Election Day is November 3rd! Make sure your voice is heard

The Bean Trees

Barbara Kingsolver
Summary

Chapters Two–Three

Summary Chapters Two–Three

Analysis—Chapters Two–Three

In Chapter Two, the narrator allows us a glimpse into the thoughts of one character, Lou Ann, but does not reveal the thoughts of any other characters. This type of narration can be labeled either limited omniscient or subjective. The chapter begins with the narrator informing us that Lou Ann comes from Kentucky. This fact gives us an immediate reason to identify Lou Ann with Taylor, who also comes from Kentucky. As the chapter continues, however, the narrator’s presentation of Lou Ann’s character reveals that Lou Ann differs markedly from Taylor. Unlike Taylor, Lou Ann worries incessantly. She worries about Angel, she worries that her baby will be born on Christmas day, and she worries about the truth of Lee Sing’s axiom about girls.

The narrator presents Angel as a wounded, proud man, asking us to simultaneously understand his insecurity about his leg and hurt pride over Lou Ann’s refusal to sleep with him, and to condemn his abandonment of the pregnant Lou Ann. Angel weakens Lou Ann. When she argues with him, she feels “her bones were made of . . . the rubber in a Gumby doll.” Still, Lou Ann emerges from this chapter as a character with some backbone. In fact, her greatest moment of power comes when she ventures out by herself. She enjoys the fact that men leave her in peace because of her pregnancy. On the bus, she relaxes, feeling as if she has a “magic circle” around her that no one can penetrate.

Taylor’s reaction to Tucson demonstrates her unique way of perceiving the world. To Taylor, a Kentuckian who has left her home county for the first time, Arizona seems so surreal that it makes her laugh aloud. The similes that Taylor uses to describe the land and sky make the images clear, but they also communicate the unique way Taylor takes in her surroundings. She describes the pink clouds as “hippo ballerinas in a Disney movie” and compares the rock structures to mating potato bugs and dinosaur droppings. Taylor’s reaction to this place allows us to see a different side of her character. The novel has already established her grit and sense of humor, and here it establishes her sense of adventure. It becomes clear that Taylor heads west not to find beauty, but to find something strange and interesting.

Taylor gently pokes fun at religion. The names Jesus Is Lord Used Tires and 1-800-THE-LORD tickle Taylor because they use God to sell commercial products. Another mild subversion of religion is Mattie’s garden, reminiscent of a topsy-turvy Garden of Eden. In the biblical Garden, man, woman, and beast grew alongside one another. In Mattie’s garden, car parts, or man-made artifacts, exist alongside God’s creations, the flowers and vegetables. Mattie’s garden also reaffirms the importance of setting. Only in Tucson, Kingsolver suggests, could purple beans and tomatoes grow out of an old Thunderbird in the middle of January.