Bastard Out of Carolina

Bastard Out of Carolina Summary and Analysis of Chapters 19 to 22


Chapter 19

One day in the spring, Bone comes home to find her mother tearing out of the driveway. Bone and Anney drive to Aunt Alma’s house, where they find Little Earle scared and confused. The front yard is littered with shattered plates and strewn with smashed furniture and dirty clothes. Alma sits on the porch covered in her own blood, holding a straight razor, mumbling about slitting Uncle Wade’s throat. Slowly and carefully, Anney coaxes Alma back inside and into bed. Alma reveals that Wade refused to “give [her] a baby,” saying he finds her repellant (Allison 271). Anney and Bone comfort Alma, agreeing with her and acting as if her behavior isn’t alarming or odd. Slowly Alma regains her senses and offers Anney the straight razor, claiming she doesn’t need it.

One night, while sleeping in Alma’s house, Anney and Bone finally speak about Glen’s abuse. Bone admits that she believes Anney will go back to Glen. Anney begins to weakly protest when Bone quietly declares that whatever Anney may do, she “won’t go back” (276). Anney, overwhelmed with emotion, is surprised and hurt to hear her daughter’s severe opinion. Bone feels an impulse to comfort her mother but resists. Anney cries quietly and Bone, still numb, feels as if she will never cry again (277).

Chapter 20

Bone stays with Aunt Alma as an added support for her troubled aunt, spending her free time reading and thinking. Uncle Wade and the other children have yet to return, leaving Bone and Alma alone in the house. One afternoon, Daddy Glen arrives. Alma, still disconnected from reality, is in the backyard and does not see him or hear him enter. Glen tries to force Bone to tell her mother that she wants the entire family to live together again. Bone refuses, repeatedly insisting that she will no longer live with Glen. Enraged, he grabs Bone, who attempts to stab him with the only weapon she has - a butter knife. Glen begins beating her furiously, wrenching her arm out of its socket and throwing her to the ground. Bone attempts to defend herself and screams for help. Pinning her down, Glen brutally and violently rapes her. Bone describes the assault in wrenching, painful detail.

As Glen lies on top of her, Bone becomes of aware of Anney standing in the door frame. Her mother screams and shouts, throwing objects at Glen. Bone, bleeding heavily, is too weak to stand. Anney hurriedly pulls Bone towards the car while Glen whines and pleads that the assault was an accident. From inside the car, Bone watches as Glen smashes his head against the door, begging Anney to kill him. Bone, losing blood, attempts to call for her mother but Glen whines, “drowning [her] out” (290). Anney takes pity on Glen and hugs his head to her stomach, crying. As Bone watches her mother cry tenderly over the man who has just raped her, she realizes that she hates Anney. Bone is filled with hatred, desperation, and sadness as she slips out of consciousness.

Chapter 21

Bone regains consciousness in a hospital, where a kind attendant cleans her wounds. She wonders anxiously where her mother is and asks what has happened to Daddy Glen. The Sheriff arrives and presses her to tell him about the rape. Bone, still weak and disoriented, only asks about her mother. Frustrated, the Sheriff keeps pushing her to describe the event, despite her fragile emotional condition. Bone senses that his kindness is strategic and studied; she concludes that the Sheriff is “Daddy Glen in a uniform” (Allison 296). Fighting off a nurse, Raylene enters the room and scolds the Sheriff for badgering a traumatized girl. Raylene stays with Bone and nurses her.

Chapter 22

When the doctor finally signs Bone’s release papers, Raylene wraps Bone in her arms, carries her to the car, and drives her home. After pulling up to her house, Raylene tells Bone that Anney has disappeared. She cannot explain Anney’s actions, but insists that her sister loves Bone and always has. Bone remains mute and angry for days, lying in bed. She eventually comes to sit on the porch, refusing to talk to Aunt Raylene or her uncles. Bone can only feel pain and apathy, and wants her relatives to leave her alone.

One night, Anney returns, looking haggard and stern. Bone doesn’t speak but Anney keeps reassuring her daughter that she loves her. Eventually, Bone cries out for Anney and her mother embraces her, both of them sobbing. Anney murmurs some words of comfort before placing an envelope on Bone’s lap. She leaves without even speaking to Raylene. Inside the envelope is an unmarked copy of Bone’s birth certificate; her father is listed as unknown but the paper is not stamped "illegitimate" anymore. Bone thinks about Anney’s life and wonders what she will be like when she is “fifteen, twenty, thirty” (309). She concludes that she “is already who [she is] going to be,” a “Boatwright woman” (309). She leans against Raylene and they sit together, looking out at the night sky.


Glen’s final assault on Bone is one of the more horrifying scenes in contemporary American literature. The scene begins chillingly - Bone describes “the afternoon Daddy Glen showed up” (280). Bone watches Alma garden, packs a picnic basket, and feeds puppies spoonfuls of peanut butter. The reader, aware of the danger Glen represents, grows increasingly anxious as Bone walks us through this ordinary spring day. When Glen finally enters the scene, he is “intent” and “tense” like an animal preparing to strike (280). Bone is deeply afraid but asserts herself, even though she knows that Alma cannot see or hear her. Glen’s anger builds with each exchange before finally, he explodes into an uncontrolled burst of violence. Dorothy Allison does not allow her audience to turn away from this horrifying moment. Instead, she recounts the rape slowly and deliberately, forcing the reader to experience every ounce of Bone's pain. The devastating reality of the assault is as inescapable for the reader as it is for Bone. Allison does not present sensationalized or stylized violence, but strips it down to its visceral, ugly, rawness.

In the hospital, Bone describes the count sheriff as a “Daddy Glen in uniform" (296). Bone realizes that the word is “full of Daddy Glens” and no longer wants to be part of such a place (296). All the men in Bastard Out of Carolina, even those Bone loves, are angry and violent: the Boatwright uncles are infamous for hurting anyone who crosses them, the hospital attendant who discovers Bone’s broken coccyx becomes infuriated and frightening, the young Boatwright boy cousins begin turning into their uncles and fathers, Daddy Glen is a violent psychopath, and Sheriff Cole harangues a traumatized child. The novel ends with Bone turning away from men altogether and going to live with her Aunt Raylene. Raylene, who is a lesbian, lives alone in her house by the river. Bone finally finds safety with a strong, independent woman - far away from the male dominated society.

At the end of the novel, Bone is still unable to understand Anney’s behavior. Anney holds and comforts Glen, even after witnessing his brutal assault of her twelve year old daughter. Watching this display of affection, Bone realizes that she hates Anney. Readers will likely sympathize with Bone in this instance. Despite her protestations of maternal love, Anney enables Glen's abuse, risking her daughter’s life for a romantic relationship. Even though the dynamic between Anney and Bone is deeply disturbing, it is also realistic. It is common that victims of domestic violence are afraid to leave their abusive partners. This story is told from Bone's point of view, but Anney is clearly experiencing her own internal struggles that neither Bone nor the reader can understand.

Despite Anney's shortfalls as a parent, she fights to clear her daughter’s birth certificate and name. She does love Bone in her own way. In giving her a clean certificate she attempts to give her daughter an opportunity to start over without bearing the mark of her mother's mistakes. Perhaps Anney, a deeply wounded woman who became an adult too quickly, has realized that Bone will have a safer, more stable life with Aunt Raylene.

The novel ends on a dark note, with Bone resigned to becoming a “Boatwright woman” (309). Already deeply damaged and burning with anger, Bone believes that she has now become “who [she] is going to be,” another typical member of the family she loves and yet, longs to escape from (309). Certain features of the Boatwright clan—poverty, violence and dysfunction—have already been affected Bone's young life. When she sees a picture of herself in the local paper, snapped as she was leaving the hospital, Bone recognizes herself a Boatwright “for sure” (293). However, there is some hope in this moment - Bone will spend the rest of her adolescence with Aunt Raylene, who is a positive female role model (and defies many of the Boatwright family's curses). Even though she is broken down and damaged, Bone has broken out of the cycle of violence that marked her youth.