Bastard Out of Carolina

by Dorothy Allison

Major Conflict

The major conflict in "Bastard Out of Carolina" is rule breaking and suffering from the consequence. The protagonist, the girl, constructs a plan with her cousins to steal from a local store. She ends up providing Tootsie Rolls for her sister, Reese and her. The goal was to not get caught, but this plan does not follow through. The girl's mother is no fool and knows just what the girl did. The mother confronts her daughter and forces her to fess up about the situation. The girl at first lies about where she got this candy but eventually tells the truth about getting it from Woolworth's counter, a local store. The mother has no patience for this type of behavior and forcers her daughter to return the rest of the candy to the store and apologize for stealing it. Before returning to the store the mother tells her daughter stories about her cousins and the trouble they got into stealing, maybe in hope of scaring her daughter out of stealing again. The girl returns the candy and has a conversation with the manager about what she has done. The manager too does not want the girl to be in future trouble so enforces the mothers ideas and puts a consequence in place to teach the girl a lesson. While most of the story consists of external conflict: stealing from the store and having to face her mother and the manager; there is also some internal conflict the girl faces: dealing with her emotions during and after the situation. She not only felt rage towards her mother and the man but also regret about the decision she made.


The Girl

The protagonist of this story is the girl, with a mother and a sibling named Reese. The story is told mostly through her actions and reactions. She is characterized indirectly. You learn a lot about the girl when she is faced with these confrontations and by the way she deals with it. The girl is helpless, "Mama was quiet, and I got scared. I didn't want her to think I hated her. I didn't even want to be angry at her. I clamped my teeth tight and tried not to start crying again" (79). While having to deal with this situation you begin to understand she is an arrogant girl who has good intentions but is out of line.


The mother is another main character in the story. She plays a valid role in the daughters life and shows her support throughout the situation. "Mama's hand touched my chin, trailed along my cheek, and stroked my hair. "You're my pride. Do you know? You and your sister are all I really have, all I ever will have. You think I could let you grow up to be like that?"" (77). Through indirect characterization you get the sense that the mother worries about her daughter and loves her dearly.

The Man

The supporting main character, the man, is viewed as very intimidating and is not respected by the girl. "If he reached for me again, I decided, I'd bite him, but he just looked at me long and carefully. I knew I was supposed to feel ashamed, but I didn't anymore. I felt outraged" (80). Through this indirect characterization description of how the girl felt towards the man you are able to understand the girls concern.

Plot Line

Exposition: The story begins with the mother lecturing the girl about never stealing. Without a care in the world and totally disregarding what her mother had said, the girl constructs a plan with her cousins to steal candy from a local store.

Rising Action: The plan didn't go exactly as planned and the mother finds out about the daughter stealing. Once again, the mother will lecture the girl and make her aware of the severity of this choice. The mother will enforce that her daughter returns to the store to confess and apologize for her actions.

Climax: When confronting the man at the store she returns the leftover candy and apologizes for what she has done. The man also makes the girl aware of how big a problem this is. The girl's emotions quickly escalate and she feels strong hatred towards the man.

Falling Action: While wrapping up the conversation, the man gives the girl a consequence, of not returning to the store for a certain amount of time to teach the girl a lesson. The girl feels as though he has crossed the line and is outraged by this cicumstance.

Resolution: At the very end of the story the girl talks about how she later on in life passes by the store and relates to how her cousin felt when he made a similar decision to steal. She is still mad about her decision and regrets the choice she made, to steal.

Figurative Language

In "Bastard out Of Carolina", Dorothy Allison uses several literary devices, one of them being figurative language or more specifically, similes. The girl describes her mother's facial reaction as she tells a compelling story earlier in her life. "Her eyes drifted back to my face, the stunned brown of the pupils shining like mossy rocks under water" (77). Similes are a figure of speech using the world "like" or "as" to compare to unalike things. Using a simile is one of the best ways to help the reader understand an idea about the nature of something through a comparison.


The theme or message of this story is to be a good person and have good morals. When mistakes are made it is important to own it, learn from it, and prevent it from happening again. It is the acceptance of consequences when things don't go right and the ability to apply this learning in everyday life that will actually teach you lessons. I believe this is the theme because the girl makes a bad decision, to steal, and is faced with consequences that she must accept and learn from.

A Lesson Learned...

As mentioned above, a huge aspect of this story is what does it take to be a good person with good morals. In life, mistakes are made daily, by everyone. I would call it, for every action these is a reaction either positive or negative. This connects to the plot of story, the girl stealing. There was a consequence that came with this action and that was to be banned from the store for a period of time. It is how we cope with these decisions and consequences in life that define who we are, which in theory relates to our morals.

This lesson or idea is what made this reading so intriguing. This short story provides a base of what it takes to be a good person. Indirectly, it shows you that making smart choices even when compelled to do the opposite will later benefit you in the long wrong. As you watch the girl deal with her choices, you begin to understand what it means to have good morals. To expand on morals, it is the principles of good and bad behavior and the goodness and badness of human character. Yes, the girl made a made decision but what makes her a good person with good morals is her acceptance of the consequence knowing the decision she made was wrong. So remember, for every action there is a reaction.