Study Guide

The Boatwrights in Bastard Out of Carolina

By Dorothy Allison

The Boatwrights

Alma

Alma is one of Bone's aunts, and she's maybe the most mom-like of them all. Whenever we see Alma, she's usually watching some combination of her own and her sisters' kids. She's married to Wade and has something like six kids (Temple, Grey, Garvey, Patsy Ruth, Little Earle, and Annie, by our count).

Beau

Beau is Bone's uncle. We'll keep it real: there isn't much to say about Beau.

Butch

Butch is Bone's favorite cousin. He's Ruth's son. He's quiet, which loses him some Boatwright points, but it means that he and Bone get along because they are Boatwright outsiders. At Ruth's funeral, he kisses Bone—which is kind of weird, considering they're cousins, but hey, if Luke and Leia can do it, then whatever.

Carr

Carr is the aunt who lives in Baltimore. She ran off there to marry after Wade rejected her for her sister Alma. She's not the best at dealing with rejection.

Deedee

Deedee is Ruth's daughter. She doesn't get along with Ruth and resents having to care for her. Deedee's kind of a brat, especially when compared to Bone, but we also sympathize with how she is expected to come back home and take care of a mother who doesn't understand her.

Earle

Earle is Bone's favorite uncle. He's a troublemaker and a heartbreaker. He gets away with a lot because he looks like Elvis, and that means you get away with a lot. That still doesn't stop him from winding up in the county jail, however. His ex-wife was a Catholic woman named Teresa. Not surprisingly, Earle chronically cheated on her.

Granny

Granny is a crazy tough old lady who curses and chews snuff. She raised eight children pretty much on her own, and she likes to tell Bone stories about the Boatwright family. Her children are Earle, Beau, Nevil, Alma, Ruth, Raylene, Anney, and Carr.

Grey

Grey is Alma's son and the hairier, more awkward twin of Garvey. He's also the nicer version. His claim to fame in the novel is that he helps Bone break into Woolworth's.

Marvella and Maybelle

Marvella and Maybelle are the weird Eustis aunts who like doing witchcrafty things with beans and rabbits. They predict that Anney and Glen's marriage is not going to be a good one. Lo and behold, they are totally right.

Nevil

Nevil is Bone's uncle. He doesn't speak very much, but when he does, it's usually important: the first time he speaks, he says that he hopes Anney has Glen's boy so that he doesn't turn bad and make life harder for her. Later, he promises Bone that he will get revenge on Glen for raping her. Pay attention to the quiet ones. His wife is Fay.

Raylene

Raylene is the eccentric aunt among the Boatwrights, meaning that she doesn't have like thirty kids. She lives on the edge of town so that she doesn't have to care about what anybody thinks, and she collects trash from the river to sell on the side of the road. (Spoiler alert!) We eventually find out that she ran off with a carnival, lived as a man, and had a relationship with a woman. She gives Bone some life advice.

Reese

Reese is Bone's younger sister and only sibling. Her father is Lyle Parsons. She's everywhere in the novel, but she doesn't do all that much.

Ruth

Ruth is Anney's older sister, and she's the one who pretty much raised Anney. She has cancer, and Bone spends a summer with her. During that time, Ruth tries to get Bone to open up to her. She eventually dies. Her husband is Travis, and her kids include Deedee, Tommy Lee, Dwight, D.W., and Butch. After Ruth dies, Anney tells Bone that Ruth thought that having children proved that she was worth something, which is pretty sad.

Tommy Lee

Tommy Lee is Ruth's bad-example son who steals and does all kinds of other delinquent things. We imagine him wearing a black leather jacket and riding a motorcycle. Anney uses him as a warning for why Bone shouldn't steal.

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