Discuss Bois Sauvage from Salvage the Bones and its deprivations--the poverty, unemployment and housing. How does the area shape the people, especially young people, who live there for better and for worse?

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The setting of Jesmyn Ward's Salvage the Bones contributes greatly to the empathy that is built between the reader and the speaker, Esch. For instance, the reader learns in the first chapter that Esch's family has suffered and still suffers from poverty. Esch's mother died in childbirth due to...

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The setting of Jesmyn Ward's Salvage the Bones contributes greatly to the empathy that is built between the reader and the speaker, Esch. For instance, the reader learns in the first chapter that Esch's family has suffered and still suffers from poverty. Esch's mother died in childbirth due to inadequate healthcare; Esch's father is an alcoholic who has no opportunity for rehabilitation; Esch is sexually active with Manny without using protection; the family lives off of canned goods. All of these point to an archetypal poor family and community at large.

The very title itself indicates the challenging disrepair that is already present in Esch's hometown of Bois Sauvage and introduces the motif of salvaging (rescuing from loss, especially as it relates to the sea) before any destruction from Hurricane Katrina comes to the town. This choice on Ward's part to create an impoverished setting makes the ultimate destruction of the hurricane all the more tragic. There is, however, a small glimpse of hope given in the novel. Rather than having them accept defeat, Ward's use of salvaging throughout the novel shows the resilience of the community in the face of poverty and disaster.

One of the first places that the motif of salvaging is introduced is in chapter four when Esch goes to Mother Lizbeth and Papa Joseph's house. She narrates:

Fleas are everywhere. . . . They jump and stick to my legs like burrs, biting, until I stand on what's left of the porch: a couple of two-by-fours leaning at a slanted angle against the house like an abandoned pier sinking below storm-rising water. . . . The screen door has long disappeared, and the front door hangs by one hinge. . . . The house is a drying skeleton, everything inside that was evidence of living salvaged over the years.

Then, in chapter twelve, which takes place post-hurricane, Esch says:

Katrina, the mother that swept into the Gulf and slaughtered. . . . She left us a dark Gulf and salt-burned land. She left us to learn to crawl. She left us to salvage. Katrina is the mother we will remember until the next mother with large, merciless hands, committed to blood, comes.

In the midst of challenges, the people of Bois Sauvage, Mississippi, choose to keep fighting, to keep salvaging. Their indomitable spirit speaks to the inner strength of the residents of this tested community.

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Bois Sauvage is a fictional town on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and the setting of the novel Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward. The name of the town means wild or untamed woods and signifies the way in which life in the area is harsh and differs from that of wealthier parts of the United States. The novel is set in 2005, during the preparation for and arrival of Hurricane Katrina, the event that inspired Ward to write the story.

The first type of deprivation that affects the characters of the story is lack of access to medical care. Mama bears her children at home with no medical assistance and eventually dies in childbirth. Daddy is an alcoholic with no access to counselling or rehabilitation, and when he injures his hand lacks proper follow-up care. Esch is 15 years old, has been sexually active since she was 12, and seems to be following her mother's path in lacking access to sexual education, birth control, and prenatal care. She also has not been taught that she is in control of her own body and free to make her own choices; instead she allows herself to be sexually molested:

“And it was easier to let him keep on touching me than ask him to stop, easier to let him inside than to push him away, easier than hearing him ask me, "Why not?" It was easier to keep quiet and take it than to give him an answer.”

The children's opportunities are limited by their poverty. As a pregnant teen, Esch is unlikely to complete her schooling and find a good job. Randall cannot afford the basketball camp that might lead to a college scholarship.

On the other hand, the youngsters form close bonds with each other, and develop considerable initiative in foraging for food and preparing for disaster. They collaborate to take care of the dog China and her puppies. The community is close knit, with people helping each other as much as they can.

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