In Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward, to what extent do you sympathize with Esch? Why?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Esch is a product of society, as revealed in Salvage the Bones. With no mother to guide her and a father who likes to drink, her life in a poverty-striken area with few prospects for her, is a series of motions. One thing however is her dedication to her brothers and they to her. When she discovers that she is pregnant with Manny's baby, she tries to hide it and has nobody to turn to. She loves Manny but knows that he does not feel the same way; he even claims that he is not the father - based on Esch's history with boys.

Since her mother dies giving birth to her youngest brother, Junior, Esch "bottle-fed him, ...licked his tears, ... (and) mothered him." To escape her male-dominated reality which exists within a very restricted environment with little reference to the outside world, Esch makes comparisons with Greek mythology and uses poetic language in explanations of the things around her - all of which she is acutely aware of. Her surroundings are far from glamorous. There are "refrigerators rusted ...sprinkled with paprika, pieces of engines, a washing machine so old ...looks like a handheld cake mixer."

It is not difficult to sympathize with Esch, especially as she actually craves her own mother and yet, ironically is now going to be a mother herself. The description of Hurricane Katrina as "a murderous mother" gives insight into Esch's character and the reader concludes the story with a desire that Esch will succeed. 

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Salvage the Bones

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