Salvage the Bones Themes

Jesmyn Ward

Salvage the Bones

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Salvage the Bones Themes

Nature’s Destructive and Life-giving Power

This theme is also intertwined with the theme of motherhood, as both China and Hurricane Katrina–the symbols that illustrate this dual-sided quality of nature–are called mothers. In the first few pages, Esch watches China give birth to puppies and describes it as a kind of “blooming” and she tells us that the weeds and grasses that grow around the Pit are lush and growing almost “out of control”. When Esch learns she is pregnant and when the family goes searching for eggs from their hens, the reader is reminded of the continual cycle of life and how nature is always fruitful.

However, nature can also be incredibly destructive as evinced by China’s ability to fight and in her destruction of one of her own puppies. The reader should take heed of Skeetah’s understanding that China’s “strength” comes from her experience of motherhood, and that this should be respected. Perhaps the clearest example of nature’s destructive force is Hurricane Katrina. The Batiste family, with the exception of Claude, underestimate the seriousness of Katrina and she “make them know” (175) that this power and strength of nature is to not to be discounted.

Attitudes towards Women

Ward presents different attitudes towards women and femininity that are realized in her main character, Esch, and in her counterpart, China. Esch is surrounded by me and clings to the memory of her mother as her only female influence. Unfortunately, this isn’t very enlightening for Esch. As she ponders her own impending motherhood, she looks to the classical figure of Medea and the family pit bull for guidance because there is nowhere else to turn.

There are two characters that present explicitly misogynistic attitudes in the novel: Claude and Manny. Claude rejects any kind of weakness that may be associated with women and refuses to let his children cry when their mother dies.  When the Hurricane is given the name Katrina, he suspects it will be “the worst she’s a woman” (124). Manny also speaks of motherhood and femininity as inherent weaknesses. For example, when he considers China’s ability to fight now that…

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