In Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward, the audience is introduced to the struggles of an African American family in Mississippi trying to get everything together before the terrible storm, Hurricane Katrina crashes onto the coast and wipes everything out. This heartfelt novel introduces to the audience the theme of parenthood/motherhood, the role that the absence of a mother/father had on the children, the role of basketball and the affect it had on the family, the role of dog fighting and how it related to the family, and the character analysis of Esche.
The loss of a female figure in their lives has changed the family in order for them to replace that role and comfort each other. To begin with, the theme of parenthood/motherhood is extremely prevalent throughout the novel. The definition of a theme, as it relates to a story, is the central topic, subject, or concept the author is trying to point out. In the novel it is shown that parenthood is both neglectful and brutal with evidence of this all over the novel.
Esche’s father is an alcoholic who does not pay hardly any attention to the needs of the family and focuses more on hurricanes than he does on the children which goes hand in hand with the idea of parenthood being neglectful. With the father not paying attention to the kids and with their mother having passed away, the children do not have anyone to show them how to guide themselves through life’s storms and all of the hardships. Also, as it relates to parenthood, there is a sub theme that motherhood, like parenthood, is brutal and terrible, just like storms named after females tend to be worst than those named simply after men. This is evident in China, Skeetah’s female pit-bull that kills one of her puppies because the instinct to kill is already embedded in her brain and the struggle to take care of the puppies was taking its toll on everyone and thing involved. Esche sees this struggle to take care of puppies as a foreshadow of the struggle that she will face as a single parent because she believes that her boyfriend will leave her, just as Jason left Medea for a better woman. Esche being only fifteen does not know how to take care of a family because her own father is not even taking care of her and her four brothers and her mother is gone and cannot show her the way to go as it relates to parenthood. Another key aspect in the novel is the role of basketball in the story and how it relates to the children and their struggle. Randall, the older brother and oldest child is a promising up and coming basketball player who has a lot that he is trying to live up to.
As background information, it is told to the audience how Randall hurt his knee so severe to the point where surgery is highly recommended and probably mandatory if he wants to continue basketball at the collegiate level. However, Randall is not going forth with the surgery because the surgery will make him not be able to finish off this high school basketball season and that will jeopardize his chances at receiving his scholarship. A basketball scholarship is the only way that he will ever be able to go to college because his family is in poverty. Basketball is the only way out of the ghetto for Randall and his family really understands that and that is why the family only eats ramen noodles so that they can save money in order to save a few hundred dollars to send him to basketball camp so that his skills will get better and he will have a better chance at getting more money for his collegiate scholarship. Basketball is one of the main motivators of the family because it forces the family to work together for the betterment of itself. Other than the role of basketball, is the role of dogfighting throughout the novel.
As mentioned earlier, China had puppies in the beginning of the novel, however, she has been a fighting other dogs before the events in the novel began taking place. So, after having the puppies, she accidently kills one of the puppies because embedded in her mind is the thoughts of hurting and killing other dogs. The only reason that China kills other dogs is because Skeetah wanted to make money to bring back to the family so that he could be a help to the family just like everyone else. Skeetah really loves this dog and will do anything to make life better for the dog and the puppies. However, the puppies are a hassle and while the family is having a problem simply making ends meet, the focus is still on trying to take care of the puppies and the dog. The struggle gets so real to the point where Skeetah steals medicine from his neighbors to give to China after she starts feeling in less than top condition. The problem occurs because anytime that stealing is the only option to getting medicine life because dangerous. In essence, Skeetah is doing two illegal things and they are dog fighting and stealing just to try and help everyone/ everything that he truly cares about. The most exhilarating example of the impact of the role of dog fighting comes toward
the end of the novel when Hurricane Katrina is starting to make its way up the coast and China is in the middle of a fight. The wind is blowing hard and the rain is coming down heavy, which can be related to depression and all the bad struggles that had come into the family’s life. The fact that China is winning the fight shows hope to the darkness that has been the family’s life up to this point because even in the midst of this terrible storm, a bright comes from the fact that China is winning this particular fight.
The final aspect deals with the character analysis of Esche, meaning why she does what she does and what makes her say what she says and why she acts the way she does. As I mentioned earlier, Esche is pregnant and is only fifteen and does not really know how to raise children. Without her mother in her life, she has a void in her life and does not know how to learn how to be a better mother. However, she acts like a mother to her brothers because they do not have a mother and she has to take her place in their lives. The absence of the mother is responsible for the reason why she acts like a mother to the family. She also helps take care of China’s puppies because of two unique reasons. The first reason is due to the fact that she has that maternal attitude that she has picked up in the aftermath of her mother’s death and the second reason that most people seem to miss is that she is pregnant and she is taking the puppies’ care as practice for what she is going to have to do once her child is born.
The constant care of the puppies show that Esche is a really sensitive person who has the best interest of others above the best interest of her own self. Also, the care of the puppies show that Esche has matured a lot and is showing the audience that she is ready for the challenge of taking care of an individual that belongs to her and her only. However, the audience sees that she is a weak minded individual because she believes that her boyfriend will leave her for someone better and with more value. She has low self-esteem because even though the boyfriend is still with her and knows that she is pregnant she really believes that he will straight get up and leaves her solo with the child that she refuses to abort. Esche on more than one occasion compares herself to the Greek mythological character known as Medea. Medea was married to Jason, the founder of the golden fleece, and helped him retrieve the fleece by killing her own brother and father, giving her all to Jason much like Esche has given her all to her boyfriend. The downfall of Medea and Jason came when Jason decided to leave Medea for a princess and decided to no longer claim Medea or her children and that led Medea into going crazy and killing the princess and the children. Esche believes that because she is in poverty, young, and has a child, that her boyfriend will want better and she will be stuck like Medea and struggle with raising the children. So, in essence, Esche is mature as it relates to taking care of her family, but is very immature mentally because she is too worried about the negative that can come out of her pregnancy and not the positive. In Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward, the audience is introduced to the struggles of an African American family in Mississippi trying to get everything together before the terrible storm, Hurricane Katrina crashes onto the coast and wipes everything out and learns a lot about the strength that the family has and the willingness to do whatever it takes to have each others’ back.
This heartfelt novel introduced the audience the theme of parenthood/ motherhood, the role that the absence of a mother/father had on the children, the role of basketball and the affect it had on the family, the role of dog fighting and how it related to the family, and the character analysis of Esche and the audience learns that the absence of parenting made growing up more difficult because the children had to do it too fast. The audience also learned that basketball served as the motivator for Randall and the family so that one day they can move on to something better and that dog fighting served as an inside look at how desperate the family really was to stay above the poverty line and survive. While many see the hurricane as a negative, I truly believe that the family sees it as a positive because it wiped away the struggles of the past and truly gave the family a clean slate to start over from.
Cite this Salvage the Bones
Salvage the Bones. (2016, Oct 10). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/salvage-the-bones/