"If Granny didn’t care, Mama did. Mama hated to be called trash, hated the memory of every day she’d ever spent bent over other people’s peanut and strawberry plants while they stood tall and looked at her like she was a rock on the ground."
In this line, Bone reveals the community’s disdain for the Boatwright family and for the working class in general. The family’s position at the margins of society colors Bone's world and shapes her identity, just like Anney. The quote also hints at Anney’s pride, which drives her to keep attempting to secure an unblemished birth certificate for Bone. Anney's determination here is a result of her refusal to let society define her. Even though Bone is illegitimate, Anney does not want this label to taint her daughter's existence. However, Anney's defiance also leads her to ignore her own compliance in Bone's abuse, which defines the young girl much more than any stamp on her birth certificate.
"It seemed our unbelief was what made him fail. Our lack of faith made him the man he was, made him go out to work unable to avoid getting in a fight, made him sarcastic to his bosses and nasty to the shop owners he was supposed to be persuading to take his accounts."
Bone explains how Glen blames his failures on Bone, Reese and Anney instead of taking responsibility for his own shortcomings. Glen believes that his lack of success is a product of his family's failure to adequately support him; when he fails, he vents his rage by screaming at Anney or abusing Bone. His paranoia about being unloved points to his strained relationship with his own family. Their rejection engenders a feeling of inadequacy that fuels his rage and his desire to control others. He keeps isolating Anney and the girls so they cannot leave or reject him. Instead of trying to overcome his weaknesses, Glen uses violence and intimidation to hide them.
"I tried to be careful, but something had come apart."
After Daddy Glen's first beating, Bone understands that something in the family structure has become irreparably broken. The incident initiates a pattern that will recur throughout the novel. Daddy Glen vents his rage and frustration through escalating physical and sexual abuse, while Anney enables and excuses the abuse, blaming Bone for being difficult or stubborn. Bone becomes violent and angry, full of hatred for herself and others. Once Glen sets the machinery of abuse in motion, Bone feels helpless to stop the cycle.
"The way Shannon said "n*gger" tore at me, the tone pitched exactly like the echoing sound of Aunt Madeline sneering "trash" when she thought I wasn't close enough to hear."
Bone realizes that the disdain society heaps on her poor family is similar to the racial prejudice that African Americans endure in the pre-Civil Rights Era South. Though there are important differences in the treatment of these two groups, historically and in the novel, Bone still recognizes the hatred and ugliness in Shannon's voice and it makes her deeply uncomfortable. Bone's own marginalization has made her more sympathetic to the ill treatment of others.
"The worst thing in the world was the way I felt when I wanted us to be like families in the books in the library, when I just wanted Daddy Glen to love me like the father in Robinson Crusoe."
Though Bone fantasizes about killing Glen, she still desires the normalcy and love that a better father could provide. Since Glen is the only father figure in Bone's life, he becomes the center of the young girl's hopes, which subsequently makes her feel ashamed and confused. Bone's image of supportive family dynamic certainly does not come from her family members, who are all embroiled in dysfunctional relationships, but rather, from books. She bases her idea of a "good father" on a fictional character. This tendency represents Bone's pessimistic view of her world: the only place she can find an example of unconditional parental love is in a story book.
"Let's be careful for a while, Bone. Be real careful, baby."
Anney's warning reveals that she is aware of the danger that Glen poses to Bone. She senses Glen's deteriorating mental state and knows that he will express his pain through rage and abuse. Nevertheless, Anney is incapable of or unwilling to protect Bone from Glen's anger. Instead of leaving Glen or holding him responsible for his behavior, she pleads with Bone to behave, putting the responsibility for any future abuse on her daughter. By shifting the blame onto Bone, Anney enables Glen's abuse.
"Things come apart so easily when they have been held together with lies."
Bone describes the collapse of her family after Glen’s abuse comes to light at Aunt Ruth’s wake. Glen goes to the hospital to recover from the Boatwright brothers' beating, temporarily disappearing from Bone’s life, if not from her thoughts. Anney moves the girls to a cramped apartment above a fish market where she wallows in melancholy and silently smokes cigarettes. By revealing the truth about Glen's abuse, Bone's world has come undone: she is away from her home, she loses the warmth of her mother’s affection, and she feels isolated from her extended family. Bone feels guilty for pulling on the delicate thread that was holding her immediate family together, but she also understands that their unity was precarious to begin with.
"I kept trying to figure out how I could have prevented it all from happening, not drunk that beer, not let anyone see, gone to Mama and made sure she knew that I had deserved that beating—kept everything smooth and quiet."
Bone internalizes the blame that Glen and Anney place on her for the dissolution of the family. She anxiously wonders how she could have prevented the Boatwrights from realizing the extent of Glen’s abuse. She feels as if she “deserved” Glen’s beating. Anney reinforces Bone's toxic self-loathing by being distant and cold at a time when her daughter really needs maternal support. Both Anney and Bone’s thought patterns are typical of enablers and abuse victims, respectively.
"The child I had been was gone with the child she had been."
Bone mourns the death of her relationship with Anney, realizing they will never be close again. Glen's abuse and Anney's betrayal has broken them both, ending the brief period of innocence that Bone describes in the beginning of the novel. As women, Anney and Bon are now strangers to one another. In this line, Bone acknowledges that Anney, for all her bad decisions as a mother, was a child herself.
"He was Daddy Glen in a uniform. The world was full of Daddy Glens, and I didn't want to be in the world anymore."
In the aftermath of her rape, Bone feels uncomfortable around the county sheriff investigating the case. He pretends to be caring and kind but refuses to accept her refusal to answer any questions. He places his desire for information over the well being of a young, traumatized girl. Bone senses the sheriff's inauthentic and controlling nature and it reminds her of Glen. Suddenly, she feels as if the world is full of manipulative and controlling men, all of whom will abuse and demean her. At the end of the novel, Bone finds stability with her unmarried Aunt Raylene, who, unlike Anney, does not need a man in her life to be happy.
Bastard Out of Carolina Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Bastard Out of Carolina is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.