How and what kind of help can be offered to Bone in Bastard Out of Carolina?
It is clear that Bone faces a particularly dire situation, given the extent of the abuse that she faces and the way in which her mother chooses to ignore reality by denying what she knows to be true. Note the way in which Bone herself comments upon her mother's inability to face the truth:
I was always getting hurt, it seemed, in ways Mama could not understand and I could not explain. Mama worried about how careless I was, how prone to accident I had become.
Anney is herself in a very difficult position, as she has become dependent on Glen and can't imagine life without him. To justify her actions, therefore, she must blame Bone for what is happening, saying that she is making Glen angry and that it is her fault. Bone then takes to heart what her mother tells her and believes that what is happening to her is her fault.
One of the excellent aspects about this disturbing novel is the way that it paints a convincing portrait of the way that abused children can internalise their abuse and believe that their abusers really do love them. Clearly, Bone needs some real support in the form of protection and counselling to help counter these lies that she believes so strongly so that she can see the situation for what it was.
Dorothy Allison accomplishes something truly important with Bastard out of Carolina, in that she not only creates an incredibly dynamic and authentic character in Bone, but she also encapsulates in her the shame and guilt that (unfortunately) so many children of abuse experience. What we, as the readers, notice in Bone throughout the novel is her self-blame, believing that she plays a role in the abuse because she "lets it happen." Many abuse survivors feel this way, and given that Allison herself is an abuse survivor, this portrait of abuse offers us many insights into ways of approaching this problem. Many experts have stressed the need to reassure children of abuse that what is happening to them is not, in any way, their fault. This becomes complicated in Bone's case, because her sister and her mother both contribute to the blame that she internalizes. They tell Bone to "be careful" around Glen and not to make him angry, suggesting that she is the one who is responsible for the beatings. And since Bone also feels the need to protect her mother from losing the family that she has worked so hard to build, she doesn't tell anyone about the sexual abuse that she suffers at the hands of Daddy Glen. We see this at the doctor's office, when Bone refuses to speak to the doctor, and asks her mother to take her home.
I think that Aunt Ruth and Aunt Raylene both reach out to Bone in ways that could be seen as positive. Aunt Ruth is able to get Bone to open up about being afraid of Daddy Glen, while Raylene offers Bone a new outlook on her identity as a Boatwright woman and as "white trash." They both influence Bone in ways that allow her to stop blaming herself, as we see towards the end of the book.