Ruth Anne Boatwright, nicknamed Bone, is the narrator and the bastard of Dorothy Allison's "Bastard Out of Carolina." Beginning with her birth during an automobile accident and her mother's attempts to get the red inked block letters of illegitimacy removed from her birth certificate, she chronicles her childhood in Greenville until she is almost thirteen. Bone's family is “working class,” others would probably call them white trash.
Bone looks at a school bus filled with children she hates because she knows they are looking down on her. She resents her step father's family because she recognizes that they treat her and her sister like trash. The sheriff, the manager of Woolworths, the nurse at the hospital, even when they seem to acting nicely are demeaning in their condescension. Bone's response is to steal candy from Woolworth's, befriending the albino Shannon Pearl who is even more of an outsider than she is, and daydreaming of gospel music stardom.
But in the end it is in her family that she must find comfort and safety. The problem for Bone is that in her case the safety net fails. Her step father, Daddy Glen, is both a child batterer and a molester. Her mother, unaware at first of the molesting and torn by her love for both, at first accepts his reasons for the beatings, until by the end of the novel she is forced to choose between the two.
This report prepared by Jack Goodstein
Born to an unwed fifteen-year-old mother, Ruth Anne Boatwright, better known as Bone, comes from from a dirt-poor family in Greenville County, South Carolina in the 1950's. Her family is known to be trash throughout the county; her uncles are foul-mouthed men who drink and shoot up each other's trucks, but are essentially good at heart; her aunts are women aged beyond their years by hard times; and her numerous cousins are all fun-loving goofballs who have their brief stints in jail or getting into other mischief of their own. And despite the poverty, Bone and her mother, Anney, share a loving relationship that seems impossible to destroy...at first...
Then Daddy Glen enters the picture. At first, he is loving to Bone and her little sister. To Anney, he would make the perfect father for her two "beautiful little girls". But after having had one man run out on her and having another die, she finds it hard to trust men. It isn't long, however, before Anney begins to trust Glen and they are married.
Unfortunately for Anney and the girls, Glen can't seem to keep a job. The stress of him getting fired from one job after another, his cruel father's contempt for him, and then his insane jealousy over Bone begins to really eat away at him. At first, it starts off with his running his hands over Bone, but then a monster replaces the man Anney had fallen in love with. For no apparent reason, he will see fit to drag Bone into the bathroom and whip her degradingly. Though Anney knows about this, she loves Glen too much to leave him.
Bone is by now convinced that she isn't worth anything, that she's trash...just something to be "used up and thrown away". She is afraid to let anybody else know of the intense abuse, as she's convinced it's her fault and that she deserves whatever she has coming to her. Even after her relatives find out about the abuse and the uncles go after Daddy Glen to defend her, she is still convinced it is her fault.
"I could never hate you," she tells her mother, who blatantly stood by whilst the girl was being beaten.
Maybe she could never hate her mother then, but then Daddy Glen shows up at her aunt's house (where she is staying for the time being to help her aunt around the house) one day. He literally beats her bloody, gets on top of her, and then rapes her. And even after Anney catches him red-handed, she still chooses him over her child, the very girl who promised she would never hate her own mother.
There is no happy ending to this story. It isn't a Cinderella/sweet baby/rainbows and kittens ending. Dorothy Allison writes with stark prose and bluntness. It isn't always a fairytale, despite what you might see in some children's novels on the topic.
This report prepared by Megan