The Bean Trees

The Bean Trees Summary and Analysis of Chapters 10-12

Chapter Ten: The Bean Trees:

Mattie calls the next morning and tells Taylor that Esperanza was going to be all right. Lou Ann returns from the Ruiz family reunion, and begins to rearrange the house to fill the empty spaces left by Angel. Lou Ann is shocked to hear that several of the Ruiz family are moving to California, for her Mama believes that things are so strange there that grocery stores in California sell marijuana in the produce section. Turtle says "bean trees" when she notices that the flower trees are turning into bean trees.

Lou Ann begins a job search, and Taylor goes to Lee Sing market, where she sees Edna Poppy, who tells her that Virgie is ill in bed with a croup. She realizes that Edna Poppy is blind when Edna asks her whether she has lemons or limes. Upon thinking about Edna's relationship with Virgie, she realizes that Edna must be blind, for Virgie always leads her around and announces everyone's name when they come into a room.

On Monday Taylor goes to see Esperanza, the first time that she visits the upstairs in Mattie's place. She tells Esperanza that Estevan told her about Ismene. She also says that she knows that her name means (hope), and that she wishes that she won't give up that hope. Finally Taylor tells Esperanza that Estevan is crazy about her.

Lou Ann tells Taylor about a job interview with a convenience store in which the man says that there are a lot of armed robberies. Taylor suggests that she holds out for a better job. They notice Fanny Heaven, the porn shop next door to Jesus Is Lord Used Tires, and Lou Ann shudders at the disgusting store. Taylor says that Lou Ann should not let the place bother her, and she should talk back to it. When Lou Ann asks where Taylor learned not to let anyone put one over on her, she replies "Nutter School."


The title of this chapter (which is the title of the novel) once again returns to the theme of natural growth and order. Turtle seems particularly responsive to these natural phenomena; Kingsolver thus relates the growth and maturation of Taylor to the natural maturation of plants and flowers.

The relationship between Virgie Mae Parsons and Edna Poppy becomes clear in this chapter. While it was previously a mystery why Edna would tolerate the rude Virgie Mae, the relationship becomes evident when Lou Ann and Taylor realize that Edna is blind; Virgie Mae is the caretaker for Edna Poppy. This revelation softens the harsh character of Virgie Mae; while still rude and judgmental, she is still capable of great care and kindness.

Taylor's attempt to communicate with Esperanza is a still step but not necessarily a significant or helpful one. Her kindness to Esperanza contains a hint of desperation and discomfort, as if she is guided by her good intentions rather than a knowledge of how she should react toward Esperanza. The name "Esperanza" takes on an ironic significance in this chapter as well, for it is this character who is in most need of a sense of hope. While this is not an unconditionally positive step for Taylor, it still points Taylor in the right direction and places her on the road to greater maturation.

Lou Ann also makes a stride forward in this chapter, as she finally decides to break from her role as a house mother to look for a job outside the house. Kingsolver suggests that the influence of Taylor has given Lou Ann the resolve to break free from her limited role; she takes Taylor's savvy and determination as an example and follows it, thus providing one more example of a positive, symbiotic relationship between the female characters of The Bean Trees.

Chapter Eleven: Dream Angels:

Lou Ann got a job as a packer in the Red Hot Mama's salsa factory, which is essentially a salsa sweat shop. Still, Lou Ann loves her job and is an enthusiastic employee. Having a job improves Lou Ann's mood and neuroses. She works mostly evening swing shifts, which fortunately means that she cooks much less (she had been using salsa with every meal). When Taylor finally asks Lou Ann why she worries so much about disaster, she says that she had a dream the week after Dwayne Ray was born that an angel told her that her son would not live to see the year two thousand. Taylor tells her that she was simply looking for a disaster to happen. When Lou Ann says that she is merely screwed up, Taylor says that she does have redeeming qualities. Lou Ann asks what these are, and Taylor replies that Lou Ann will never neglect her child.

In June, Angel sends a package from Montana, asking Lou Ann to join him there and live in a yurt (a circular domed tent of skins). Lou Ann says that she has responsibilities now at Red Hot Mama's. Mattie tells Taylor that there is trouble, and Esperanza and Estevan were going to have to be moved to a safe house farther from the border. Mattie says that Esperanza and Estevan need proof such as pictures and documents that their lives were in danger in Guatemala when they left.


Lou Ann reaches a new stage of development in this chapter, as she wholeheartedly throws herself into a new role in her job at Red Hot Mama's salsa factory. This transformation nevertheless fits entirely with her character; as a working woman she exhibits the same obsessive fervor that she displays as a mother, yet she now channels them into a more positive outlet. Lou Ann's discussion with Taylor highlights the rationale behind Lou Ann's neuroses; she never believes herself worthy, and thus jumps at the chance to hear her positive qualities when Taylor suggests that she has many redeeming qualities. Perhaps the fullest expression of Lou Ann's development occurs when she rejects Angel's proposal for her to join him in Montana. She no longer sees taking back her husband as a singular option, and views herself as holding a larger and more important place in the world than as simply the wife of Angel Ruiz.

Kingsolver begins to set up the final storyline in the novel with this chapter, in which Mattie indicates that Esperanza and Estevan must leave Tucson to find a safe house elsewhere. The resolution to Esperanza and Estevan's status will provide one of two conflicts that will come together through the final chapter. The second conflict will be introduced in the upcoming chapters, and will neatly fit in with the plight of Esperanza and Estevan.

Chapter Twelve: Into the Terrible Night:

In the middle of July, it is the New Year's Day for the Native Americans who once lived in Tucson. On this day, Mattie can also feel an impending storm. Mattie and Taylor go to the desert with Esperanza and Estevan, where they see the storm break the desert into smoky columns and rays of sunlight. The rain smells "clean" to Taylor and "pungent" to Estevan; this is caused by the greasewood bushes that produce a certain chemical when it rains, according to Mattie.

When the four return home, Taylor immediately realizes that something has gone wrong. Lou Ann says that it's Turtle. Lou Ann tells that Edna and Turtle were in the park. Edna heard a sound, like a bag of flour hitting the dirt. Edna can only explain details: she heard struggling sounds, then she swung her bag out high to hit someone, then Turtle clings to her and will not let her go. It took twenty minutes for Turtle to let go. The police arrive with a social worker. Taylor explains that Turtle may not talk: not now, not ever. The social worker gives Turtle anatomically correct dolls to see whether or not she has been molested. While this happens, Virgie and Taylor attempt to deal with a bird that has flown into the house.

The medical examiner finds no evidence that Turtle had been molested. Lou Ann assures Taylor that Turtle will snap out of her catatonia. Lou Ann becomes angry, and even takes a week off from Red Hot Mama's in order to stay with Turtle. She blames the perverts who hang around at Fanny Heaven. Taylor laments the ugliness in the world, but Lou Ann tells her that she is the one who fights back. Taylor says that "nobody feels sorry for anybody anymore, nobody even pretends they do. . . . What's that supposed to teach people?" Lou Ann tells her not to feel like the Lone Ranger, for nobody is.


This chapter introduces the final impetus for the crisis concerning Turtle. The story concerning her attack in the park is a story of perfect horror: the danger that Turtle faces is anonymous and appears suddenly. The presence of the blind Edna Poppy makes the crisis even more horrifying: she cannot identify Turtle's attacker, and only wards off the attacker by mere luck when she hits him with her purse. The anonymity of the attacker is significant, placing this evil as completely random and unidentifiable. Even the aftermath of the event is chaotic and random, as Taylor must deal with a bird that has flown into the house while the police and a social worker arrive.

While the physical danger to Turtle has subsided, new problems emerge. The first is the return of Turtle to her catatonic state. The second is the introduction of the police and social workers into Turtle's life. The presence of law enforcement highlights the precarious legal status of Turtle and Taylor that Taylor realized when she first took the baby girl. She has no legal claim to Turtle, and the introduction of the police only makes this more problematic.

The discussion between Taylor and Lou Ann is in some sense a catalyst for Taylor. Taylor now fully realizes the larger ramifications of the world around her, and for the first time is confronted with the fact that she is one of the few people to fight back against injustice. This foreshadows later events in which Taylor will take greater risks against injustice. Her lament against a lack of compassion, however, directly clashes with her personal experiences. Taylor complains that nobody feels compassion for one another, while she is surrounded by caring, reciprocal relationships such as hers with Lou Ann, Virgie Mae and Edna Poppy, and Esperanza and Estevan. This complaint sets up Taylor for the final epiphany of the novel that will mark her final character development.