The Bean Trees

The Bean Trees Chapter 10 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Taylor recalls a saying that her mother told her: Even a spotted pig looks black at night. True to her mother’s word, things look better in the morning. Mattie calls with good news of Esperanza, and Taylor sends Estevan home to his wife. Turtle wakes up and Lou Ann comes home in a good mood. Taylor marvels at the birds that sing every morning, even though the trees in their neighborhood park are so sickly. Lou Ann insists that one of the bird calls is saying “Who Cooks for Who?” a rare instance of Lou Ann sticking to her own opinion.
The harsh events of the night look much different by day, as the light softens these disasters into more manageable missteps. Taylor is able to remember that vulnerable birds are also hardy survivors, and that Estevan and Esperanza will likely survive as well. Meanwhile, Lou Ann’s confidence seems bolstered by the experience of belonging to Angel’s family and finding her place in the new family she forms with Taylor.
Themes
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Nature Theme Icon
Disaster and Survival Theme Icon
As the weather gets hotter, both Turtle and Dwayne Ray get more energetic, until Taylor takes them to play in the arbor. Taylor thinks of this spot in the park as a special haven from the tumble of downtown Tucson. Lou Ann is full of gossip after her enjoyable weekend at the Ruiz family reunion. Lou Ann likes all of Angel’s family much better than she liked him, and is sad to hear that many of them are planning to move to San Diego. Lou Ann can’t move there herself because she is too afraid of earthquakes, and Taylor reminds Lou Ann that these people aren’t really her relatives anyway.
The park, though dingy, is still an important site of nature within the city. Kingsolver points out that the kids need these experiences in nature in order to grow up healthy. Lou Ann is in the midst of choosing who she wants her family to be. Though she was related by law to Angel, she is rejecting him and tying herself to his family instead. Taylor points out that she is not related to any of these people by blood, underscoring the role that choice has in making a family.
Themes
Family and Motherhood Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
Turtle interrupts their conversation to call the Wisteria vines “bean trees.” Taylor looks again and realizes that the wisteria seeds do look like bean trees.
The wisteria vines, now compared to the bean vines in Mattie’s garden, are key to Turtle’s character. Their similarity to bean vines calls back to Taylor’s Kentucky roots, as Taylor tries to raise Turtle to be healthy and strong. Also like the wisteria, Turtle has to learn to grow in spite of the “poor soil” of her birth family. Taylor can help her do that, as she does here by supporting Turtle’s vision.
Themes
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On the way home from the park, Lou Ann buys a newspaper to keep looking for a job. Meanwhile, Taylor and Turtle go to get groceries from Lee Sing and run into Edna Poppy. Shocked to see Edna without Virgie, Taylor notices that Edna is holding a white cane. When Edna asks Taylor if she is holding lemons or limes, Taylor realizes that Edna is blind. This knowledge completely changes Taylor’s estimation of the friendship between Edna and Virgie, as sour Virgie does so much to take care of sweet Edna.
It is fitting that Taylor learns of Edna’s blindness in the grocery store of a Chinese immigrant, as it echoes Taylor’s original blindness to the plight of immigrants in America. It also reframes the relationship between Edna and Virgie—while Taylor always imagined that the friendship between the two women was based on Edna’s acceptance of Virgie’s faults, it turns out that Virgie also contributes important care.
Themes
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Feminism and Solidarity Among Women Theme Icon
Belonging and Homeland Theme Icon
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Lou Ann is also shocked to learn that Edna is blind and feels guilty for never noticing before. She also worries about Edna “keeping an eye” on Dwayne Ray, but Taylor reassures her that Edna has her own special way of keeping an eye on things, using her hands and Virgie’s help.
Edna has dealt with her blindness by finding alternate ways to do everything. Edna’s blindness is not a reason to make her stop watching the kids, which might metaphorically remove her from the family. While this is a very nice gesture, it will have some practical consequences for Turtle and Taylor.
Themes
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Disaster and Survival Theme Icon
That Monday, Taylor asks Mattie if she can see Esperanza. The “sanctuary” upstairs is still full of Mattie’s late husband’s things, and Taylor is overwhelmed by all of the clutter. One wall is completely covered with photos of Mattie with many other people and children’s drawings that features guns and bullets. An older woman nods to a door at the back of the room when Taylor asks for Esperanza.
Mattie’s office is filled with things from her legal family and the immigrant children that act as Mattie’s grandchildren. These children have already had to live through more tragedy than Taylor has experienced in her life, but now have the dream of a safer life in America.
Themes
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Disaster and Survival Theme Icon
Esperanza is sitting up in a small bedroom, looking out the window. Taylor comes in and sits down, miming a question about Esperanza’s health by touching her stomach. Esperanza nods, and Taylor starts to wonder why she really came. Taylor glances out the window at Lee Sing’s garden, then tells Esperanza that she has a beautiful name because it means hope in Spanish. Taylor regrets that her own name is just a person who sews up clothing.
Esperanza is sitting up, a sign that her physical health has improved, and is looking at a garden, a symbol that her emotional and mental health will also start to grow. Taylor evokes the double meaning of Esperanza’s name: it’s Spanish for both “hope” and “to wait.” Esperanza has to keep waiting and hoping that life will get better.
Themes
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Disaster and Survival Theme Icon
Taylor realizes that Esperanza is like Turtle, able to understand much more than she can say. Taylor wishes that she could give Esperanza something to hold in her empty hands, then tells Esperanza that Estevan told her about Ismene. Esperanza looks away in pain. Taylor, still intensely unsure of what to say, just asks Esperanza not to give up hope. Taylor affirms that losing someone is horrible, but that not having anyone to lose would be even worse. Taylor holds one of Esperanza’s hands, and says “He’s crazy about you.” As Taylor leaves, she sees the old woman sorting through a box of old mementos, then putting them back in the box.
Esperanza and Turtle are consistently paired in the novel, and now we know that they have both unfortunately had to sever the bond between mother and child. Esperanza’s empty hands are filled not by a material object, but by Taylor’s hands—a reminder that Esperanza still has family here if she chooses to accept it. The old woman in Mattie’s office reinforces the need to put old, painful events in the past and look forward to new growth in the future.
Themes
Family and Motherhood Theme Icon
Feminism and Solidarity Among Women Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
Disaster and Survival Theme Icon
On Wednesday, Taylor meets Lou Ann. Lou Ann had just been on a job interview at a convenience store, but the manager refused to take Lou Ann seriously. The manager went on and on about the number of robberies at the store, and stared at Lou Ann’s breasts even though Lou Ann dressed very professionally for the interview. Lou Ann complains about the pornography store next to Mattie’s tire shop and Taylor tells her to get mad about the injustice against women rather than letting it poison her into staying silent. When Lou Ann asks where Taylor found so much self-confidence, Taylor tells her that it came from growing up poor in Pittman County.
Lou Ann has come against another instance of misogyny as the manager does not find her capable of a job because she is a woman. Taylor, fired up by her intense emotional conversation with Esperanza, encourages Lou Ann to also put these hurt feelings in the past and pour her energy into acting for herself rather than just giving in to a world that puts men first. Taylor’s confidence may come from the life of hard knocks she had in Kentucky, but it is also thanks to Taylor’s mother’s constant support.
Themes
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Feminism and Solidarity Among Women Theme Icon