Out of the Dust Questions and Answers
by Karen Hesse

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If Ma hadn't died and had just been injured instead, how would this have affected the relationship between Ma and Daddy?

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Ma's burns were so severe that she physically and symbolically became a different person. In fact, it was Billy Jo who first commented on this drastic overnight change. Ma went from a lovely and industrious wife and mother to being bedridden. Ma, despite being pregnant, still possessed the toughness of a woman from the Great Plains region during the Depression era. However, when she became severely burned, Daddy saw her as someone who was now dependent on the family for physical support. Although he did not admit this, Billy Jo observed the sudden changes in his mood and outlook on life.

Daddy became distant from both Ma and Billy Jo. So, if Ma had simply been injured, the emotional gap between Ma and Daddy would have widened. As tragic as her death was, Ma's demise actually allowed a new life for both Daddy and Billy Jo. This is evident in the fact that Daddy found a new romantic partner whilst Billy Jo was temporarily living as a vagabond. Another outcome, or silver lining, of Ma's death was that it brought Daddy and Billy Jo closer together again. In a sense, Ma's injuries were a constant reminder of the accident, in which Billy Jo was a central figure.

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