Bastard Out of Carolina

Dorothy Allison


The conflict is an internal battle between the protagonist and herself. The protagonist steals candy and through hearing stories about her "bad" cousin has to figure out if she thinks what she did was wrong. Should she feel shame about stealing? Or was it okay? While this internal battle was going on there was an external conflict between the girl and her mother. The girls mother finds out the girl stole after she had lectured her children to never steal. The mother makes her daughter return the candy and tells her stories about her nephew who stole. These stories are what made the protagonist question if what she did was right or wrong.

Plot Line

  • Exposition: The Story starts with the mother lecturing her children on stealing and tells them not to do it.
  • Rising Action: Mother catches her daughter stealing and is not happy. She sits down and tells the girl about Tommy Lee, the girls cousin. " 'He's bad,' Mama said, her eyes still looking out the window. 'He's just bad all the way through' "(77). The mother then makes the girl go back to the store to return the candy.
  • Climax: The protagonists returns the candy to the manager of the store. This is when the girl starts crying and realizes what she did was wrong.
  • Falling Action: The manager starts to yell and the protagonist which stops her from feeling ashamed. The creepy manager also gives the girl the consequence of not being allowed back in the store.
  • Resolution: The girl walks by the stores windows and feels mad and angry about the situation, but wonders if what she is feeling is what her cousin, Tommy Lee, feels.


There are many similes in this short story to convey the emotions a character is feeling or to understand what a character is doing. "The fingers of her right hand rubbed together like the legs of grasshoppers" (76). The author compares the mothers fingers to a grasshoppers legs to show the reader that the mother is in a contemplative state. The reader can presume that the mother is thinking about what to say to her daughter and what to do about her daughter stealing. Another simile is when the author compares the mothers eyes to mossy rocks under water. "Her eyes drifted back to my face, the stunned brown of the pupils shining like mossy rocks under water" (77). By having the eyes be compared the mossy wet rocks the reader can see the mothers disappointment and a hint of vulnerability. The author uses these similes so that the reader can get a better understanding of who the mother is.

Be a good person

One major theme of Bastard out of Carolina is to be a good person. Even though in the story the protagonist wasn't a "good" person she made it right by accepting her consequences and returning what she stole. Allison leaves the reader with the thought of what being "good" really entails. Does being "good" mean you never doing anything wrong or does it mean you sometimes do things wrong but accept responsibility. If anything, Allison was most likely saying that you don't have to be perfect to be a "good" person, you just need to accept whatever the outcome is and take responsibility. This is most likely what Allison was inferring because she had the protagonist take responsibility to resolve the conflict.

There are many different lessons learned from reading the story. I think that every lesson makes this story worthwhile. Even if someone wasn't planning on stealing before they read this story they can still gain knowledge on not always following the pack, taking responsibility and to not lie because it won't get you anywhere. Someones experiences don't need to be the same as that of a stories to gain insight on being a "better" person.