The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

As the narrator of the novel as well as the protagonist, Bone is recalling past events. The fact that she can see humor in the peculiar circumstances of her birth, her raid on Woolworth’s, and her venture into religion indicates that by the time she tells her story, Bone has recovered her zest for life. Yet it is clear that at the time it occurred, Glen’s abuse warped her personality. Not only was she forced to detach her mind from her body so that she could endure the beatings, but in guarding her secret, she also had to withdraw from the people who loved her. Bone describes how through all of this she clung to her sense of identity, so that, once freed from Glen and from her own rage, she could once again love life.

Anney is a pretty, tender-hearted woman whose flaws are generally perceived as virtues. It is her irrational optimism that first propels her into marriage to Glen and then keeps her believing that he and his luck will change. It is her tenderness toward the weak that makes it impossible for her to turn Glen away. Ironically, though Anney lacks clearsightedness, she does, like all the other Boatwright women, have strength.

Glen, the villain of the story, is incapable of love and rules his life by his own needs. Because he has been rejected by his own family, he needs Anney’s love; because he sees Bone as a rival for her mother’s affection, he needs to destroy her. Although Allison makes his motivations clear, by the time...

(The entire section is 465 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Bone, the protagonist and narrator, whose real name is Ruth Anne Boatwright. She is called Bone because at birth she was “no bigger than a knuckle-bone.” Her mother, Anney, was fifteen years old and unmarried when she gave birth to Bone, following a car accident brought about by her brother Travis’ drunk driving.

Anney Boatwright

Anney Boatwright, Bone’s mother. Hardworking and poor, Anney hates the “illegitimate” stamp placed on Bone’s birth certificate. To her, it puts authority behind the labels of “no good,” “lazy,” and “shiftless” that others have attached to her and her family all her life. When Bone is four, Anney marries the sweet, pretty Lyle Parsons and has another daughter, Reese. After Lyle dies when his truck spins off the road, she takes a job as a waitress in the White Horse Café. She meets her third husband, Glen Waddell, at the café when he comes in to eat with her brother Earle.

Glen Waddell

Glen Waddell, Anney’s third husband. the youngest son of the well-off Waddell family, owners of the Sunshine Dairy, Glen is full of insecurities and self-doubt. Although his oldest brother is a respected lawyer and another brother is a dentist, Glen can barely hold a job and moves from one low-paying truck-driving position to another. Glen is neglected by his father, whom he wants to shock and, paradoxically, earn respect from by marrying into the disreputable Boatwright family and proving himself as a man who carries a knife and embraces violence. Despite a small, thin appearance, Glen is known for his enormous hands and his extreme, sudden temper.


Reese, Bone’s younger sister. A pretty child who is never mishandled or abused by Glen, Reese is Bone’s sometime ally and playmate.

Shannon Pearl

Shannon Pearl, Bone’s friend. A short, fat, half-blind albino, Shannon carries with her a rage and resentment not unlike Bone’s. Although her parents pet and adore her, most others find her repulsive.

Raylene Boatwright

Raylene Boatwright, Bone’s aunt. A short, stocky, broad-shouldered woman with closely cropped hair and an affinity for masculine dress, Aunt Raylene lives apart from the rest of the family, alone in a house on the river outside town. the one love of her life, a woman she met while working at the carnival, left Raylene for the sake of her child.


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Ruth Anne Boatwright is about six years old when the story opens and nearly thirteen when it ends. Glen's abuse begins soon after his...

(The entire section is 988 words.)