The Search For Identity Dorothy Allison's "Bastard Out Of Carolina"

1927 words - 8 pages

THE SEARCH FOR IDENTITYIn 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. Almahad sworn she wouldn't have Wade back in her life till he crawledthe length of Main Street singing what a dog he was, but when thebaby got sick and the boys started running around at night, she gaveit 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 that she has possessed for years. After asking Wade to give her another baby, he laughs at Alma, saying that he "wouldn't touch [her] even if [she] took a bath in whiskey tonic and put a bag over [her] head" (272). If a woman were emotionally strong, she would not tolerate comments like that. Any woman who does not possess the courage to leave a man after being humiliated like Alma is stuck in a male- dominated society and lacks the ability to find her own identity.In addition, Alma's identity also lies within her children. It is perfectly natural for a mother to love her children with all her heart. It is also perfectly natural for a mother to severely grieve over the death of her child. However, Alma takes this too far. She goes crazy after losing Annie, her youngest child. Alma wrecks her home, frightens the children, and even threatens to cut her husband's throat with a razor. She longs to have another baby, because that would be the only thing that would make her feel pretty. If having a child is the only thing that would make a woman feel good about herself, what kind of identity is that? Alma clearly shows that she cannot live on her own- she needs a man and children to help her survive.Although Anney makes some advances towards independence, she remains...

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