Ruth Anne Boatwright (nicknamed "Bone") is the narrator and protagonist of the novel, which chronicles her life from her birth to just before her thirteenth birthday. She is an intelligent girl, but life's constant disappointments have filled her with intensity and anger. She deeply resents the middle and upper class people who judge and belittle the downtrodden and rough-edged Boatwright family. Bone's stepfather, Daddy Glen, starts physically and sexually abusing her at a young age. After that, Bone develops an uncontrollable fascination with violence and sexuality. Remarkably mature, Bone realizes at the end of the novel that she must sever her relationship with her mother to protect herself.
Anney Boatwright grows up quickly after giving birth to her first child out of wedlock at the age of fifteen. By 20, Anney has given birth to another daughter and has lost a husband, leaving her vulnerable and desperate. She marries Glen Waddell in the hope of providing normalcy and stability for her daughters, Bone and Reese. Instead of strengthening the family, however, Anney's new husband tears it apart. Anney, delusional and overwhelmed, does not stop Glen from abusing Bone, even going so far as to blame the young girl for provoking the attacks. Despite her failures as a parent, Anney loves her daughter fiercely and struggles for years to secure Bone a copy of her birth certificate without the word "illegitimate" printed on it.
Anney's tortured and unpredictable second husband, Glen Waddell, is the black sheep of his middle-class family. Glen is a possessive and controlling man. He attempts to isolate Anney and her daughters from the Boatwrights. He has trouble keeping a job and keeps moving the family from city to city in his quest to secure employment. Insecure and angry, "Daddy Glen" releases his inner rage by physically and sexually abusing Bone. Unable to assume responsibility for his horrific actions, Glen insists that Bone purposely provokes him. Eventually, Glen brutally rapes Bone - leading to Bone and Anney's separation.
Reese, Bone's younger half-sister, is the only child of Anney and her first husband, Lyle Parsons. Bone notices that as Reese ages, she begins displaying some of the same disturbing sexual behavior as her older sister, indicating that Daddy Glen might be abusing both girls. As Bone spends more time living with her various relatives, Reese appears in the novel less and less. At the end of the novel, it is unclear if Reese leaves with Anney and Glen or if Anney entrusts another family member with her care.
Anney's sister, Raylene Boatwright, is an independent woman who lives alone in a house on the river. She earns money by restoring trash that washes up on the riverbank and selling homemade liquor and canned fruit. Unlike the other Boatwrights, Raylene has lived in the same house for many years and provides stability and security for her nieces, nephews, and sometimes even her siblings. At the end of the novel, Raylene reveals that as a teenager, she ran away to join a carnival but came back after she hurt the woman she loved. After returning to Greenville, Raylene did marry briefly. Bone decides to stay with Raylene at the end of the novel, finding that her aunt will provide her with a better life than her mother can.
Earle is Anney's brother and Bone's favorite uncle. He is a charming and energetic man who protects his nieces and nephews fiercely and treats them with tenderness. Outside of the family, though, Earle is a much harder man, known around town as "Black Earle." He is always in and out of prison - his various infractions include smashing his convertible into a storefront and breaking another man's jaw. Earle and the other Boatwright uncles have a reputation around Greenville for being violent and dangerous. In the wake of his divorce from Teresa, Earle struggles with alcoholism, drinking continuously and even coming to his sister's funeral completely intoxicated. He constantly charms young women into dating him but then leaves them, becoming increasingly lonely as the novel progresses.
Aunt Ruth is the oldest of the Boatwright sisters and acts like a surrogate mother to her siblings. She has cancer, which becomes more advanced as the novel goes on. Bone spends one summer living with Aunt Ruth and grows to enjoy the older woman's stories and companionship. Bone feels so comfortable with Aunt Ruth that she nearly divulges the secret of Glen's sexual abuse, but ultimately does not know how to describe what is happening to her. After Ruth's death, Anney reveals that her sister suffered from low self-esteem and loved having children because she saw each child as proof that a man had loved her.
Anney's sister, Alma, struggles with her husband Wade's infidelities throughout the novel. She leaves him temporarily, moving with their children into an apartment building in an African American neighborhood and earning disapproval from the family. Though Alma swears she will never return to Wade, she goes home once her infant daughter, Annie, falls ill. Annie's condition worsens and the child eventually passes away. Overcome with grief, Alma demands Wade give her another child. Wade refuses, insulting her appearance. As a result, Alma has a psychotic break, destroying her house and threatening to kill her husband. In the aftermath of Alma's meltdown, Bone goes to stay with her aunt - and it is at Alma's home that Glen tracks Bone down and rapes her.
Shannon's translucent white skin and odd appearance makes her the subject of intense ridicule, from her peers, family, and even strangers. Shannon is overwhelmed by the cruelty she is forced to endure and is filled with rage, just like Bone. Both girls are fascinated by violence. Bone befriends Shannon because the pale-skinned girl refuses to give in to her tormentors. Their friendship ends briefly when a disagreement about race and class turns into a nasty argument. Months later, Shannon tries to reconcile by inviting Bone to a barbecue at her family's home. That day, Shannon is burned alive while spraying lighter fluid onto the grill.
Anney's mother and Bone's grandmother has a sharp tongue, and likes to share tall tales and legends about the Boatwright family with her grandchildren. She claims that her grandfather was a Cherokee. She refuses to speak about Bone's biological father because he left Anney with a newborn Bone and ran off, remarrying another woman soon thereafter. She also harbors a strong dislike for Glen Waddell from the beginning.
Anney's first husband is gentle and soft spoken. He is handsome and sweet, working at a Texaco station to make ends meet. He dies in a car accident soon after Reese is born.
Alma's youngest boy, who is fat and ugly as a baby.
Alma's eldest daughter, who gets into lots of trouble after leaving home, and eventually becomes pregnant.
One of Aunt Alma's daughters. She hates getting dirty and complains about doing chores, like caring for Tadpole (her younger sister).
Beau Boatwright is one of Anney's brothers and Bone's uncle. Like his brothers, he is usually drunk and rambunctious.
Nevil Boatwright is Anney's brother and Bone's uncle. He is married to Aunt Fay.
Marvella and Maybelle
The Eustis aunts who are eccentric and superstitious. They believe they can predict the future and practice all kinds of strange customs and rituals.
Mr. Bodine Waddell
Glen's wealthy and successful father who owns the Sunshine Dairy. He is highly critical of Glen and refuses to give his son the love and support he so craves.
Ruth's youngest son and Bone's favorite cousin. Butch gets Bone drunk for the first time and then kisses her at his mother's funeral.
Ruth's son and twin brother to Grey. Garvey is always fighting with his brother and causing trouble around town.
Ruth's son and Garvey's twin brother who helps his cousin Bone rob Woolworths.
Lyle's mother and Reese's paternal grandmother. Mrs. Parsons is pleasant and sweet. Bone wishes Mrs. Parsons were her grandmother as well, describing her as a "granny you'd see in a movie" (55).
Ruth's husband is a raging alcoholic who eventually has to have half his stomach and liver removed.
Aunt Alma's mean, wayward husband who refuses to have another child with her after Annie dies.
Ruth's bratty teenage daughter who resents having to take care of her sick mother and initially refuses to attend Ruth's funeral.
Alma's youngest daughter, nicknamed "Tadpole," is sickly from birth and dies very young.
Anney's sister who lives in Baltimore. She was once in love with Wade and ran off to Baltimore when Wade showed a preference for her sister, Alma.
Aunt Ruth's oldest boy, who is violent and out of control. He steals from his family, beats his girlfriends, and even skips his mother's funeral.
Daryl and James Waddell
Glen's successful, wealthy brothers who look down on Glen as well as Anney and her girls.
Shannon's delusional mother, who spoils her daughter and calls her "precious angel" and "miracle child." Shannon and Bone often mock Mrs. Pearl's upbeat proselytizing. She sews to make additional income for her family.
Uncle James's refined and elegant wife who calls Anney, Bone, and Reese "trash." Bone rips up her rosebushes in retaliation for the insults.
Bastard Out of Carolina Questions and Answers
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