Bastard Out of Carolina

By Dorothy Allison


"Bastard out of Carolina" has both an external and an internal conflict. The external conflict takes place between the main character and her mother when the main character steals several pieces of candy from a local store, and her mother lectures her about it. There is also an internal conflict taking place with the main character as she reflects on her actions of theft. While she knows that what she did was wrong and tries to accept the consequences given to her, she feels angry about it, and has a hunger to steal more every time she walks past the window of the store she had stolen from.
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Plot Line

  • Exposition – "Bastard Out of Carolina" begins with the protagonist's mother lecturing her about how she never wants to catch her stealing. The girl then makes plans to steal without her mother catching her, then proceeds to steal several tootsie rolls from a local store.
  • Rising action - The girl's plan does not work out she intended it to, and she is caught by her mother, who proceeds to lecture her by telling her about her family. The daughter learns about her cousin, Tommy Lee, who steals often. Her mother also tells her a story about dealing with the consequences you receive for your actions.
  • Climax - The girl is forced to return the candy to the manager of the store she stole it from. The reader can really feel the anger of the girl as the manager lectures her about what she did.
  • Falling action - The manager of the store gives the girl consequences for stealing from him - she is not allowed to come into the store again until her mother allows it.
  • Resolution - As the girl exits the store, she feels a "hunger," or desire to hurt someone, a feeling she felt every time she passed the shop window in the future. "I wondered if that kind of hunger and rage is what Tommy Lee felt when he looked through his mama's pocketbook" (81).


Figurative language can add a lot to a story by making the reader think. Similes do this by causing us to think about why the author chose to compare someone/something to someone/something else. One particularly strong simile in this story was used right before the mother was about to tell her daughter a story about accepting consequences, and tell her about her cousin who was a thief. "The fingers of her right hand rubbed together like the legs of grasshoppers I had seen climbing up the long grass at Aunt Raylene's place" (76). I think the author used this simile to hint at what the mother was about to talk about. Grasshoppers are sometimes thought of as beings of enlightenment. The mother was about to teach her daughter a lesson, or, in a way, enlighten her about her family and her mother's past.
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The overall theme of this short story is really just to accept the consequences you receive for your actions, and realize that sometimes you need an unpleasant thing to happen to you to learn an important lesson. In this story, the theme is taught through the mothers feelings towards her daughter's stealing. She knows that the only way to get her daughter to stop stealing is to teach her a lesson, no matter how undesirable, which is why she makes her tell the manager what she did and return the candy. Although this lesson didn't exactly sink into her daughter's mind, it is still a valuable lesson that the reader can learn from.

The lesson/theme of this story made it interesting to read because it wasn't a lesson that the protagonist actually ended up learning. It was a lesson that her mother tried to teach her, but the message didn't really sink in, as she didn't feel ashamed for stealing and only wanted to steal more. I think this is an interesting concept, because it makes the reader think. Obviously the lesson that the mother was trying to teach was a valuable one, and the fact that the daughter disregarded it and became hungry to steal more shows us what could happen if you neglect to learn your lesson. To me, this is the most compelling part of the story, because it really makes you think.