The Bean Trees

The Bean Trees Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The story returns to Lou Ann, who has recently given birth. Lou Ann’s mother Ivy Logan and Grandmother Logan have come to town for a while to help care for the new baby. Grandmother Logan dislikes the intense light and heat of the Tucson winter, and Ivy drives Lou Ann crazy by taking over the kitchen and humming one line of hymns under her breath. Still, Lou Ann also dreads her family’s imminent departure and being left alone as a single mother.
Lou Ann’s biological family is also extremely dysfunctional. Her family is unable to let go of their ideas about the right way to raise a child and the right place to live, instead of celebrating Lou Ann where she is now. Yet though Lou Ann’s family isn’t perfect, Lou Ann still appreciates their support.
Themes
Family and Motherhood Theme Icon
Lou Ann tries to convince Ivy and Grandmother Logan to stay longer so that they can spend more time with Angel and see more of Arizona. Surprisingly, Angel agreed to move back in so as not to upset Lou Ann’s family, as Grandmother Logan would force Lou Ann to come back to Kentucky if she knew that Lou Ann would be a single parent. But despite all of Lou Ann’s pleading, her mother and grandmother are eager to get away from the heat and strangeness of Arizona. Lou Ann, feeling nostalgic for the house of women she had growing up, wonders aloud whether her mother and father were ever close. Ivy responds that they lived with Grandmother Logan so that both Ivy and Grandmother Logan would not be lonely.
Lou Ann clearly feels as though she belongs in Tucson rather than Kentucky. As Lou Ann tries to avoid being lonely in her new home, she does not seem to consider the fact that she should try to convince Angel to stay even after her family leaves. Lou Ann is starving for female companionship, the only type of support that matters to many of the female characters in the novel. Even Ivy and Granny Logan lived together while constantly fighting in order to escape loneliness in marriage to men.
Themes
Family and Motherhood Theme Icon
Feminism and Solidarity Among Women Theme Icon
Belonging and Homeland Theme Icon
Though Grandmother Logan and Ivy are not speaking because of a long-forgotten argument, they are each other’s only companions. Lou Ann wonders how her mother and grandmother will communicate on the Greyhound bus home to Kentucky. Meanwhile, Granny Logan tells Lou Ann to take the baby out of this heat and go back to Kentucky with them. Lou Ann tells Granny that she is happy here with Angel, ignoring the fact that she and Angel are no longer together.
The emotional connections between women in the novel are complex but strong. Ivy and Granny Logan do not usually get along, but they are far more bonded that Lou Ann and Angel are. Rather than facing up the distance between her and Angel, Lou Ann ignores this problem in order to stay in her new home.
Themes
Feminism and Solidarity Among Women Theme Icon
Belonging and Homeland Theme Icon
Lou Ann has grown accustomed to living in the desert, though it was a hard transition, and does not want to move her son Dwayne Ray from his birthplace. Dwayne Ray was born on January 1st, just 45 minutes to late to win the “First Baby of the Year” prize of a year of free diapers. Granny Logan still doesn’t understand how people can live in a place so different from Kentucky, and Lou Ann reminds her again that this winter is warm even for Arizona. Granny Logan just tells Lou Ann not to forget her roots with the “ignorant hill folk” in Kentucky now that she is a big-city dweller in Tucson.
Lou Ann seems to believe that Dwayne Ray “belongs” in Tucson because he was born here, one of the simplest arguments for belonging. But whether Dwayne Ray and Lou Ann belong in Tucson or not, Lou Ann’s family still finds every reason not to like this place because they only want what they are used to. Lou Ann still worries over everything, thinking that Dwayne Ray’s unluckiness started the moment he was born too late to win the contest.
Themes
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Belonging and Homeland Theme Icon
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Before they leave, Granny Logan gives Lou Ann a small vial of water from the Tug Fork river to baptize Dwayne Ray. Lou Ann takes the bottle, not telling her family that Dwayne Ray was supposed to be baptized in the Catholic tradition before Angel left. Granny Logan and Ivy start to leave, not listening when Lou Ann tells them to wait until Angel gets home from work. Ivy responds that Angel working on a Sunday is a sign that he is a “heathen Mexican.” Lou Ann is too tired to argue.
The baptismal water that Granny Logan gave to Lou Ann would have become a marker of Dwayne Ray’s birth into Lou Ann’s family. Yet Lou Ann can’t tell her family that her baby will also have to belong to other traditions. The traditions that Angel’s family believe in are completely against Lou Ann’s family’s beliefs. Lou Ann chooses to build new traditions rather than blindly following what her family has always done.
Themes
Family and Motherhood Theme Icon
Belonging and Homeland Theme Icon
Lou Ann writes out directions to the bus depot and helps Granny Logan put on a coat in spite of the 80-degree heat. The three women walk to the bus stop, as Ivy continues to warn Lou Ann of all the dangers that await a baby. Lou Ann then warns Granny Logan and Ivy not to sit on the metal bench, hot from the sun, as they wait for the bus to arrive. Ivy hugs Lou Ann and helps Granny Logan get on the bus. Lou Ann makes Dwayne Ray wave at the bus as it pulls away, but her mother and grandmother are sitting on the wrong side to see.
Granny Logan is so set in her ways that she does not even pay attention to the cues (and temperature) of the natural world around her. Lou Ann’s worrywart tendencies clearly came from her family. Lou Ann’s mother and grandmother sit on the wrong side of the bus to wave goodbye, turning their backs on Lou Ann and Dwayne Ray and seemingly choosing not to see the good things in life.
Themes
Nature Theme Icon
Disaster and Survival Theme Icon
As Lou Ann walks back from the bus stop to her house, she stops at Bobby Bingo’s truck to look at the vegetables he is selling. His produce is better and cheaper than the grocery store, and Lou Ann buys tomatoes that remind her of Kentucky. Bobby gives Lou Ann an apple for Dwayne Ray, even though the baby doesn’t have any teeth, and tells Lou Ann about his own son. Bill Bing, as the son calls himself, sells used cars on TV and is rich enough to offer his father a house in Beverly Hills. Bobby refuses, saying that people don’t eat good vegetables in Beverly Hills. Bobby sends Lou Ann off with her tomatoes and a bunch of grapes for Dwayne Ray, warning her that whatever she wants the most will be the worst thing for her.
Bobby Bingo’s cart is better than the grocery store, suggesting that the efforts of ordinary people working on the land are better than the large corporations that try to sell natural products back to the urban residents of Tucson. Bobby’s son has sold-out to the fakeness rampant in Beverly Hills, a dig on out-of-touch rich people who have no idea about the life of common people. Lou Ann may long for that kind of easy life of conventional success, but Bobby warns her that it won’t truly satisfy her.
Themes
Nature Theme Icon
Lou Ann gets home, washes the fruit and stews about Bobby’s final warning. She opens all the curtains that her grandmother had closed during her visit and stares at the bright, blue sky. She feels both lonely and content in the solitude after her family has left, missing Kentucky without any desire to go back. She picks up the bottle of Tug Fork water that her grandmother left out and puts it in the medicine cabinet, unsure what else to do with it. Lou Ann starts to nurse Dwayne Ray, trying to remember her own baptism in the Tug Fork, but is unable to feel any connection to the memory.
Lou Ann, still passive, is stuck between following the traditions of her family or moving forward on her own. She puts away the water, delaying the decision of whether Dwayne Ray belongs with her Kentucky roots or her new Tucson home. When she thinks of her own childhood, her home does not seem to evoke any warmth for her.
Themes
Family and Motherhood Theme Icon
Feminism and Solidarity Among Women Theme Icon
Belonging and Homeland Theme Icon
As Lou Ann nurses Dwayne Ray, Angel returns from work. Lou Ann notices his presence in the kitchen, but thinks that it feels more like an animal sharing the house than another human. Angel comes into her room and tells Lou Ann that he is packing up his things again now that her family is gone. Angel asks Lou Ann where his belt buckle is, but Lou Ann reminds him that he left it with his friend Manny who has since moved to San Diego. As they talk, Lou Ann is struck by the oddness of living with someone who is not related to her, but reminds herself that she and Angel are related by marriage. Angel goes into the bathroom and find the bottle of Tug Fork water. As he pours it out, scoffing at the backwards Kentucky traditions, Lou Ann focuses on nursing rather than the ache in her heart.
Lou Ann feels as though Angel is not even the same species, comparing him to an animal rather than another human. Men and women mostly travel in separate spheres in the novel, making few connections between the two. Marriage has the potential to be one of those connections, but Angel and Lou Ann’s marriage is not a true partnership. Angel blusters back to the house, blaming Lou Ann for his own mistakes. He also makes Lou Ann’s decisions for her, pouring out the Tug Fork water and forcing Lou Ann to leave her old home behind.
Themes
Family and Motherhood Theme Icon
Feminism and Solidarity Among Women Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
Belonging and Homeland Theme Icon
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