Child Abuse And It's Role In Bastard Out Of Carolina By Dorothy Allison

2007 words - 8 pages

While reading the semi-autobiographical, Bastard Out of Carolina, by Dorothy Allison, I was stunned by the explicit nature of the novel. We were introduced to a young narrator and protagonist named, Ruth Anne “Bone” Boatwright. Bone's family, like that of the author, experienced a impoverished life, all the while she tried to find her place in a society that had literally labeled her “illegitimate.” Merriam-Webster defines illegitimate as being: (1) not recognized as lawful offspring; specifically: born of parents not married to each other (2) not rightly deduced or inferred- illogical (3) departing for the regular- erratic (4) not sanctioned by law- illegal (5) not authorized by good usage. As a young girl, how would it feel being known as illogical, erratic, illegal, not for good usage, and, in Bone's case, being constantly reminded of not knowing the identity of your birth father? According to, a non-profit online resource for mental health, the article “Child Abuse & Neglect” addressed how constantly being told you are stupid or no good, as a child, is very difficult to overcome. You may accept these negative thoughts and believe them to be reality. In this research paper, I am looking to unveil the truth of child abuse by focusing on the history, myths, and victim rehabilitation of child abuse.
From a very young age, Bone was sexually abused by her step-father, Glen Waddell. Like Bone, Dorothy Allison also suffered abuse from her step-father, starting at the young age of five years-old. During the time of the novel, and until recent years, it was unthinkable to speak of any sort of abuse outside the household. Throughout history, children have been victims of abuse by their parents or other adults, and for many centuries laws failed to protect them (Child Abuse Background and History). According to English common law, it was tradition for colonists, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, to consider children property of their fathers. It was not until the early 1870s that child abuse was first brought into light. The Child-Protection Movement started with the news of one eight year-old orphan named Mary Ellen Wilson. After the passing of her biological mother and father, Mary Ellen was left in the care of her biological father's widow, Mary McCormack Connolly. Mrs. McCormack Connolly badly mistreated Mary Ellen, and neighbors in the building were well aware of the child's predicament (Mary Ellen Wilson, 2013). It was not until Etta Angell Wheeler, a caring Methodist mission worker, visited the residence and noticed Mary Ellen's condition. Ms. Wheeler describes her first meeting with Mary Ellen, as such:
“It was December and the weather bitterly cold. She was a tiny mite, the size of five years, though, as afterward appeared, she was then nine. From a pan set upon a low stool she stood washing dishes, struggling with a frying pan about as heavy as herself. Across the table lay a brutal whip of twisted leather...

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