Bastard Out of Carolina

Bastard Out of Carolina Summary and Analysis of Chapters 16 to 18


Chapter 16

After the robbery, Bone and Grey sneak back into Aunt Alma’s house and fall asleep. In the morning, Bone’s older cousin Temple instructs her to skip school and wait in the house for her mother. Anney arrives, clearly upset, and tells Bone that Aunt Ruth has died. Anney and Bone sit together, devastated by the news. Reminiscing, Anney says Aunt Ruth, who raised her, was never pretty - which was the root of her painful insecurities. Bone identifies with Ruth’s low self-esteem and feels connected to her aunt. Anney wishes Aunt Ruth could have known “how beautiful she was” (Allison 231). Any excitement from the Woolworths robbery vanishes as Bone mourns Ruth’s death.

Chapter 17

The family prepares for Aunt Ruth’s funeral. Daddy Glen lashes out at Bone again, screaming at her and dragging her into the bathroom. Glen belts her with uncontrollable fury, leaving her bloody and bruised, but Bone remains mute - she refuses to give her stepfather the satisfaction of hearing her scream. Anney responds to the incident by asking Bone why she provoked Glen, blaming her daughter once again for the abuse.

Bone leaves for Aunt Raylene’s house to help prepare food for the funeral. Her cousin Deedee is clearly upset by her mother’s death, but still comes across as completely narcissistic. Raylene has to force Deedee to get dressed and attend the funeral. Additionally, the funeral must be delayed as the family waits for Ruth’s son Tommy Lee, but he never arrives. Uncle Earle is already intoxicated with a strange young girl clinging to his arm. The Boatwright uncles drink heavily throughout the event, using alcohol to cope with their loss. At the wake, Bone drinks whiskey and beer with her cousin Butch as they reminisce about Aunt Ruth. Butch kisses Bone and then leaves, saying, “Don’t go making more out of this than there is” (243). Drunk, Bone makes her way to the bathroom.

Aunt Raylene finds Bone in the bathroom and discovers the marks from Daddy Glen’s last beating. Raylene screams for Uncle Earle, who, after seeing the bruises and cuts, stomps out of the house in fury. Earle, Beau and Nevil grab Daddy Glen, pull him onto the porch, and beat him severely. Aunt Raylene, Anney, and Bone sit in a bedroom listening to the ominous screams and thuds coming from outside. Anney, still delusional, defends Glen, insisting that “he loves [Bone]” (246). Bone, having internalized her mother’s blame, apologizes to Anney repeatedly.

Chapter 18

Anney refuses Aunt Raylene’s offer to let the family stay in her home. Instead, she puts Bone and Reese in her car and drives away. At home, Anney leaves the girls in the car, quickly packing their belongings into the trunk. The family spends the night parked at the train station and in the morning, Anney rents a two-room apartment above the Fish Market. Anney isolates the family from the Boatwrights, refusing to let Reese visit her uncle and ignoring Aunt Raylene’s calls. She also refuses to see Glen, even though he keeps visiting the diner where she works.

Tension fills the small apartment. Anney rarely speaks, too involved in her own emotional turmoil to support her daughter. Reese, too young to understand, is enraged that her routine has been disrupted and she can no longer visit her uncles. Bone senses their anger and blames herself for uprooting the family’s life. She keeps going over the night of the funeral, obsessing over what she could have done to ensure no one discovered her injuries. She reflects, “It was my fault, everything, Mama’s silence and Reese’s rage” (249).

Anney does nothing to comfort Bone, treating her coldly and mechanically. When Bone seeks comfort, her mother pets her, her “hand mov[ing] automatically” as if Bone is “a wounded dog” (252). Bone is devastated when she realizes that her mother is forcing her affection. Bone reflects on the beating, remembering how Daddy Glen positioned her against “his sex” and wonders if he “came in his trousers” during the beating (253). Lying in bed, Bone masturbates to a violent fantasy where the whole town is consumed by flames.

Bone walks to Aunt Raylene’s home and stays for several days. She vents to Raylene, saying deeply hurtful things about her family. Raylene replies calmly but firmly, trying to offer Bone some stability and support. Eventually, Bone must return to her mother’s apartment to attend school. Anney’s anger at Bone remains unarticulated but both daughters can sense it. When Aunt Alma’s sickly toddler dies, Anney leaves to stay with her and Aunt Raylene arrives to care for Bone and Reese. Again, Bone lashes out at Raylene but receives a measured reply. Bone’s emotional state continues to worsen. She knows that eventually her mother will return to Glen and wonders what she will do when that day comes.


The extent of the Boatwright family’s dysfunction reaches a fever pitch at Aunt Ruth’s funeral. Deedee refuses to attend her mother’s funeral, and Aunt Raylene has to slap her to make her go. One of Ruth’s other children, Tommy Lee, misses the event entirely. Uncle Earle arrives intoxicated with a strange woman on his arm and Uncle Beau mutters cruel things about Ruth’s husband when the service is delayed. Aunt Raylene narrowly quells an argument that is rising up between Alma and Earle. Butch, Ruth’s youngest son, kisses Bone (his first cousin) on the mouth, and then tells her not to think too much of it. The evening ends in a fit of tremendous violence when the uncles beat Glen so badly that he must be hospitalized. Aunt Carr, the one person who speaks out against the violent beating, is “slapped for her trouble” (254). It doesn’t seem to occur to any family members that calling the authorities is an alternative to physically assaulting Glen. The entire event is marked by anger, addiction and violence.

Alcohol plays a large role in the dysfunction that comes out at Aunt Ruth's funeral. Even though Bone admires her uncles, it is clear that they are alcoholics. Uncle Earle is swaying in his boots and slurring his words. Uncle Beau arrives looking “more sober than he had in years” and immediately starts showing symptoms of withdrawal (239). Aunt Raylene comments on Beau's nervous energy and increasing irritability, saying “I don’t know that man at all when he’s sober” (239). Minutes after arriving, Earle and Beau walk down to Earle’s truck to drink before the ceremony begins. When Aunt Alma attempts to intervene, Raylene tells her, “Let them take care of each other” (239). Raylene understands that Earle and Beau are self-medicating; they cannot process the loss without alcohol. After the ceremony, the uncles continue drinking. Bone and Butch, both still children, share some whiskey and beer. Bone becomes intoxicated and admits that she likes the “numb” feeling alcohol gives her, making the reader fear for her future (243).

The Boatwright family finally realizes the extent of Daddy Glen’s abuse but no clear resolution emerges in the aftermath. Uncles Earle, Nevil and Beau beat Glen so badly he must be hospitalized, temporarily removing the threat he represents to Bone. Yet Bone understands that the solution is not permanent; she has seen her mother leave Glen and return to him too many times. She understands intuitively that Anney will inevitably forgive Glen. Instead of wondering if the family will return to Glen, she asks herself what she will do when they return (261). Because she knows she will see Glen again, Bone finds no catharsis in her uncles’ beating. Instead she burns with anxiety, rage and self-doubt, dreading what is yet to come.

Anney’s failures as a parent come into sharp relief during this period. It is clear that she blames and resents Bone for the dissolution of the family. When Bone reacts to her distant treatment, Anney becomes “angry and impatient” (252). Anney spends her evenings chain-smoking and crying silently, completely involved in her own pain and frustration. Anney’s narcissism and delusional interpretation of these events are difficult for Bone to comprehend. Her husband beat her daughter with a belt until she bled, clearly deriving some sick sexual pleasure from the abuse. In the aftermath, Anney wallows in her own misery, completely incapable of supporting Bone. Aunt Raylene warns Anney not to blame herself for the abuse, but Anney’s behavior indicates that she does not blame herself, but rather, her victimized pre-teen daughter. After the abuse has been exposed, Anney’s failure to prioritize Bone’s safety becomes increasingly clear.

Bone's anger continues to burn after Glen’s most recent beating. She masturbates to thoughts of the entire town and all its inhabitants being consumed by fire. Bone describes herself as “a bowl of hatred, boiling black and thick” (252). Without an outlet for her emotions, Bone begins projecting her anger onto innocent people. Instead of confronting her mother, she lashes out twice at Aunt Raylene, taunting her for living alone without a husband or children. She stares with hatred at a bus full of other children. Raylene sees her anger and warns Bone, saying “you better think hard, Ruth Anne, about what you want and who you’re mad at” (263). Bone has yet to come to terms with her abuse and Anney’s failure to protect her. Instead, she directs her anger at safe targets: strangers on a bus and the stable, supportive aunt she knows will not abandon her.