Study Guide

Bastard Out of Carolina Chapter 9

By Dorothy Allison

Chapter 9

  • Two weeks later, the family is back living with Glen, and nothing has changed.
  • Glen apologized in front of the family, and Anney made him swear never to hit Bone again. Bone knows exactly what will happen: he'll be careful, but then he'll talk about the accident differently, making it sound like Bone had really deserved it. He still brings her into the bathroom to beat her to get back at her for making Anney leave him. Bone is afraid of hurting Anney and doesn't let her know that Glen has started to abuse her again.
  • Bone feels something inside of her that can't heal, and she becomes withdrawn and angry. Anney starts letting her sit up with her at sunrise, which is usually her alone time.
  • Reese and Bone go to Alma's house after school, before Anney comes back from work. Bone entertains her cousins with gruesome stories about rape and murder and dead babies—fun stuff.
  • Anney starts taking Bone to the diner with her where she can earn money washing dishes. Bone spends her money on used books.
  • One morning, Anney says she's worried. Bone thinks that she's going to talk about how withdrawn she's become, but instead she asks her if she will stay with Aunt Ruth that summer. Ruth has cancer and lives alone now. At first Bone is unsure, but then she agrees to go.
  • Ruth has become incredibly thin and has lost most of her hair. But the biggest change that Bone notices is how much Ruth talks now; before, she had been quiet and soft-spoken.
  • Ruth mostly stays on the couch, and Bone suspects that her real role is to provide Ruth with an audience.
  • Ruth talks Bone's ear off about her husband Travis, about her family, and about all of the stories that Bone once was salivating to hear. But now all Bone can think about is when Anney is going to take her home.
  • One day, Bone tells Ruth that Glen hates her. Ruth asks Bone if she's dying. Bone lies and says that she's only really sick, and Ruth asks Bone if they can talk to each other or not. Bone doesn't know, but Ruth says that she thinks that they have to.
  • Ruth has Bone sit next to her and tells her frankly that Glen doesn't like her very much, and that he's probably jealous of her for the way Anney loves her. Ruth asks Bone if Glen has ever touched her, and Bone, thinking that she is alluding to sex, says no. She instead just says that Glen sometimes grabs her and shakes her when she's bad, and she admits to Ruth that Glen scares her. Ruth rocks Bone against her breast and asks aloud what they're going to do with her.
  • While Ruth naps, Bone scrapes the paint off of her front porch for her Uncle Earle, who is reminiscing about the past. He tells Bone about his father, who didn't take care of his family.
  • Earle notes that he and his brothers are a lot like him, though not to the same degree, and they don't get away with as much. He says that's why his wife, Teresa, left him, and wonders how relationships can get so messed up—he and Teresa, his mother and father, Anney and Glen, even Ruth and Travis.
  • Ruth tells Bone about the family past that she doesn't know about, like about Lyle Parsons, about Bone's real father, and about Glen's courtship of Anney. Ruth also tells Bone a story about how Beau and Earle were thrown out when they tried to enlist during the Korean War, so they naturally reacted by getting into a fight.
  • Bone says that Beau and Earle are drunks. Ruth agrees, though she says that they think being drunk is natural.
  • Ruth talks about how Beau developed a taste for beer by going out with Raylene to a roadhouse when he was a teenager. Earle says that beer is not the problem in Beau's life: it's his wife Maggie, who is frail and always pregnant.
  • Ruth and Earle get into an argument about what drives Beau to drink, and it ends with Ruth hugging Earle tearfully. Bone is envious of their connection.
  • Anney comes to get Bone at Ruth's, and while Bone is getting iced tea in the kitchen, she overhears Anney and Ruth whispering about how well Glen is doing at the new job his father gave him. Ruth asks if Glen has asked about Bone, and Anney replies that it's as if Bone never existed.
  • Ruth tells Anney that Bone is never going to be safe with Glen. Anney defends Glen, saying that he didn't get enough love from his father, and he just needs to know that he is loved.
  • Bone comes back onto the porch pretending that she hasn't heard the exchange between Ruth and Anney. Anney wants to talk about when Bone can come home again, but Bone says that she thought she was going to stay until school started. Ruth concurs, and Anney agrees that Bone will stay.
  • In August, a revival tent goes up a short distance away from Ruth's house, and Bone goes over to sit outside and listen to the preacher rave. Bone looks at the men drinking on the side of the highway and wonders if her own face resembles the coldness and sorrow in theirs.
  • Bone remembers Alma saying that it's good Bone is smart because she's not pretty. She also remembers her mother telling her that people can see your soul in your face. Bone wonders how she isn't uglier, considering all the hatefulness she hides.
  • The gospel music from the tent envelopes Bone, and she becomes overwhelmed with emotion.
  • Bone feels like apologizing for everything that is and isn't her fault; the music makes her love and hate herself at the same time.

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