Love in Allison's Bastard Out of Carolina

Love in Allison's Bastard Out of Carolina

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Love in Allison's Bastard Out of Carolina

 

"Love" is a word, a signifier, tied to many meanings, all different in context, cultures, and ideologies. Love is used numerous ways in Allison's Bastard Out of Carolina, by many characters. In the character of Bone, love is a confused thing, always changing, as Bone uses it to fit her life on the fly. In relation to parental love, Bone wants Daddy Glen to love her. However, early in the book, Bone's conception of "love" is that of a child, obviously. On page 52, she says, "I wanted him to love us. I wanted to be able to love him. I wanted him to pick me up gently and tell Mama again how much he loved us all." This idea of love is simple, involving hugs, smiles, and friendliness, the sort of "love" Bone gets from Anney. However, as Bone's relationship with Glen changes, so does her perception of "love". On page 108, Glen asks Bone, "'Don't you know how I love you?'" Bone thinks to herself, "No, I did not know." This is near the beginning of Bone's confusion about love, what it means, and what it does. At the time he asks her, he is molesting her. It is no wonder that Bone was confused, having love expressed simply, from her mother, and sexually (if indeed it is "love") from Glen. This confusion leads bone to question the idea of love, and to look elsewhere for it, perhaps to compare. Love, she finds, is a prominent idea in the Southern Baptist church. Bone is enthralled with the black and white of Christianity, the definitive line drawn between good and evil, because she can see where the love is, and what it does. She believes she can see that other people truly love one another, and believing this, she thinks the has a better grasp on the abstract idea of love. However, as Bone later discovers, love is abstract, and being abandoned by her mother, she never truly figures it out. The problem within, for Bone, is that love is a conceptual idea, and that, really, it means something different to each person. Not only that, but love is used by others, in ways that may not suit anyone else's conceptions of the idea. So when Anney insists to Bone and everyone else that Glen loves her and her girls, Bone tends, of course, to believe her, and thus the idea of love is transferred to how Glen treats Bone.

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His sexual and physical abuse to her takes on the meaning of "love", because she believes that Glen loves her, and anything he does must be representational of that love. However, her confusion stems from the fact that others, too, love her, and do not treat her in this way. Bone, in trying to discover the meaning of love, compares between the love of people, compares their actions, and compares their histories. In her encounters with Raylene, Bone finds that love, for her aunt, meant sacrificing one person for another's well being. Her experiences with the church show her that love is universal, and that each person should love one another. The problem lies in people's actions regarding love. Had everyone acted similarly toward Bone, especially Daddy Glen, the child would not have been nearly so confused and traumatized. Love, indeed, is an abstract concept, very difficult for anyone, especially a child to grasp. Bone tries to find out what love means, but the situations in which she is placed do not lend themselves to analysis of a less-than-concrete idea. I think that without the reader's own conception of love in the back of his mind during the story, the book would not succeed. Because love is socially regarded as a good thing, a beautiful thing, and something to be cherished, Bone's conceptions of "love", whatever it may be, frustrate and sadden the reader.
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