Salvage the Bones

Salvage the Bones Summary and Analysis of Chapter 10


Esch is ravenously hungry and eats Skeetah’s eggs and bologna while he is cleaning China outside. She and Randall take an inventory of the family’s food—there’s not nearly enough. He curses and throws a can of tomato paste.

Randall consults with Daddy on the lack of food. Daddy assures Randall that they’ll survive, especially if FEMA and the Red Cross make the rounds with food donations. Daddy asks if the kids found his wedding ring.

Outside, Skeetah cleans out China’s shed, making a pile of her things while China chases chickens. Esch decides to prepare ramen noodles for Junior. Randall persuades her to search for eggs in the yard and asks Skeetah to help. Skeetah refuses, opting to exercise China instead, since she will be cooped up during the storm. Esch helps, though, and remembers her mother explaining the relationship between a female chicken and its egg as similar to her own relationship with Esch. She doesn’t find any eggs.

As the kids prepare to boil the eggs they’ve found, Manny arrives and startles Randall, asking to speak with him privately. Esch eavesdrops on their conversation, during which Randall reveals that he was not selected to attend basketball camp because of the fight between Rico and Skeetah. Manny apologizes, but Randall distances himself from Manny, answering Manny’s sentiment that Randall is “like family” to him by saying that “I ain’t blood” (201). Randall also mentions that Skeetah suspects Manny is sleeping with Esch and finally leaves Manny, who in turn starts to leave the Pit.

Esch, however, seizes on the opportunity to address Manny, telling him that she is pregnant with his child. He cruelly denies it, which flips a switch inside of Esch—”I am on him like China,” she says, assaulting Manny full force (203). It reminds Esch of the time she punched a girl who had bullied her for having flat breasts soon after her mother had died.

She rakes her fingernails into Manny’s face, drawing blood. He swears at her as she screams, “I loved you!”, remembering Medea’s violence against Jason. Manny accuses her of being promiscuous, alleging that the baby might be Big Henry’s. He finally escapes, throwing Esch off of him and running for the road. Esch yells after him and thinks, “Tomorrow...everything will be washed clean” (205).

Esch sits in a ditch and uncharacteristically cries aloud. Randall approaches and asks Esch for help. He plans to sneak into the “white people’s house” behind the woods and steal supplies (205). She initially refuses but then agrees, partially because Randall has never begged for help before, and partially because she feels it is the only thing she can do. She remembers Daddy telling her to stop crying after her mother died, when she learned how to hide her tears.

Randall and Esch jog through the woods to the white people’s house and find that all its windows are boarded up. Unsure of whether there are people inside, Randall breaks a window through the plywood and asks Esch to peek in through a sliver in the wood. She cannot see much, but she guesses that the white people took most of their possessions and evacuated.

When they arrive back home, Esch notices China staring at them, holding a dead chicken in her mouth. “That’s ours,” Esch says (210).

Inside the house, Skeetah is sitting in bed with China and the puppies—he plans to keep them inside during the storm. Randall is furious and threatens to tell Daddy, which he does. Daddy looks incredibly frail. He initially tells Skeetah he cannot keep the dogs inside the house but eventually caves to Skeetah’s threats that he himself will sleep outside; he allows the dogs to stay in Skeetah’s room.

Daddy says that the hurricane is already a category five, and Esch can’t remember the last storm of that magnitude, Camille. Daddy asks for soup and Skeetah returns to his room to play with the dogs. “Everything need a chance, Esch,” he says as China licks at her puppies the way she licked at the dead chicken earlier (214).


In this chapter, several of Ward’s foreboding motifs reach their climax, beginning with Esch’s fascination with Medea. This particular motif reaches its culmination when Esch engages in physical violence against Manny, where Esch draws a parallel between her vengeance against the man who scorned her and that of Medea, who likewise avenged her husband’s infidelity by killing his lover and her own children. Whereas Esch’s conception of herself as a Medea-like figure extend throughout the novel, it is with her attack on Manny that we see her aligned with Medea on the plane of actual, physical revenge for the first time.

Esch also links this vengeance to China, again positioning herself in a tradition of violent womanhood, one in which not only Esch and her mother, but also Medea and China, participate. In fact, Esch narrates her attack on Manny with a simple simile: “I am on him like China” (203). In this way, Esch not only asserts that her revenge is, like China’s against Rico, punishment for forcing her to endure pregnancy, but also that she will win the fight, which she does.

This violent femininity is linked to the motif of possession and ownership when China offers a dead chicken to Esch and Randall, but with a nuance with regards to agency. Esch’s reaction to China’s violence here is to say, “It’s ours,” a phrasing that mirrors her earlier address to Manny in saying, “It’s yours” (210; 203). But in this echo, there is also an important difference—China chooses to kill the chicken, but Esch’s pregnancy feels like a mistake that victimizes her.

In this chapter, imagery of the impending hurricane takes shape chiefly in Ward’s continued dependence on simile and metaphor, which serves as a vehicle for the transfer of agency as well. When Manny arrives at the house, Esch believes she hears the insects grow quiet in his presence, “as if he is the coming storm” (200). Later, however, Esch describes Manny retreating from her violence as “being swallowed by the rustling brush,” while she shakes “like the leaves...bent in the fingering rush of the coming winds” (205). This transfer of agency in the form of natural disaster-like violence is mirrored in the way Esch views herself and Manny as celestial objects, since she describes Manny blazing and shining when he comes to see Randall but later predicts her own child “[dawning]” and “[burning]” (205).

This chapter is also rife with symbolism that informs Esch’s sensation of disconnection from her mother. When Esch hunts for eggs, she finds none, though she remembers her mother encouraging her to look for similarities between the mother hen and the egg. Esch’s inability to gain the literal means of maternal connection symbolizes her emotional inability to seek female guidance, awash as she is in machismo.

Ultimately, Esch’s lack of agency takes shape not only in she and her family’s powerlessness to face the impending storm, but also in the way she follows orders and holds in her emotion. When Randall asks for Esch’s help in stealing from the white people’s house, she repeats several times that she does various things “because it is the only thing [she] can do” (206). In doing so, Esch establishes an anaphora that highlights her own inability to choose her own reality, not only in the face of a pregnancy that she does not understand, but also in merely deciding whether or not to let herself cry.