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Bastard out of Carolina Critique

Updated on February 2, 2013

Bastard out of Carolina Critique

The Boatwright family is a proud and close knit clan known for their drinking, fighting, and womanizing. Nicknamed Bone by her Uncle Earle, Ruth Anne is the bastard child of Anney Boatwright, who has fought tirelessly throughout the book to legitimize her child. When Anne marries Glen, a man from a good family, it appears her prayers have been answered. However, Anne suffers a miscarriage after which Glen develops a sexual relationship with Bone. Embarrassed and unwilling to report these unwanted advances, Bone bottles them up and acts out her confusion and shame. Allison creates a rich sense of family and portrays the psychology of a sexually abused child with sensitivity and insight. “A Bastard out of Carolina” sheds light on child abuse. Although this story is graphic, it is a likely depiction of what many children suffer. Soon Glen's rage and abuse is directed to Bone and we see a child suffer like no other. This is an important lesson for those who are victims to learn, so that they may make the journey to becoming survivors, to reclaiming the lives that have been stolen from them. Bone is a perfect example of what it takes to make this transition -- even though the book only follows the first 11-12 years of her life, we are left with a vivid picture of a young woman who has the spirit and guts to accomplish and reach great things in her life. Bone becomes increasingly angry and soon these two worlds collide. “A Bastard out of Carolina” speaks to the strength and resiliency of children. It details the choices of parents and the means they take to protect their children. Bones resiliency is displayed through her love for gospel music, she's told repeatedly that she can't sing, her heart yearns and pleads to God for the gift of song. I enjoyed the way Allison wrote this book as well, Bone's speech patterns in telling the story are so clear and easy to read that it adds to the books authenticity and to its believability. However this can be a down side in that the “white trash” stigma can leave the rest of the novel predictable. My other major critique of this novel would be the rape scene. It was nothing like a real rape, or at least what was describe and discussed in class. It did not in any way invite us to see it from the victim's point of view, which I believe would have put the reader in Bones shoes. Through the novel, Bone dwells on her own perceived ugliness. She loathes herself and is aware of her low class status as a Boatwright. Her inner rage becomes more and more focused on Daddy Glen who repeatedly abuses her. These can all be side effects of the molesting and depressive state she is in. More of these effects are shown when instead of having crushes on boys and thinking about a first kiss, Bone has masochistic rape fantasies. “I imagined I was tied to the branches above and below me," she says. "Someone had beaten me with dry sticks and put their hands in my clothes.” These depictions of Bone’s sexual development serve important functions.

Additionally, one can surmise that the content and themes of Bone’s fantasies are a direct result of Daddy Glen’s abuse. While this is never directly stated, it is difficult not to assume a cause and effect relationship between abuse and masochistic fantasies. This is further evidence of how her development is being adversely affected by her stepfather. I think it was also interesting to keep in mind how young the aunts were. They are all tired and worn out, yet they are mostly only in their twenties. Additionally, the Boatwrights are rather clannish and keep to themselves. Anney, Bone, and Reese are intentionally isolated. There are few outside friends as important characters, save for the brief appearance of Shannon Pearl. School does not play an important part in the narration, and one might infer that school does not play an important part in the life of poor children in this era. Instead, it seems that the women are expected to get pregnant and marry while the men find jobs as laborers. However, Bone is different. She does attend school and becomes the exception to the uneducated Boatwrights. She becomes an inveterate reader and identifies with characters in the books. For instance, in Gone with the Wind, she identifies not with Scarlet but with the poorer whites. Bone’s innate intelligence and ability to see class distinctions allow her to better verbalize her situation for the reader. It was interesting to me when Bone came home for the funeral preparations, and daddy Glen finds a reason to vent his rage on her, drags her into the bathroom, and beats her with a belt. During the severe beating, Bone does not scream, which is an accurate account of someone who’s repeatedly abused. The climax to me was when Daddy Glen meets up with Bone and wants to talk. Bone refuses, and Glen becomes violent. Completely deranged, he beats Bone badly. Bone tries to stab him, and the violence escalates to a level that has only, until this point in the novel, been hinted at. Daddy Glen’s rage is overtly sexual. Not only does he severely beat a child who is not yet thirteen, he rapes her. The rape is described in graphic, sickening detail, but would be more effective if told more from Bones perspective. After the rap Bone is taken to the hospital where she is questioned. Bone instinctively distrusts Sheriff Cole, whom she calls a "Daddy Glen in a uniform." This is somewhat like the second rape, where she has to relive the entire episode again. “A Bastard Out of Carolina” is a remarkably accurate chronicle of abuse, both of the child and the parent who is in denial. Anney character is a very complex, a very young mother who buried one husband and chose badly the next time around while yearning stability. While it is easy to condemn Anney, it is important to remember that one parent often doles out abuse while the other remains willingly blind to the situation. Anney’s behavior is very sad, but ultimately realistic. To the end of the novel, Anney does not renounce her husband, even when she sees him raping Bone. her daughter. Although she is still in shock from the rape and her injuries, this is the moment that Bone realizes that she has lost her mother. She is an abandoned child. With this in mind, Anney’s actual abandonment of Bone is just the literal confirmation of the psychological abandonment that occurred with each rationalization of a beating and, finally, with the comforting of Glen despite his horrendous crime. Although Allison ties up most of the loose ends in the two post rape chapters, the reader is left wondering as to the fate of at least one character, Reese. While it is implied that Anney and Glen leave the state, Reese is never mentioned. We are not sure if she left with them, or her whereabouts. “A Bastard out of Carolina” left me with the thought that in the end, no matter what injustices we face in this life, we all will have to answer for how we choose to live our lives.


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