Despite warnings from her mother, Bone steals Tootsie Rolls from Woolworths. Anney gets suspicious and confronts her daughter, and Bone admits to taking the candy. Anney tells her about Aunt Ruth’s son Tommy Lee, a vicious man who stole from his mother and has gone in and out of prison his whole life. Then, Anney takes a shaken Bone to Woolworths to apologize. At the store, the manager acts in a belittling and sanctimonious manner, which enrages Bone and engenders her “aching desire to hurt someone back” (98). The manager reads the her anger on Bone's face and bans her from Woolworths.
Later, Daddy Glen takes Anney and her daughters to visit his family for a birthday party. The four of them visit Glen’s family every one or two months and the trips are marked by embarrassment and anger because Glen’s family treats the Boatwrights as if they were less than human. One cousin looks at Bone as if she were “an elephant in a zoo— something dumb and ugly and impervious to hurt” (102). Glen, however, is desperate for his father’s approval and continues to insist on these visits. Bone and Reese have to sit outside while the other children are allowed to play in the house. One time, the Anney's girls overhear Glen’s brothers talking about Glen's “n*gger trash” car and family. Humiliated and enraged, Bone destroys the rose bushes in the garden, stripping the flower buds and crushing them against her skin.
As the family becomes increasingly isolated, Glen’s abusive outbursts become more frequent. One day, he catches Bone running through the house and pulls her into the bathroom, beating her violently with a belt. Anney stands outside the door, yelling and crying. When Glen finally emerges, she slaps him before bringing Bone to the kitchen and washing her face. As she cleans her daughter's injuries, she asks Bone what she did to provoke Glen. Anney therefore initiates a pattern where Bone, the victim, feels responsible for Glen’s abuse. Afterwards, Bone listens through the wall as Glen cries and lies to Anney about how Bone provoked him. Anney and Glen comfort each other, eventually having sex.
Glen begins beating Bone regularly, looking for any small reason to justify his physical abuse. Bone attempts to placate him but realizes that there is "no way [she can] be careful enough” (108). Daddy Glen can always “find something [she has] done wrong” (108). Glen becomes sexually aroused by the abuse, rubbing himself against Bone and feeling her “belly, ass and thighs” (Allison 108). Bone begins to internalize Glen’s hatred and abuse, coming to believe that she is “evil” and a “sick disgusting person” (113). Bone begins having disturbing sexual fantasies about being beaten. Throughout all the abuse, Anney remains blind, chiding Bone for provoking Glen or for clumsily injuring herself.
Eventually, Glen beats Bone so violently she has to go to the hospital. There, a young intern notices that Bone's collarbone has been broken twice and her coccyx is bruised and broken. The intern reacts angrily, accusing Anney of abuse. Anney becomes indignant and an older nurse intervenes, diffusing the situation. The confrontation forces Anney to acknowledge reality. She returns to the car where Glen and Reese are waiting outside, screams at Glen, and then drives off without him. Bone lets herself fantasize about forgiving a desperate and broken Daddy Glen after everyone else has condemned him.
Two weeks after leaving Glen, Anney returns, bringing the girls with her. Glen apologizes melodramatically but Bone knows the abuse will start again. She feels broken, as if “something inside of [her] will never be alright” (Allison 118). Inevitably, Bone is right. She begins spending much of her time alone, reading books with sexual and violent themes. When she spends time with her cousins, Bone entertains them with strange stories filled with “boys and girls gruesomely raped and murdered, babies cooked in pots of boiling beans, vampires and soldiers and long razor-sharp knives” (119). Aunt Alma overhears one of her tales and is appalled, telling Anney that Bone is becoming “almost mean-hearted” (119).
Anney sends Bone to stay with Aunt Ruth, her sick older sister, saying that Ruth needs company and care. Bone listens to Aunt Ruth’s incessant stories and scrapes paint off the front porch while Ruth naps. Occasionally Uncle Earle visits, eventually revealing the deep emotional wounds that have resulted from his divorce. One afternoon, Bone confesses to Ruth that she thinks Glen hates her. Aunt Ruth confirms that he does, explaining that he’s “a little boy” jealous of Anney’s paying attention to anyone but him. After a moment, Ruth asks Bone if Daddy Glen has ever sexually abused her. Bone, unsure if what she has experienced is sexual abuse, answers that he hasn’t. Later, Bone wishes she had told Aunt Ruth about the way Glen touches her. Anney comes to bring Bone home and Ruth warns her that Bone “an’t never gonna be safe” with Glen. Anney defends Glen and speaks hopefully about his new job. Bone tells her mother that she has to stay to help Aunt Ruth, who agrees that she needs Bone’s help.
In August, Bone visits a revival tent near Aunt Ruth’s home and hears gospel music that deeply moves her, making her “love and hate” herself and feel both “ashamed and glorified” (Allison 136). She rocks back and forth, crying.
As Glen’s abuse becomes physical and his sexual abuse intensifies, he constructs an alternate reality to explain and justify his actions. He insists that his violence is an appropriate response to the awful things Bone does. Anney becomes complicit in this self-serving delusion. When Glen beats Bone with a belt, Anney asks her daughter, “What did you do?” (107). Afterwards, Bone eavesdrops and hears Glen attempting to justify his actions to Anney. He lies and claims that Bone insulted and belittled him. Bone wonders if Glen, clearly delusional, thinks “he [is] telling the truth” (Allison 108). However, Anney accepts Glen's explanation and comforts him. Later, Anney begins explaining Bone’s bruises and injuries by insisting that her elder daughter is simply “prone to accidents” (111). At the hospital, Anney is finally forced to confront the truth and lashes out at her abusive husband. She soon slips back into Glen’s fantasy, accepting his apologies and believing his promises to change. When Aunt Ruth tells Anney that Bone is not safe with Glen, Anney defends him, claiming that Glen loves Bone. By supporting Glen’s lies, Anney becomes complicit in his abuse.
Glen’s abuse and Anney’s failure to stand up to him take a severe psychological toll on Bone. She becomes increasingly isolated and disconnected, spending long periods of time reading alone. She has internalized Glen’s abuse and has dangerously low self-worth. She believes that her “sick, disgusting” nature has caused Glen to abuse her. She explains that she views her “bruises as if they were evidence of a crime [she has] committed” (Allison 113). She comes to believe that she is “evil” and that the abuse is punishment for “the fact of [her] life, who [she is]” (110). Bone's mentality is common in victims of intensive or prolonged abuse.
Bone develops a fascination with physical and sexual violence, which becomes an outlet for her feelings of hurt, abandonment and rage. She masturbates, fantasizing that a crowd is watching as Glen savagely beats her. The imaginary crowd loves and respects her, and is forced to acknowledge Bone's pain and condemn Daddy Glen (Allison 113). Bone tells disturbing stories to her cousins: tales filled with rape, murder and fantastical violence. She seeks out and reads books with scenes depicting violence and sex. Her obsessions are the only way that Bone can take control of the reality of her situation. Even though the young girl's disturbing interests concern her relatives, Bone does not reveal the extent of Daddy Glen's abuse.
As she gets older, Bone starts becoming more aware of the way middle and upper class people look at her. When her mother forces her to return candy she has stolen, the shop-owner’s arrogant and belittling attitude enrages Bone. She wants to bite him and feels resentful of his wealth and privilege in contrast to her poverty and desperation. She feels a “raw and terrible” hunger while thinking about all the things this man has that she cannot have. Bone's fury reappears when she is forced to attend a birthday party for one of Glen’s family members. There, she notices that all of Glen's family members look at her, Reese, and their mother in a dehumanizing way and overhears several insulting remarks about her family’s social status. In response, Bone calmly rises and destroys a series of rosebushes in the garden. She feels consumed by a dangerous heat that wants to "pour out and burn everything up” (103).
Meanwhile, Anney abdicates her role as Bone’s mother, failing to protect her daughter from the physical and sexual violence Bone is forced to endure. Bone becomes increasingly disconnected from Anney, feeling that she can no longer confide in or trust her mother. She begins developing a maternal relationship with Aunt Ruth, spending increasing amounts of time with her sickly aunt and confiding in her, instead. When Anney comes to bring her daughter home from Ruth's place, Bone insists on staying, knowing that her mother cannot protect her. Aunt Ruth assumes the maternal role Anney has abandoned; unlike Anney, Ruth is able to acknowledge the reality of Bone’s abuse. Moreover, Ruth is dedicated to protecting her niece.