The Bean Trees | Study Guide

Barbara Kingsolver

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The Bean Trees | Chapter 4 : Tug Fork Water | Summary



Lou Ann's mother, Ivy Logan, and her grandmother, Granny Logan, come to visit shortly after Dwayne Ray is born. Lou Ann has Angel move back in for the duration of their visit in order to make it appear that their marriage is still working, and he agrees. Otherwise, Lou Ann knows that her family would pressure her to return to Kentucky to have some extra support with the baby. Lou Ann does not wish to leave Arizona, but it isn't clear precisely what is keeping her there. Granny Logan and Ivy are fighting and neither is particularly excited about Tucson. They came to see the baby, they saw the baby, and now they are ready to leave. Before they leave, however, Granny Logan gives Lou Ann a Coke bottle full of "Tug Fork water" from the creek in Kentucky where Lou Ann was baptized. Lou Ann takes Granny Logan and Ivy to the bus stop, and they depart for Kentucky. On her way back, Lou Ann stops to buy some vegetables from a local produce seller. He tells her, "Whatever you want the most, it's going to be the worst thing for you."

Angel, who has been at work or out of the house for most of the time Lou Ann's family was visiting, returns to pick up his things. As Lou Ann nurses the baby, Angel hunts for specific belongings, packs his things, and callously pours out the Tug Fork water that Granny Logan had brought for Dwayne Ray's baptism.


Lou Ann's family and friends fill this chapter with dire predictions, giving shape to the fears and doubts that Lou Ann will continue to feel throughout the rest of the book. Ivy warns her against letting Dwayne Ray grab the pen in her pocket, so he doesn't put out his eye. Granny Logan insists on keeping the drapes shut so the baby isn't affected by the "unnatural" heat. Even the produce seller, Bobby Bingo, reflects upon the sorry state of his son's life and warns Lou Ann that what she wants most will bring her the greatest difficulties. Lou Ann can't seem to get their words out of her head. She also can't seem to stand up to any of them, even going to great lengths to pretend that she and Angel are still happily married. In this way, she avoids needing to stand up to their expected demands that she return home if she isn't married to Angel anymore.

Angel's motives for agreeing to pretend the marriages is still working are less clear. Lou Ann attributes it to his knowledge of the power of mothers and grandmothers, but he doesn't seem to bow to the power of his own relatives in other chapters. Angel's doesn't interact with the baby at all, and he shows little concern for Lou Ann's emotions. He pours the Tug Fork water down the drain without ever asking Lou Ann if she wanted to keep it. Although Lou Ann doesn't stop him, his actions cause an ache in her chest, as if letting go of that water symbolizes letting go of something unnamed but significant. Whether Lou Ann is aching for the loss of Kentucky, of Angel, or of a life she had planned is unclear.

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