Bastard Out of Carolina

by Dorothy Allison

Plot Line

  • Exposition: This story begins when the girl's mama catches her stealing. The girl had stolen and then proceeded to lie to her mama, who had previously told her to never steal.
  • Rising Action: Her mama decides to take her to the store to return the tootsie rolls that she stole.
  • Conflict: When the girl returns the candy she meets the manager. When he takes back the candy and money for the candy she ate, she becomes angry and wants to hurt him, "I felt outraged.I wanted to kick him or throw up on him or scream his name in the street," (80). The manager then bans her from the store until she can learn her lesson. This part of the story is extremely intense since you can feel all of the girl's emotion.
  • Falling Action: After the manager bans her, the girl's emotions settle into one clear emotion: rage. She starts to understand that she and her mother would never choose to go to the store.
  • Resolution: After this experience, when she passes the store the, "hunger and rage" that she had previously felt come back to her (81).

Major Conflict

A major conflict in this story is how the girl reacts to her mistake. This is internal conflict because wether she decides to learn from it or not it is purely her choice. She struggles with understanding that her mother is trying to do what is best for her, "The thought of going back in there with Mama made me feel sick to my stomach and almost angry at her," (78). She also decide if she learns from stealing the candy. She has opportunities to decide, but the candy was a way to show her independence. When she returns it she feels like something is being taken from her. She then choses what emotion comes from this event. This conflict of how to react is the foundation of the story.


The author uses metaphors in "Bastard Out of Carolina" to help explain the feelings of the characters. After the manager has spoken to her, she feels anger, "It was hunger I felt then, raw and terrible, a shaking deep down inside me, as if my rage had used up everything I had ever eaten," (81). Her rage is being compared to a terrible hunger. The author uses this to really show how angry she was. They compare a complex emotion to a feeling that everyone experiences.
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Should we Learn from our Mistakes?

The point that the author is trying to get across is to learn from our mistakes and the mistakes of others. The girl in this story didn't learn. She stole after her mama told her about her cousin who had been caught stealing. She knew it was wrong. While she was at the store, she chose not to feel bad about what she did. After that experience, she wanted to scream every time she saw the store. Her mama explains how she had been punished for hiding green strawberries in bottom of baskets for sale when she was young. From that experience, she learned and came off better from it. When she re-accounts the story, she laughs about it about it because she learned from it. By showing the results of these character's choices the reader is reminded about how important it is to learn from mistakes.

This story had many themes mixed into it. This feature of it makes the story worth while to read. It is very interesting to read and find the different layers of themes in the short story.The author's writing causes the reader to continue to think about what the theme is after they read it. They create questions like: Would I steal? How would I react to the manager? Do I learn from my mistakes? We are faced with the choice to learn from our mistakes daily. These are important questions to ask ourselves from such a simple story about a girl who steals tootsie rolls.