The Bean Trees | Study Guide

Barbara Kingsolver

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The Bean Trees | Chapter 14 : Guardian Saints | Summary



As Taylor drives Turtle, Estevan, and Esperanza to Oklahoma, they are stopped by Immigration Enforcement and questioned about their citizenship status. They manage to pass the checkpoint by saying that Turtle is Estevan and Esperanza's child. They pause at Texas Canyon, where Taylor had first decided to stay in Arizona when she was entering the state, and then drive onward. They stop at the hotel where Taylor had worked for a few months after taking in Turtle and continue looking for the bar where Turtle's aunt had given her to Taylor. Along the way, the group realizes that Estevan and Esperanza could easily pass for Native Americans and invent aliases for the couple, Steven and Hope Two Two. Taylor suggests the name, without telling Estevan that she had remembered it from the man who had fixed her car's rocker arm on her westward journey, just before she met Turtle. In the backseat, Esperanza and Turtle play and nap, growing closer and closer the farther they drive.

Taylor finally manages to find the bar where she had met Turtle, but everything has changed. A new family owns the place, and even though less than a year has passed, no one knows the prior owner or the previous regulars. Taylor returns to the car thinking that she knew it would end this way and wondering why she had come knowing this. She decides that "I must have wanted something, and wanted it badly." Without a clear next step, Taylor suggests that the foursome go on a little vacation to the Grand Lake o' the Cherokees.


When Taylor drives Turtle, Estevan, and Esperanza toward Oklahoma, she reverses the very same route that she drove when entering the state in Chapter 3. Texas Canyon looks the same, but Mrs. Hoge has passed away, her daughter-in-law Irene Hoge has lost more than 100 pounds, and almost nothing remains of the bar where Taylor first met Turtle. In less than a year, everything has changed so much that it is almost unrecognizable. These external changes mirror Taylor and Turtle's psychological changes. When Turtle and Taylor first met, Turtle was traumatized, bruised, catatonic, and underweight. Taylor was independent and strong willed but was driving without a clear direction or purpose. Their relationship is forced upon them by chance. Now, Turtle is a mostly happy and healthy child who voluntarily speaks (although mostly about vegetables), and Taylor is a strong-willed woman driving with a purpose, namely, to secure guardianship over Turtle and, at the same time, to provide safe passage for her friends Estevan and Esperanza.

At this point, however, Taylor still has some lingering doubts about whether she will truly be able to secure guardianship rights for Turtle. When the immigration officer at the checkpoint in Arizona asks whose child Turtle is, Taylor hesitates. She isn't quite ready to stake a claim, perhaps because she isn't sure that she can find the documentation that will make that claim legally valid. She is discouraged by the turnover at the bar because her inability to locate the previous owner or customers likely means that she can never find Turtle's aunt and get her to sign over custody. It is at that moment, when Taylor realizes that she knew this would happen, that Taylor comes to understand just how badly she wants to gain custody of Turtle. Up to that point, Taylor protected Turtle because it was the right thing to do, but this responsibility was forced upon her. Now, she realizes that she wants it and that she will choose to fight for it.

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