Bastard Out of Carolina Essay - Suggested Essay Topics

Dorothy Allison

Suggested Essay Topics

Chapters 1-6
1. Compare and contrast the Waddell and Boatwright families. How do they differ in respect to economic class? What do the families think of one another?

2. Compare and contrast how Glen Waddell changes after his baby is stillborn. Do you think Glen is a bad person, or that he is just incapable of dealing with the death of his son?

Chapters 7-11
1. Bone becomes interested in gospel music and religion. Do you think she is really religious? How do the Boatwrights react to Bone’s religious conversations? Use examples from the text to back up your assertions.
2. Bone is an abused child; her stepfather beats her regularly. Does Bone realize she is abused? Does her mother? How do they “deal” (or not deal) with what is occurring?

Chapters 12-16
1. Closely analyze the description of Shannon Pearl’s death. Although the event is, seemingly, a gruesome accident, do you think that Shannon Pearl might have been deliberately careless? Did the event that preceded the accident help cause Shannon to be careless? Explain.

2. Compare and contrast the life that Aunt Raylene leads with that of the other Boatwright women. Do you think she is happier than they are? Is she better off without a husband?

Chapters 17-22
1. Author Dorothy Allison begins the book with an epigram by James Baldwin which implies that people “pay for what they do … by the lives they lead.” Analyze this epigram. How do you think it applies to the novel? Does Bone pay for the life that she leads? Or is she just a victim? How does Anney “pay”?

2. Bone, the narrator, remarks at the end of the novel that she is now just a couple of years younger than her mother when her mother first became pregnant with her. Given what has happened to Bone, do you think that she will escape the cycle of poverty and abuse? Will she end up like her mother?