In "The Bean Trees," how do Lou Ann's speech, gestures and the way she dresses reveal her inner self?
Lou Ann suffers from a lack of self-worth. Her mother and grandmother are constantly critical. Lou Ann can do nothing right, especially in Granny's eyes. When Lou Ann attempts to stand up for herself, Granny accuses her of putting on "airs" ("Tug Fork Water").
Lou Ann's self-image deteriorates when Angel leaves her in her seventh month of pregnancy. Fearful of being alone and unloved and a single mother, she "kept listening for sounds that...might be Angel changing his mind, coming home" ("New Year's Pig").
The objectifying of women by the men in Lou Ann's world also affect her sense of worth. Every day she passes a pornography shop called "Fanny Heaven," where signs declare
"GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS" on one side of the door and on the other. On the front door of Fanny Heaven was a life-size likeness of a woman with long red hair and a leopard skin bikini...positioned in such a way that the door handle... would sink into her crotch. This door always gave Lou Ann the shivers..." ("New Years Pig").
Lou Ann is afraid to express her opinions about anything, fearing they are dumb. Taylor describes how she hides a a smile with her hand, afraid of showing real emotions. She also protects herself by becoming fat and unattractive, so that she won't risk being hurt by men again.
Gradually, Taylor will help Lou Ann recover her true self: a loving, kind woman who deserves love.