Salvage the Bones Major Character Analysis

Jesmyn Ward

Salvage the Bones

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Salvage the Bones Major Character Analysis


The novel’s narrator starts out as a quiet, meek, and weak girl who allows boys such as  Manny–to take advantage of her because she doesn’t have the will or the courage to say no, or to stand up for herself. However, Manny isn’t the only male character that treats her poorly; her father does as well. In the scene where he makes Skeetah use her as a step-ladder to get something for him, there is a strong association between his behavior and that of the men Esch sleeps with.  When Esch discovers she is pregnant, she feels lot of shame, considering it entirely her fault: “I’m crying again for what I have been, for what I am, and for what I will be, again” (147), rather than considering Manny’s role in her present circumstances.  However, we do see other sides to Esch; when she was younger, her father thought “she was going to be a little scrappy scrawny thing—built just like ’” (6). This description hints at the fighting spirit that she demonstrates at the end of the book when she confronts Manny, and survives the hurricane. She comes to learn her own strength as a young woman. The many parallels drawn between Esch and the mythological figure Medea also suggest the ways in which her character will develop throughout the novel. Euripides’ play focuses on Medea’s emotional growth; she develops from a woman in the throes of despair into a tough and even destructive character. It is clear to see that Esch undergoes a similar transformation throughout her story.


Esch’s sensitive older brother is devoted to his dog, China, and at times this is a source of jealousy for Esch. However, he ultimately shows his love and loyalty to his sister when he is willing to use China in a dog fight to protect Esch’s dignity from Manny’s abuse, as well as giving up China in the flood in order to save Esch from drowning. He is aware of Esch’s feelings throughout the novel before she has to explain them and defends her womanhood when it is challenged….

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Chapter 12