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Women's Studies

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Bastard Out of Carolina is a remarkable text for many reasons: Allison’s unsentimental portrayal of profound poverty in the Old South; her unflinching depiction of incest; and the conclusion—devastating for character and reader alike—all contribute to the “flawless” nature of this novel. Perhaps most remarkable, though, is Allison’s ability to seamlessly weave a particularly Southern tradition of masculinity and violence into this heartbreaking tale of a daughter’s trauma and a mother’s abandonment. In this article, I will investigate Allison’s multifaceted portrayals of trauma in Bastard Out of Carolina, which—when combined with an analysis of social and economic traditions in the Old South, as well as an examination of the complex process of narrativization—leads the critical reader to conclude that the trauma ultimately most injurious to Bone is psychological, not sexual. Sadly, this investigation makes apparent that because patriarchal violence is so intrinsic to Southern culture—and particularly to the culture of this text’s era—Daddy Glen’s abuse of Bone may be horrifying and repulsive, but it is not entirely unexpected. What is unexpected, however, is Anney’s abandonment of her daughter, both symbolic and literal. As a theoretical framework layered in trauma, feminist, and psychoanalytic theories proves, it is ultimately Anney’s abandonment, and not Glen’s prolonged physical and sexual abuse, that is the source of this narrator’s most grievous trauma.


This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis Group in Women's Studies on 30/10/2013, available online: