Study Guide

Bastard Out of Carolina Suffering

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Bastard Out of Carolina is not a book about puppies and rainbows, that's for sure. You might want to keep the Kleenex handy. While pointing to every instance of suffering in the book would take too long and just tell us what we already know—which is that there is a lot of it in the novel—there are definitely thematic trends within these instances of suffering. Stuff to look for includes who suffers and how, what form suffering takes, what characters say about suffering, and how characters react to it. Suffering is a fact of life, but it takes different forms, and there are many different ways to react to it.

Questions About Suffering

  1. If you had to describe the biggest cause of suffering in the novel, what would it be?
  2. Does the novel ever give us a break from the suffering, or is everyone suffering pretty much all the time?
  3. How do we as readers find redemption after all of the suffering the characters undergo? Or is there none? Does the end of the novel make us despair at the cruel world we live in?
  4. Bone arguably suffers more than any character in the novel, but is there any character who doesn't suffer in some way or at some point? What might this tell us?

Chew on This

We are supposed to interpret suffering in the novel as something that stays with the characters and never really goes away. It's just a fact of life, and you can't change it.

In the novel, suffering is pretty much the same for everyone, even if each character experiences it in a different way.

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