The Bean Trees | Study Guide

Barbara Kingsolver

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Course Hero. "The Bean Trees Study Guide." Course Hero. 20 Dec. 2019. Web. 3 Dec. 2020. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Bean-Trees/>.

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Course Hero. "The Bean Trees Study Guide." December 20, 2019. Accessed December 3, 2020. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Bean-Trees/.

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Course Hero, "The Bean Trees Study Guide," December 20, 2019, accessed December 3, 2020, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Bean-Trees/.

The Bean Trees | Chapter 6 : Valentine's Day | Summary

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Summary

Taylor, who now lives with Lou Ann, takes a job at Mattie's Jesus Is Lord Used Tires, despite her long-held fear of tire explosions. Taylor begins to notice how many people are always passing through Mattie's place, as well as the Spanish-speaking people who live upstairs with her for differing amounts of time. She meets Father William, a priest who brings these people to Mattie's place and takes them away.

Taylor is starting to settle into a life with Turtle, Lou Ann, and Dwayne Ray. She buys books to read to Turtle while Lou Ann buys a book full of baby names and tries reading them all out one at a time to try to find Turtle's real name. Taylor goes off to work and comes home grouchy, while Lou Ann stays at home, cooking for their little family. Taylor begins to be bothered by the way that they have entered into this mock family life, complaining to Lou Ann that "we're acting like Blondie and Dagwood here." The two women share some beers, junk food, and laughter as they talk about life, love, and men long into the night. Lou Ann worries that she lost Angel because she got drunk once; Taylor describes her philosophy about men, saying that there's no one man "out there that could use all of my parts."

Analysis

This chapter marks a transformation in Taylor's character, as she overcomes a major fear from her past and moves into acceptance of her present life with Turtle and Lou Ann.

In the beginning of the chapter, Mattie's offer of a job forces Taylor to confront a major fear that has followed her from her hometown: that a tire will explode when air is put into it. This fear had been a defining feature of Taylor's life up to this point. The novel opens with a description of the event that caused Taylor to fear exploding tires, when Newt Hardbine's father overfilled a tractor tire and it threw him up onto a gas station sign. Flat tires bring Taylor to Mattie's shop for the first time, and being unable to afford fixing them causes her to stay in Tucson. Taylor takes the job at Mattie's shop because it is her only option at the time, but it forces her to confront this fear, with Mattie's help. As Mattie takes on the role of an older, trusted female friend, Taylor thinks about how much she misses her mother. Mattie functions as a surrogate, no-nonsense mother figure in Taylor's new life and helps Taylor to move on from her past.

In the second half of the chapter, Taylor is coming to terms with her new life, trying to be a better mother for Turtle and ironing out her relationship with Lou Ann. She models some of what she does on her own mother, buying second-hand books where her mother would receive second-hand books from the families she worked for. Like her mother accepted her independent-spirited mind, Taylor accepts Turtle just as she is, expecting that the girl will heal in her own time. Taylor's long conversation with Lou Ann represents a turning point in their relationship. The two women were brought together by chance, but with this conversation, they make a conscious choice that they will stick together and build a life on their own terms. Neither wants to fall into the model of so many unhappy couples they've known, where neither person has really chosen their own life. Through their deep conversations, they learn about one another and begin to form a friendship based on a real connection and understanding of one another. Taylor helps Lou Ann to work through her emotions about Angel's departure, and Lou Ann listens to Taylor's admission that she doesn't think she'll ever find a man that fits her.

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