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An Anti-Hero's Loss of Innocence: "Rule of the Bone"

Jennifer Wilber is an author and freelance writer from Ohio. She holds a B.A. in creative writing and English. / Steve White / Steve White

Rule of the Bone

Bone, the central character of Rule of the Bone, is an anti-hero. He lacks the qualities that are generally thought to make a character a “hero.” He is self-destructive and doesn’t respect anyone in his life. His tragic past leads to some major character flaws, but he is ultimately fighting for what he believes is right, even if sometimes the person he is fighting against is himself.

Through several losses of innocence, Bone finds himself and becomes a better person despite his difficult start in life.

Bone’s Backstory: Rebel With a Cause

Rule of the Bone begins with Bone, who is still known as Chappie, stealing from his mother and step-father in order to make money for drugs. Bone likely turned to drugs, in part, to deal with his family situation. His parents were divorced and he lived with his mother and step-father. Later in the novel, it is revealed that Bone was sexually abused by his step-father as a child. Even through all of this trauma, Bone still wanted to be a good person, even if he didn’t know how to be one when he was young. Since he had no real role models, he lacked respect for authority and began acting out and rebelling.

Because of his early loss of innocence due to the abuse he suffered from his step-father and his unstable home life, Bone began rebelling against his family from a young age to find his own sense of identity. This lead him to start using drugs at an early age and eventually led him to seeking acceptance from other people involved in illegal activities, including his friend Russ and a biker gang. He got involved in stealing and selling electronics with these people. After a fire that was directly related to these activities, Bone and Russ were thought to have been killed in the fire, which allowed Bone to start a new life without his mother and step-father. This newfound freedom to be whoever he wanted set him further on his path as an anti-hero. He didn’t have anyone to answer to anymore, and could continue living his rebellious lifestyle without his parents finding him. / kristy petroff / kristy petroff

Some Who Wander Really Are Lost

After living on the run together for a while, Russ returned home, but Bone continued wandering around from place to place until he met a girl name Rose and an older Jamaican man named I-man. Bone saved Rose from a life of pornography, which shows that Bone did want to do the right thing for people, despite his character flaws. He was a good person who just needed a bit of help himself to reach his full potential, even though he was still a drug-addicted rebel.

I-man was one of the only adults Bone had ever met who treated him with dignity and respect. His time with I-man helped him to become a better person, and to begin to get his rebellious tendencies under control. After trying to reconcile with his mother, Bone learned that his mother had split up with his step-father, but she still chose to get back together with him over Bone. This caused Bone to run away from his family again and go back to I-man. I-man took Bone with him to Jamaica, where he taught him more about Rastafarianism which helped Bone to feel more spiritual and become more mature as a person, even though he was still doing marijuana. He did learn to regulate his drug use from I-man, however, which in a way taught him to become more responsible. / Rinske Blok-van Middendorp / Rinske Blok-van Middendorp

The Journey’s End

Bone experienced two more losses of innocence when I-man was killed over a drug deal and he found out that Rose had died. He experienced another loss of innocence when he met his biological father while in Jamaica. Like Bone, his father was into doing drugs. Bone realized that he has only himself to rely on now after meeting his father and the novel ends with him leaving Jamaica and reminiscing about all of his friends that he had met and lost in his journeys. He started off as a delinquent anti-hero, but by the end of the story, through many experiences of loss of innocence, he really started to find himself and grow as a person.

© 2017 Jennifer Wilber