shoes off without him there. Like Fanny Heaven, Lou Ann’s housewife role is also a product of the male-dominated world that Lou Ann lives in. Lou Ann’s tears are compared to the ocean, strengthening the ties that Kingsolver is building between the natural world and the human world. Yet Lou Ann’s tears accomplish nothing to bring Angel back, just as keeping her eyes open in the ocean did not help her avoid any disaster that might have been waiting for her.
Themes
Feminism and Solidarity Among Women Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
Disaster and Survival Theme Icon