The Bean Trees

The Bean Trees Chapter 11 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The novel moves forward to the third week of May, with the news that Lou Ann has found a job at a salsa factory. It is sweaty, hard, packing line work that ruins Lou Ann’s shoes and stings her hands with the chilies. The spice is so hot that all the worker’s eyes water constantly. Lou Ann absolutely loves it. She is their most enthusiastic employee and starts bringing home salsa for Taylor and the kids for every meal.
Lou Ann’s industrial job in a factory has a harsh bite even though it is supposedly making nourishing food. Yet Lou Ann loves all the difficult things about her job, in contrast to her usual pessimism and worry.
Themes
Feminism and Solidarity Among Women Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
Though Taylor could do with a bit less hot sauce in their lives, she truly enjoys the new side of Lou Ann that has appeared. They leave the kids with Edna Poppy every day, having cleared the air after finding out that Edna was blind. As Lou Ann starts working an evening shift, Taylor puts the kids to bed and stays up to eat dinner with Lou Ann. The two women talk long into the night, mostly about the disasters that Lou Ann reads about every day in the paper.
Lou Ann has finally become the best version of herself now that she is no longer dependent on a man for economic support, even though she is still preoccupied with disasters. Taylor takes back some of the traditional duties of motherhood as the two women still share the job of raising a family equally.
Themes
Family and Motherhood Theme Icon
Feminism and Solidarity Among Women Theme Icon
One night, Lou Ann and Taylor talk about the day they went to the zoo, and Lou Ann wonders how a turtle can get pregnant, considering their shells. Taylor shares that Estevan told her that the Spanish phrase for giving birth literally means “to give the baby to the light.” As Lou Ann keeps looking through the newspaper, Taylor envies the ease and coolness of Lou Ann’s self-cropped hair.
Lou Ann and Taylor share some worries about motherhood, both feeling a bit too young to take on the responsibility of a child. Yet the beautiful Spanish phrase adds a new dimension of hope that there will also be light in their children’s lives. Lou Ann’s hair is another symbol of how she has finally rejected male opinions on her appearance and herself.
Themes
Family and Motherhood Theme Icon
Feminism and Solidarity Among Women Theme Icon
Lou Ann tells Taylor that she was worried sick that Dwayne Ray wouldn’t be born “normal,” which Taylor thinks makes sense given how much Lou Ann worries about him now. Lou Ann tells Taylor why she is such a worry wort: one week after Dwayne Ray was born, Lou Ann had a dream in which an angel in a brown suit told her that her son would not live to see the year 2000. Even scarier, Lou Ann believes this dream was confirmed by the horoscopes she read the next day.
Lou Ann’s superstitions about disaster come from living under the constant worry that her fears will come true. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, Lou Ann’s worries about Dwayne Ray might actually be what prevent him from living a long, happy life by limiting what he feels is safe, in the same way that Lou Ann thinks nothing is safe.
Themes
Family and Motherhood Theme Icon
Disaster and Survival Theme Icon
Get the entire The Bean Trees LitChart as a printable PDF.
The bean trees.pdf.medium
When Taylor tells Lou Ann that she always finds disaster because she looks for it, Lou Ann describes how, as children, she and her brother would look into a box and pretend to see themselves at different points in their lives, but Lou Ann refused to ever imagine herself more than a couple of weeks into the future because she was afraid she would see herself dead. Taylor speculates that this may be because Lou Ann’s father died so young.
Lou Ann’s family background has had a huge influence on how she now sees the world. Her father’s death, instead of leading Lou Ann to live whatever time she has to the fullest, has locked her in a constant battle to prevent the inevitable. Lou Ann needs to learn how to deal with disaster once it occurs rather than futilely looking for it around every corner.
Themes
Family and Motherhood Theme Icon
Disaster and Survival Theme Icon
Lou Ann believes that she is irreversibly screwed up because of all her worrying, but Taylor tries to get Lou Ann to see her good qualities: that Dwayne Ray, for instance, will never feel neglected. Still, Lou Ann insists that she is going to screw up Dwayne Ray too, and refuses to even consider what Dwayne Ray might be like in the year 2001. Taylor puts the matter to rest by telling Lou Ann that dream angels aren’t real anyway, except in the Bible.
Lou Ann is flawed, but Taylor insists that this doesn’t make her a bad mother. The important thing is that she is always there for Dwayne Ray, not that she raises him perfectly.
Themes
Family and Motherhood Theme Icon
Disaster and Survival Theme Icon
In June, Angel sends a package from Montana with cowboy themed presents for Dwayne Ray and Lou Ann, along with a letter saying that he’s changed his mind about the divorce and wants Lou Ann to come live in a yurt with him. Lou Ann doesn’t know what a yurt is, and looks it up: a type of circular tent. Lou Ann asks Taylor if she thinks life in a yurt would be nice, but Taylor stays quiet. Lou Ann thinks about Angel’s offer as she fiddles with her wedding ring, which she put on when she got the package from Angel even though she hadn’t been wearing it recently due to her job at the salsa factory.
The yurt again highlights the number of amazing cultures present in the United States, all of which belong here and make the country richer. Yet Lou Ann has to choose between that new start with a proven damaging relationship, or staying in her old home with a new family. Her wedding ring, forgotten when her job let her form her own identity, becomes a symbol of her possible regression into nothing more than Angel’s wife.
Themes
Family and Motherhood Theme Icon
Feminism and Solidarity Among Women Theme Icon
Belonging and Homeland Theme Icon
Lou Ann reminds herself that she has responsibilities at the salsa factory that she can’t leave, having been promoted to floor manager after only three weeks. When she got the promotion, Lou Ann made the excuse that all the other workers were handicapped, or too young to be manager, but Taylor reminded her that there were plenty of people who could have taken the job – meaning that Lou Ann really was the most competent worker. Lou Ann remains ambivalent about moving to Montana with Angel, saying that she will wait to make up her mind. Taylor thinks that Lou Ann will eventually go.
More than just economic independence, Lou Ann also has power in her job that she would lose if she were to return to Angel as a housewife (yurtwife?). Lou Ann’s confidence is still new, as Kingsolver points out that getting a job doesn’t magically fix Lou Ann’s insecurity. It would be very easy to revert to the old life and family that Lou Ann always thought she wanted. Yet this time, Lou Ann is at least able to decide for herself, rather than blindly following her husband.
Themes
Feminism and Solidarity Among Women Theme Icon
Taylor feels as if the whole world is coming apart, as Mattie is gone more and more often on her “birdwatching” trips. The last time Mattie and Taylor talked, Mattie said that Estevan and Esperanza would have to be moved to either Oregon or Oklahoma to be safer from the threat of deportation. Taylor is outraged that they could be deported, knowing that the couple would be killed if they returned to Guatemala, but Mattie explains that the only way for refugees to stay in the United States is if they have hard proof of the danger to their lives. Mattie is as bitter as Taylor, but has had more time to get used to the unjust nature of this system. Taylor feels as though this truth is a snake waiting to bite her.
Taylor is afraid that both Lou Ann and Mattie, the two most important “family” members she has in Tucson, will leave her. This family is what makes Tucson feel like home for Taylor. Estevan and Esperanza too must deal with the threat of losing their new home, as their presence in America is not officially sanctioned. Taylor’s anger on their account allows Kingsolver to argue that America should be a place of protection for everyone—but the more practical Mattie knows that this is unrealistic.
Themes
Family and Motherhood Theme Icon
Belonging and Homeland Theme Icon