Bastard Out of Carolina

Bastard Out of Carolina Summary and Analysis of Chapters 13 to 15


Chapter 13

Bone carries one of the trawling hooks home, hiding it in a cardboard box tucked above the rafters. Her interactions with her mother are distant and formal. Bone answers Anney's questions mechanically, using "yes" and "no ma’am" reflexively in an attempt to hide her true feelings from her mother. Anney informs her that Shannon Pearl called and tells Bone to return the call. Bone politely agrees but internally decides that she has “no intention of calling” (Allison 195).

Within a few days, Bone receives a call from Shannon inviting her to the Pearl family barbecue. Bone does not respond definitively to the invitation, but on the day of the event, she wanders over to the Pearl home. She sees Shannon “looking as miserable as any human being could” (199). After watching Shannon’s cousins cruelly tease her, Bone jumps over the fence to console Shannon. As Bone lands on the other side, she sees Shannon pouring lighter fluid on the charcoal grill. Before she knows it, a ball of fire consumes Bone's only friend. Bone witnesses Shannon’s horrific death and subject to questioning by the sheriff. Afterwards, a devastated Bone attends Shannon’s funeral.

Chapter 14

Shannon’s death deeply shakes Bone. She attempts to reconnect with her family but finds them preoccupied and distant. There is little money anywhere, Uncle Earle is in county prison, Aunt Alma has been laid-off, and Aunt Ruth’s illness has worsened. Bone begins to fear death, becoming even more worried about Daddy Glen, who has begun drinking excessively. Glen is reacting to the strain of working for his disapproving father and is becoming increasingly angry and insecure. Anney warns Bone about Glen's state of mind, telling her, “Let’s be careful for a while, Bone. Be real careful, baby” (207). Tension continues to build in the house and Glen threatens Bone when her mother is out of earshot.

Bone struggles to accept her changing appearance, feeling “gawky, strong [and] ugly” (206). She desperately wants to look “like the pretty girls with their delicate features and slender, trembling frames” (206). Her insecurity about physical appearance is also tied to her socioeconomic status. Bone compares herself to her poor aunts, whose bodies are “born to be worked to death, used up and thrown away” (206). Upper class women are, in Bone’s eyes, more refined, elegant and beautiful. She uses her "ugliness" to explain Daddy Glen’s abuse, admitting she can “see why Daddy Glen [is] hateful to [her]” (208).

Bone spends the Christmas holidays at Aunt Alma’s home, inventing intricate scenarios for Reese and her cousins to act out. After the male and female cousins fight, Bone invents the game “mean sisters,” where the girls pretend to be the meaner, faster sisters of famous male outlaws and heroes (212). Bone and the other girls love the game, playing it for hours in the front yard.

Chapter 15

Grey and Garvey, Aunt Alma’s twin sons, become the youngest members of the family to be arrested after getting caught drag-racing on the highway. Uncle Earle also has more run-ins with the law and gets into fights with other inmates at the county prison. Bone accompanies Aunt Raylene to visit Earle and feels immensely proud of him when he reveals he successfully stole a razor blade from the prison supply. Bone admires his courage and cunning, happy to be a part of this smart and dangerous heritage. Aunt Raylene scolds Bone for her admiration and informs her niece that Earle’s behavior is destructive.

Bone and Grey finally break into Woolworths. Bone uses the trawling hook to scale the wall of the store and eases herself inside through the ventilation system. She then uses the hook to smash open several display cases before unlocking the door for Grey. Grey is delighted and immediately begins stuffing his pockets and a pillowcase with knives, cigarettes and just about anything else he can grab. Bone, meanwhile, cannot find anything worth stealing. She describes the store's merchandise as “junk everywhere” (224). After they have finished looting, the two cousins run back up the road. Bone sees “a little group of grey-faced men” who remind her of her uncles (226). She yells that the Woolworths is unlocked and the men take off down the street towards the store. Bone feels a sudden jolt of happiness as they go, knowing they will clean out the store completely.


The text does not foreshadow Shannon Pearls death in any way. She dies in a sudden and violent manner before the reader can truly process what is happening. This sense of surprise and horror mirrors Bone’s own shock as she watches Shannon die. This narrative choice reinforces the unpredictability and horror of death, and Shannon's demise weighs heavily on Bone. Despite their fight, Bone recognizes that Shannon is just as wounded and angry as she. Both girls use cruelty as a twisted form of defiance against a painful world. Shannon is a monster, but “the kind of monster [Bone can] understand” (200). Bone recognizes and identifies with Shannon’s anger, seeing some of herself in Shannon. Shannon's death reinforces the possibility of Bone's own death at the hands of her violent stepfather. In the aftermath, Bone is unable to fully understand what has happened and feels uncharacteristically vulnerable.

Glen temporarily suspends his physical and sexual abuse of Bone, although he still verbally abuses her. Tension continues to build in the house as Glen’s relationship with his father worsens. Anney attempts to protect Bone and Reese from Glen by arranging for them to spend as much time as possible outside the house. She carefully arranges the family’s schedules to ensure that neither girl ever spends significant periods of time alone with Glen. Meanwhile, Anney expects her daughters to placate and cater to Glen, adjusting their lives to please him and to avoid triggering his wrath. Anney warns Bone to “be real careful,” placing the responsibility on Bone to manage Glen’s wrath (207). Despite loving her girls, Anney is incapable of truly protecting them; she displaces blame for the continued abuse onto Bone to justify her decision to remain with Glen.

More than anything, Bone desires normalcy and love. Despite her anger, she wishes that Daddy Glen would love her “like the father in Robinson Crusoe” (209). She dreams of being like the “families in the books in the library” (209). Love, in Bone's mind, would make her beautiful and happy. Yet Bone deems herself unworthy of love, which she also blames on her working-class background. She hates her rough appearance, noting that she looks like her impoverished aunts. She envies Glen’s nieces with their “white nylon crinolines and blue satin hair ribbons” (208). Bone describes Glen's “storybook” nieces as “the kind of little girls people really want” (208).

Attracted to violence and rebellion, Bone starts to identify with criminal behavior. She leads her female cousins in a game of “mean sisters” where they wield imaginary weapons, playing the meaner, fiercer sisters of famous outlaws and rebels. When she visits her Uncle Earle in prison, Bone is proud that her uncle has managed to palm a razor blade from the prison workshop. Bone identifies with Earle in that moment, explaining, “I was his and he was mine” (217). She likes the idea of belonging to a clan of fierce and cunning rebels. In a rare display of emotion, Bone tells Earle she loves him. After the visit, Bone is inspired to commit a crime of her own. Her unhealthy admiration for her incarcerated uncle is dangerous, especially considering Bone’s growing tendency to project her rage onto others.

Bone’s anger and humiliation finds temporary relief during the Woolworths robbery. Throughout the incident, Grey acts as Bone’s foil, highlighting her unorthodox behavior. For Grey, the robbery is decidedly practical, nothing more than an exciting opportunity to pocket some knives and cigarettes. The boy happily fills a bag and then ties his shirttails together, creating a pocket, and continues to grab more things.

Bone’s motives are darker, however. She smashes open a display case and walks through the building looking for things to steal but realizing that she doesn’t want anything in stock. What she wants is to hurt people. She wants to hurt the manager who belittled and humiliated her. She wants to hurt Glen’s arrogant and mean family. She considers smashing a similar set of picture frames to the ones that Glen's middle-class family owns, but refrains because the frames aren't really theirs. Destroying these frames doesn’t actually bring Bone any closer to hurting them. She wanders through the aisles, burning with anger before escaping with Grey. Bone is satisfied once she knows that thieves will loot the store and considers going to Glen’s family home to uproot the rest of their rosebushes.