Study Guide

Bastard Out of Carolina Gender

By Dorothy Allison

Gender

The Boatwright men and the Boatwright women lead very different lives in Bastard Out of Carolina. Again and again, Bone tells us that the men are like overgrown children who get taken care of by the women, who pay for it by aging quickly. Surprise, surprise: there are some serious matriarchs in Bone's family. Granny, Anney, Alma, Ruth, and Raylene are all tough as nails; they have like thirty children apiece; they hold down jobs while raising the kids largely on their own; and they still find time to feed everyone and then sit on the porch and drink iced tea. This book really shines a spotlight on the tough lot—and hard work—of women.

Questions About Gender

  1. How does Bone feel about her male cousins and her uncles? Does she want to be like them, or does she relate more to her aunts? What evidence can you find to back this up?
  2. How do the roles of women among the Boatwrights differ from the roles of women among the Waddells? What judgments does Bone make about how the Boatwright and Waddell women live?
  3. Why do some of the female characters refer to the male characters as little boys?
  4. Why do you think that the gender differences between her aunts and uncles are so stark for Bone? Why do you think that gender is important in the novel?

Chew on This

The differences between how men and women are expected to live intensifies as Bone gets older.

The novel chooses to focus on the more female perspective of things because it is one that often goes unacknowledged.

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