Bastard Out of Carolina
By Dorothy Allison
- 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).
The daughter (whose name is not given) is the protagonist of the story. She is characterized in a number of ways, specifically through her thoughts throughout the story. Although her mother tells her not to steal, she does so anyways, showing her disobedience. She is also angered very easily, and is enraged rather than ashamed when she has to return the candy to the manager, a feeling communicated through her thoughts about the man. "If he reached for me again, I decided, I'd bite him" (80). "I wanted to kick him or throw up on him or scream his name on the street" (80). This shows a lot about her character, because even after all the lecturing she got, she still doesn't feel bad about what she did, she is only angry that she got caught.
The mother, also not named, is the mother of the protagonist, the young girl. Her thoughts about stealing and dealing with consequences are almost opposite those of her daughter. When she catches the girl stealing, she tells her a story about when she was young, and would pick strawberries for a man who would sell them on the side of the road. She tells her how she used to cheat and put the green, unripe strawberries in the bottom of the carton, and put the nicer looking ones on top so she wouldn't have to spend as much time looking for presentable fruits. When she was caught doing this, she was forced to eat all the green strawberries, and ended up getting sick and throwing up. When her daughter expresses how angry she would have felt in the situation, the mother tells her that "there an't no other way to do it" (79). She says this because she understands that the only way to learn a lesson is to be given consequences for your actions.
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.