Study Guide

Bastard Out of Carolina Plot Analysis

By Dorothy Allison

Plot Analysis

Exposition (Initial Situation)

Meet the Family

The first four chapters of the novel set the scene for what is going to become the escalating conflict of the story—Glen's abuse of Bone. We meet Anney, we learn about her life and everything she went through up until meeting Glen (which is a lot for a twenty-one-year-old), and we learn how and when the abuse started. Bone herself is very young in these chapters, and is narrating to us through hindsight. Even though Bone is present here and figures into the action, these chapters are really more about telling us about Anney and Glen and giving us some background.

Rising Action (Conflict, Complication)

Never Father of the Year

This section, which lasts until Chapter 20, gets all sorts of messy. Not only does Glen's behavior become worse and worse, but a pattern is established of him acting out, Anney leaving, Glen crying to her that he's sorry, Anney taking him back, and the violence resuming. It happens again and again. It's more dramatic each time, but even as Glen's physical abuse of Bone comes out into the open, there still doesn't seem to be a clear way out of this for Bone.

Climax (Crisis, Turning Point)

Face the Facts, Finally

The real Point of No Return for this novel is when Anney sees Glen raping Bone. Even though she has witnessed him beat her before, there is no way for her to begin to justify this action. It's the moment when Anney is forced to make the decision she has been avoiding all this time: does she stay with Glen and lose Bone, or does she leave Glen for good?

Falling Action

It's All Over Now?

Bone doesn't know where Anney is. The tension is thick. No one knows if Anney has left for good, and no one knows whether or not she is with Glen. All the dust that has been unsettled by Glen's assault is still clouding the air, and no one knows what things are going to look like when it resettles.

Resolution (Denouement)

Love Hurts

Well, the action resolves, and Anney makes her decision, even if it's not the decision that we—or Bone—wanted her to make. But one thing, maybe, that the novel has tried to do is get us to the point where, when Anney does make her decision, we are more sympathetic to her predicament than we would have been, even if we don't agree with what she ends up doing.

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