Bastard Out Of Carolina

By Dorothy Allison

Plot Line Overview

  • Exposition: The story starts with the narrator giving some background on her mother's views on stealing, and how her own actions reflect this view. The narrator's mother finds out that she has stolen tootsie rolls from the Woolworth's Corner.
  • Rising Action: The narrator's mother tells her a story about her cousin Tommy Lee, all the awful things he's done, and how it all started with stealing. She walks the narrator to the car and begins driving to Woolworth's Counter. On the way she tells a second story, about when her own mother found out she was selling unripe strawberries. They then arrive at the shop, and enter.
  • Climax: The narrator feels guilty for stealing and begins to cry, offering the candy back (and cash for the eaten ones). The store owner comes out but treats her with disdain, so her shame turns into a burning rage: "I knew I was supposed to feel ashamed, but I didn't anymore. I felt outraged." (80)
  • Falling Action: The store owner tells the narrator that she is banned from the store for a month, she and her mother leave.
  • Resolution: The story ends with the narrator passing Woolworth's corner (some time later it seems) reflecting on her feelings: "After that, when I passed the Woolworth's windows, it would come back - that dizzy desperate hunger edged with hatred and an aching lust to hurt someone back" (81)

Major Conflict

The conflict in this story is primarily internal, a young girl trying to grapple with ideas of morality. The narrator is forced to deal with the consequences of her actions. First she must face the ones brought by her mother and the shop owner. However, she then must deal with her own feelings regarding stealing, apologies, and accepting responsibility.

Figurative Language

Throughout the story there are many examples of figurative language being used for imagery. These help the reader get a clear picture of what the author is describing. Here's one example:


"The lines in her face looked as deep as the rivers that flowed south towards Charleston." (76)

Consequences Aren't Fun

Throughout the story, the idea of consequences and repercussions is revisited a number of times. This comes up first in the story of Tommy Lee. Even though he never got caught, he grew up to be a terrible and unhappy person. Consequences come up again in the story of the strawberries. After cheating innumerable people into buying unripe berries, the narrator's mother has to face the consequences dealt out by her own mother. Finally, consequences are explored in the main plot. The narrator steals something and then has to deal with the punishments from her mother, the store owner, and her own conscience.

Most Compelling Aspect

The most compelling aspect of this story is the internal narrative from the narrator. The story wouldn't really be interesting if we didn't get to see the emotions of the main character. However, with the insight we get, the story is much more thought provoking. We are forced to think about our own emotions, and reflect on what they say about us as a person. In my opinion, this is what makes the story worth reading.