Bastard Out of Carolina

Chapter 1

  • “T’ve been called Bone all my life, but my name’s Ruth Anne.” (p. 1). Why is this a significant opening sentence?
  • The death of Lyle is narrated somewhat casually (see the passage beginning, “It was a Sunday when Lyle died….” [p. 7]; also, note that he retains a pleasant grin on his face at the scene of the accident). Why might Allison have written this sequence this way?
  • What is the reputation of the Boatwright family? Explain why they have this reputation and discuss whether it corresponds (or not) to how we see them actually behaving.
  • Explain why Bone and her Mama “subjected” (in the sense of the term “subject” given in The Theory Toolbox) to the law–in particular the document establishing Bone’s illegitimacy.
  • Why is everyone in town amused when the courthouse burns down?

Chapter 2

  • What is the setting (time, place) of the novel. Does it seem important that it take place here and then rather than somewhere else? Why so? Could this story have been written just as easily in our area of the world?
  • We find that Granny is being paid to watch her own grand kids (p. 18). What conclusions might we draw from this?
  • How many kids (now grown, including Mama) does Granny have?
  • What are some of the ways Allison references sounds (music, noise, etc.) to paint a picture of the scene in this chapter?  Why do the sounds seem to stand out in Bone’s memories (p.22)?
  • In general what is a better trigger of our memories: sounds, sights, or smells? Or something else?
  • How is Uncle Earle similar to Bone’s “real daddy,” according to Mama (Anney)?
  • What do we learn here about Bone’s Cherokee lineage? Why is this significant according to Granny?  Are there any hints of racism here in Granny’s commentary?
  • Is there some significance to putting the sequence about “bleaching” (whitening) (p. 28) directly after the discussion of Bone’s racial background?

 Chapter 3

  • How would you describe or characterize Glen’s proposal to Anney (p. 36)?
  • Why doesn’t Granny care for the Waddell family or Glen?  Why does Uncle Earle, in contrast, have respect for him?

Chapter 4

  • How does the Boatwright family respond to the marriage of Mama and Glen Waddell? What are their concerns?
  • Are we supposed to believe that the sexual assault of Bone is a kind of “revenge” delivered by Daddy Waddell for what has happened during the childbirth?

Chapter 5

  • Why does Bone tell lie–or invent a story–about her identity at her new school?

Chapter 6

  • How does hunger shape Bone’s and Reese’s personalities in differing ways?
  • Why are we supposed to think that Mama is getting dressed up and where is she going? Why does Daddy Waddell respond in the way he does?
  • Towards the close of this chapter, Bone reflects: “I liked being one of the women with my aunts, liked feeling a part of something nasty and strong and separate from my big rough boy-cousins and the whole world of spitting, growling, overbearing males” (p. 91).  Give examples from the novel of what you think she means by “nasty and strong” women.

Chapter 7

  • What motivates Bone to break the law? Do you think Mama’s response to the situtation rectifies the situation in a good way?
  • What do we learn about Daddy Waddell’s relationship with his own family from this chapter?  Does the narrative generate any sympathy for him and his situation?
  • What conflicting emotions Bone does experience when she visits the Waddell home (the birthday of James and one of his children)?

 Chapter 8

  • We learned early on in the book about the origins of the nickname “Bone.” What else do we learn about the significance of the name in this chapter?
  • What event leads Anney to an awareness of Bone’s situation causing her to leave Daddy Glen and move back in with Aunt Alma?

 Chapter 9

  • Around this point in the novel, Bone begins creating and sharing her own made-up stories with her cousins and sister. What kinds of stories are they?
  • Bone is interested in the book The Secret Garden (p. 120). Investigate what this book is about, and why it might be meaningful for someone in her position.
  • Mama asks Bone to move in with Aunt Ruth for a short time. Why?
  • Bone’s stories feature “witches” and “gangs of women” (p. 119).  She also refers to Aunt Ruth as a “witch girl” (p. 122).  Is there a reason why the presence of witches might be significant in this novel?  Is the mysterious love knot (Anney calls it “root magic” [p. 105]) created by Aunts Marvella and Maybelle perhaps reminiscent of sorcery or witchery?
  • Aunt Ruth and Uncle Earle act as family historians for Bone. What do we learn from them here about the Boatwrights and the past?