Study Guide

Bastard Out of Carolina Chapter 6

By Dorothy Allison

Chapter 6

  • Bone thinks about hunger, and how when she gets hungry her hands will not stand still. When Reese is hungry, she cries.
  • Bone and Reese pick up bottles on the side of the road to buy Anney cigarettes, while Anney gives home perms to old ladies from the diner. Even though they aren't hungry very often, Anney has started making biscuits-and-gravy dinners more frequently, sometimes with tomato soup or pork and beans right out of the can because the power company turned off their electricity.
  • Once, when there's no flour for biscuits, Anney makes the girls crackers spread with ketchup and tells them about how when she was a girl her siblings would pass around a plate and make up food. This calms the girls down, but when Glen comes home Anney is furious at him for being so casual about finding a job.
  • Anney declares that she was never going to have her kids know what hunger was, and she goes into the bathroom to put on makeup, a tight sweater, and high heels. She tells Bone to call Earle to come pick them up, but Bone just watches her instead.
  • When Anney is finished she steps around a stunned Glen, who can't seem to move. Anney gets into her car and drives away.
  • Glen runs out to the driveway. Bone feels uneasy, as if Glen's skin is radiating heat, and runs to the neighbor's yard, where Reese is playing. Bone says that they'll hitchhike to Alma's house.
  • Worried that Reese will start hitchhiking by herself, Bone makes up horror stories about murderous drivers. They catch a ride with an old woman and a young man.
  • When Anney comes back, Reese is asleep and Bone is doing a puzzle with Uncle Wade. Anney is now wearing a loose white shirt, her waitress flats, and has her face is scrubbed clean. Before she gets in the car she whispers "Damn!" to herself. Bone, looking back toward Alma's, sees Wade standing in the kitchen looking angry, and wonders why.
  • Back home, the kitchen is suddenly filled with food. Anney fries up some late-night eggs and tomatoes for the girls. In the living room Glen is sitting in front of the TV with the sound turned low, balling his fists on his thighs. Bone is too tense to feel hungry, but she eats as much as she can, anyway. Meanwhile, Anney talks as if nothing has happened.
  • Afterward, when Anney puts Bone and Reese to bed, she sits up with them for a long while. Bone wakes up to Reese's frightened face and the sound of Glen's angry voice down the hall.
  • The next week, they move again, to another small, damp house. Bone's aunts Alma and Ruth are always moving, too, but to big rickety houses with chicken coops and walnut trees. Glen wants houses with carports and garbage disposals.
  • Bone doesn't care where they live as long as they can stay close to their aunts, whose warm and lively houses contrast with the iciness of Glen's.
  • The houses Glen picks are cheap imitations of his brothers' houses, and he complains that no one wants him to have anything nice. He gets into "one of his dangerously quiet moods" (6.44), and Reese and Bone try to keep the house and yard as clean as possible so as not to anger him.
  • Every time they move, Glen tells the girls that things are going to be different, but Reese and Bone know better than to believe him. He tells Anney that "it eats a man's heart out" (6.46) knowing that no one trusts him, and blames them for making him get into fights at work and losing his jobs, because, yeah... it's totally their fault.
  • Sometimes bill collectors bang on the front door, and if Anney is home, she sits at the kitchen table silently until they leave. Anney tells the girls that they can't always pay when people want, but they aren't bad. Bone and Reese nod but don't believe her, knowing the things the neighbors call them.
  • When Bone is nine, Alma moves out to an apartment when she catches Wade messing around with other women. Bone, Grey, and Little Earle stare at the kids downstairs, who are black, and Grey boasts that those kids are scared.
  • Bone instead sees symmetry in the three faces staring up and their own three faces staring down. She sees a face that is either a pretty boy or a fierce girl, and then she looks at Grey and notices how ugly he is. Bone looks back down at the child, whom she is now sure is a girl, and tries to smile but can't.
  • After a while, Bone and her cousins become something like friends with the kids downstairs, but the mysterious girl never comes out to play. Bone has never really spoken to a black person, and she knows the nasty things that people, especially her family, say about them. Wade is furious that Alma moved to a black neighborhood and rages at her to her face, but Alma just laughs and looks better than ever. She says that Wade is worse than a boy, the way he wants stuff done for him all the time.
  • We learn from Earle that Carr, Anney and Alma's sister, was in love with Wade, but one Thanksgiving Wade joked in front of her that Alma was the sweeter, younger version of Carr. Yeah, that's not awkward. By Christmastime, Carr had married a man named Benny in Baltimore, and she had a baby by the next fall. Earle looks off across the yard and muses about how quickly people grow up and change.
  • Eventually, Alma moves back in with Wade after the baby gets sick and the boys start running around at night, but she refuses to move back into the bedroom or speak to him until he apologizes.
  • Even then, Wade complains to everyone, telling them that a man has needs and that Alma was pregnant at the time. Everyone jokes about his excuse, and the aunts say that if a man has needs, then what does a woman have? "Men," they answer, and laugh. Bone doesn't get the joke, but she likes being one of the women.

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