Bastard Out of Carolina

Bastard Out of Carolina Summary and Analysis of Chapters 4 to 6


Chapter 4

Many members of the Boatwright family, including Uncle Earle, harbor doubts about Glen’s character. Despite these misgivings, Anney and Glen marry on a “ghostly” day after weeks of thunderstorms and “rolling clouds” (Allison 40). Glen’s entire family refuses their invitations to the ceremony or the dinner afterwards, as do several of the Boatwrights. After their Anney and Glen reassure Bone and Reese that the four of them are a family now, the newlyweds abandon the girls and leave for their honeymoon. While glancing through the family photos taken shortly before the wedding, Bone reveals that her mother had become pregnant before she and Glen were officially married.

Glen becomes increasingly obsessed with the birth of his child, insisting it will be a boy. The Boatwright uncles note that Glen's obsession with having a son seems unhealthy and worry about Anney’s well-being. The night Anney goes into labor, Glen brings Reese and Bone to the hospital, where they all wait in his Pontiac. After pacing the halls, Glen returns to the car. He pulls Bone out of the back seat where she is sleeping next to her sister and sexually assaults her. He hurts her, pressing his hand between her legs as he masturbates. This incident terrifies Bone to the point that she questions whether or not it really happened. Glen leaves again before returning to the car and revealing that his son is stillborn.

In the aftermath of the baby’s death, the Boatwrights comfort Anney, cleaning the house, preparing food and keeping her company. Anney, traumatized and nearly catatonic, can no longer take care of herself or her family. Glen is devastated but his sadness soon turns to rage when he realizes he cannot even afford to buy a burial plot for his son. He becomes increasingly possessive of Anney, Reese, and Bone, eventually moving the family beyond the reach of the other Boatwrights and effectively isolating them.

Chapter 5

Glen’s rage and possessiveness continue to grow. He attempts to keep Bone and Reese away from Granny, calling the old woman is a liar and insisting that they belong to him now. Bone suspects that Granny’s stories are based more on legend than fact but loves her nonetheless. Bone begins to dread seeing Glen, who insists that she calls him 'Daddy Glen' and looks for a scapegoat whenever he becomes angry. He accuses Bone of not loving him and soon Bone realizes that nothing she does will ever be good enough for him.

Reese’s paternal grandmother, Mrs. Parsons, comes to visit. She is a proper, neat, middle class woman. Bone compares Mrs. Parsons to her own rough and caustic Granny, wishing Mrs. Parsons was her grandmother as well. Glen’s insecurity about Anney's previous family comes out when Mrs. Parsons arrives. He is rude and brash towards the Parsons family when they attempt to give Anney a payment from the army for Lyle’s death. Glen believes that Anney deserves part of the Parsons estate and threatens Mrs. Parsons, insinuating she will no longer be allowed to visit Reese unless she pays up. Glen's actions ruin Anney's relationship with Mrs. Parsons - thus creating distance between Reese and her father's family, as well.

Glen faces more trouble at work and is eventually laid off. His perpetual unemployment is the catalyst for a series of moves. The family shifts homes at least every eight months, which destabilizes Anney and the girls. After several moves, Anney stops unpacking and keeps all the cardboard boxes, knowing another move cannot be far away.

Chapter 6

Glen keeps struggling to find work, which leaves the family hungry. One afternoon, all Anney has to feed the girls is crackers and ketchup. After Glen returns from fishing with the Boatwright uncles, Anney accuses him of failing to put enough effort into his job search. They argue and Anney defiantly applies heavy makeup and gets dressed up in a provocative outfit. When she leaves, she tells Bone to take Reese to their aunt’s home. When Anney comes to collect her daughters from Aunt Alma’s house, she has bags full of groceries. It is apparent (but unspoken) that Anney has prostituted herself in order to buy food for her children.

During this period, Bone’s family is sinking deeper into debt and poverty. Aunt Alma leaves Uncle Wade after discovering his infidelities. Alma takes all but one of their many children and moves into an apartment building in a predominantly African American neighborhood. Many of the Boatwright men and Daddy Glen are furious with her decision, feeling that Alma has degraded herself and the family by living in the same building with African Americans. The neighborhood children are initially suspicious of Alma’s white children, but eventually the children begin to play together, even though their parents remain politely aloof. Eventually, Alma’s youngest child falls ill and the older boys become increasingly difficult to control. She relents and moves the family back in with Wade.


The physical hunger that Bone experiences in Chapter 6 reflects the internal hunger that had begun to build inside her. When she does not have enough to eat, Bone imagines extravagant meals while sucking on a toothpick (Allison 71). Concurrently, Bone begins fantasizing about a different kind of consumption, envying the patent leather shoes her classmates wear and feeling ashamed about her own cheap cloth penny loafers. She wishes that her family “could have things like other people” (66). Bone also feels jealousy towards Reese, noting that her half-sister's paternal grandmother looks like “a granny… you’d see in a movie” (55). She becomes “hot and tight with jealousy” while looking at Reese's photograph of her biological father, because it gives Reese the opportunity to identify with someone other than the Boatwrights. Reese has a choice about her identity.

During this period, Glen also becomes increasingly dominating and angry. He resents Anney's closeness with her family and insists on moving her and her daughters away from the Boatwrights's influence. Glen expresses his pent-up anger and potential for violence through his hands. Bone notes nervously that whenever she leans against her mother, Glen’s hands restlessly “flex and curl” (62). Later, Glen bruises Bone with his tight grip and the girl reflects that his “big, impersonal and fast” hands seem “to move before he [can] think” (70). After Anney prostitutes herself for food, Glen expresses his rage by sitting silently twisting and turning the fabric of his pants (77). Bone has nightmares about “long fingers” (Allison 70); in her psyche, Glen’s hands have come to represent the threat he poses to Bone's safety and innocence.

Though Bone’s narration can appear quite sophisticated, her point of view remains, in many ways, that of a child. She describes her sexual assault without naming it, struggling to understand what Glen has done to her. At one point, she wonders if “what Daddy Glen had been doing” is actually sex (63). She questions whether or not the assault even occurred. In the aftermath of the assault, Bone begins associating sex with power and violence. She decides that sex is not “mushy” but “powerful” (63). Bone begins masturbating, imagining that she has been tied up and is struggling to get free as a fire burns closer and closer (63). The rest of the text also supports this connection between sex and violence; when joking about Daddy Glen’s “horse dick” (62), the Boatwright uncles claim he could “cripple” someone with it (61).

In this section of the novel, Bone begins hesitantly exploring the role of race in her society. She recounts rumors that the Boatwrights have some African American ancestry and notes that people in South Carolina are “crazy on the subject of color” (Allison 54). Daddy Glen calls Uncle Nevil’s old mountain home a “goddam n*gger shanty,” associating poverty with a particular race (82). Later, Bone encounters African Americans at her Aunt Alma’s new apartment. She is curious, revealing that she has “never seen colored people up close” (84). Bone’s fascination is a result of the segregation in South Carolina in the late 1950s. Although African Americans comprised a large portion of the population, they were marginalized and lived separately from the white community. While Bone does not actively resist the institutional racism, she seems to question the reflexive prejudices that many of her family members embrace.

Throughout these chapters, the Boatwright family history foreshadows Anney’s destiny. After Anney loses her son, Bone reveals that Granny, Aunt Ruth and Aunt Alma have had seven still-born babies between them (49). Then, after Uncle Wade mistreats and torments Alma, she leaves him and swears never to return. However, Alma faces too many challenges on her own, “[gives] it up,” and returns to her husband. This foreshadows Anney’s inability to permanently leave Glen when his abuse begins endangering her daughter's life. Bone articulates this sense of familial destiny when she feels envious of Reese’s father and paternal grandmother. By having another branch in her family, Reese can “choose something different for herself and be someone else altogether” (Allison 59). In Bone’s eyes, identity is tightly tied to family history; she is destined to be a Boatwright and repeat her mother's mistakes.