Salvage the Bones Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Jesmyn Ward

Salvage the Bones

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Salvage the Bones Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Chapter 1—The First Day: Birth in a Bare-bulb Place

The story opens with our narrator, Esch Batiste, attending to China, her brother’s pit bull, who is preparing to birth puppies. She is a “crazy” dog, according to the narrator, because she will only let Skeetah touch her. The narrator reminisces about her mother giving birth to all of her siblings in the house; she recalls the last birth her Mama had in “her bed, under her own bare burning bulb” (2). Junior had come out blue and Mama refused to go to the hospital. Their father had dragged her out of the room, “trailing her blood, and never saw her again” (2). China, the pit bull, is fighting while giving birth, like she was born to do.

While the family starts making preparations for a possible hurricane, there is a description of the family’s poverty: how “scraps” were used for their entertainment, like an old cow tub for a swimming pool, and a homemade basketball hoop screwed to a tree. While Randall didn’t really believe a hurricane was coming because “ain’t nothing hit in years” (5), Manny, Randall’s friend, believes something serious is happening, as does the children’s father. Claude’s nervousness and blunt belief in the storm made him seem, “for a moment…not-drunk” (6).

China’s first puppy is “almost orange” like his father; the narrator describes him as “Mississippi red” (8). The second puppy is born dead. The third puppy slides out slowly and headfirst, and Skeetah is the only person who can get close to China. He is helping her with the birth, despite the fact that she is growling at him. He cleans the puppies.

Esch is ordered to wash jugs while her brothers and some other kids are playing basketball. She ends up cutting her hand. Randall notices and comes forward. He gives her the advice his mother always gave them for a cut, “to push on it until it stops bleeding”, and all the while she is watching Manny who is “excited, not concerned(12).

China’s next puppy is black and white and Esch wants to keep it….

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