Out of the Dust

by: Karen Hesse

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Out of the Dust 1934

Billie Jo is 14 years old when Out of the dust begins. She lives in Oklahoma during the Great Depression with her mother and father. Despite the continual dust storms Billie Jo and her family live a an almost good life. But Billie Jo's life changes dramatically as a result of a horrific accident where she loses her mother and brother and is left with her father. Billie Jo and her father grieve for her mother and brother. She is in pain both emotionally and physically. She feels guilty for their deaths. Billie Jo's father becomes depressed and withdrawn treating Billie Jo as she was invisible. Billie Jo leaves on freight train and intents on getting out of the Dust Bowl and never going back. On her journey she realizes that she cannot get "out of the dust" because the dust is part of her. She returns home with a deeper understanding of her father and herself. Billie Jo and her father redefine their relationship and once again become a family.


Billie Jo kelby

Billie Jo Kelby is the strong and courageous protagonist,or main character,of the novel. She is a 14 year old girl who lives in Oklahoma with her family during the dust bowl years. she is a dynamic character. Her experiences and actions cause her to change during the novel. At the beginning of the book Jo is making the best of her life despite the dust storms,depression, and drought.She attends school and does well, receiving the highest score in the state on the standardized state test for eighth graders. She also plays a "fierce" piano which is her passion. Billie Jo envisions herself moving away from the Dust Bowl someday; her means of escape will be her talent as a pianist. After the accident, when Billie Jo throws the burning pail of kerosene out the door of the house and onto her mother, and after the death of her mother and newborn baby brother, Billie Jo's life changes forever. Her father and her grieve through the tragic death of her mother and brother and she loses her ability to play the piano with her burned and curled up hands but she can't handle it anymore and runs away. Then realizes her father didn't turn his back on her intentionally and that he was just grieving. Billie Jo returns home and able to forgive her father and herself.

Polly kelby (Pol)

Polly Kelby is Billie Jo's mother. Even though Pol was a minor character and wasn't in the book for a long time, I think she still was a big part because the death of pol hurt Billie Jo and her dad badly and that was kinda the conflict in the story. In the story it doesn't say much about pol's past, although Billie Jo implies that her mother sacrificed a great deal to live in the Dust Bowl with Bayard. As Bayard wife, she adapts. She understands and accepts her husband's uncommunicative personality and the conditions that come with living in the Dust Bowl.

Bayard kelby

Bayard Kelby is Billie Jo's father. We don't really know what Bayard was thinking or feeling in the book but we did see it through the observance of Billie Jo. Bayard is and uncommunicative man but he was still a dutiful husband and never falters in his role as a dutiful father to Billie Jo. Bayard is slowly losing his farm and has lost his wife and son,but he never loses faith that the rain well come again and his farm will prosper. he will never leave the Dust Bowl. when Billie Jo returns home after running away, Bayard's relationship with his daughter changes. They become a family again. Bayard also goes to Doc Rice to get the cancer removed from his skin. Bayard meets Louise, a school teacher at the night school where he was taking classes, and he and Billie Jo include her in the family.


Louise is a school teacher she teaches the night school class Billie Jo's father takes, and keeps her father company when Billie Jo runs away on the freight train. Louise will marry Billie Jo's father and become Billie Jo's stepmother. Louise is understanding of the difficult times that Billie Jo and her father have been through during the past year. She accepts her role as a newcomer to the family and is patient. She doesn't push Billie Jo to talk, change, or do anything that Billie Jo is not ready to do.