The Search for Identity Dorothy Allison's "Bastard Out of Carolina"

Essay by jahi282College, UndergraduateA+, March 2004

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In her novel, Bastard Out of Carolina, Dorothy Allison tells a story of Bone and the Boatwrights, a family besieged by poverty and violence. Throughout the novel, the reader uncovers the lives of all the different characters, and discovering the identity of these characters plays a large role in understanding the novel as a whole. Within the Boatwright family are women who are constantly faced with the struggle of finding themselves in a patriarchal society. Anney, Alma and Raylene each have their own characteristics and ideals and as the novel progresses, Bone successively displays identity characteristics of each of these women. To Bone, these women exemplify the different levels of independence that a woman can achieve in such a society. In the end, while Alma and Anney are unable to break free from a male-driven society, Raylene remains independent, and Bone finds her own identity through her experiences.

Bone's aunt, Alma, does not have her own identity- she relies on men and children to form her identity for her. She is married to Wade, a man who consistently has extramarital affairs. Alma "had finally caught Wade doing just what he'd been doing for years," (83) and moved out with her children, only to break under the stress of not having a man in the household. Alma

had sworn she wouldn't have Wade back in her life till he crawled

the length of Main Street singing what a dog he was, but when the

baby got sick and the boys started running around at night, she gave

it up and moved back in with him (90-91).

Though Wade blatantly disrespects her in every way, Alma lacks the strength and ability to leave him for good, because doing so would strip her of the only identity...