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Dorothy Allison’s Trash Essay


“Trash” is a collection of several short stories. In this collection, Allison focuses on her main agenda concerning politics, emotions and aesthetics. Having been brought up in a poor family background surrounded by poverty and suffering, Allison is not disturbed by what she went through and insists that nothing can make her change her attitude.

She is described as a Southern trash simply because of the life she used to live while still a child. The term trash means something that has no value. It also implies something that is considered a waste or needs to be thrown away. This is how Allison perceives herself. “Allison is described as a feminist and a lesbian coming from Southern Carolina in the United States of America” (Allison, 1988, p. 4).

In the preface of these stories known as deciding to live, Allison cuts short the message in all the stories by use of strong descriptive words. She says that the stories have a message of the life experience of a working class cross-eyed lesbian full of hope in life and addicted to violence as well as language. Considering the kind of life she lived while in Southern Carolina with her family members, Allison’s love to women in general is very strong.

In her description, she does not give up easily and rarely gives consent to any efforts meant to downgrade her. Through the life she experienced, she believes that what happened was enough and should not happen to women in general. She feels for female characters and wishes no harm to them. She does not want any woman or young female to pass through the kind of life she passed through when she was still young (Allison, 1988).

In river of names, the narrator explains how she lost several of her relatives through mysterious incidences. Back in her home place Southern Carolina, Allison lived a life full of suffering and acts of child abuse. After loosing her father, her mother decided to get married to another man who became a step father to her. In the beginning, the step father seemed to be good and well behaved showing love to Allison’s mother and the rest of the family.

The relationship between Allison and her step father turned out to be a nightmare when her step father started to molest her and abuse her sexually. He actually raped her on several occasions and physically molested her. The problem is that even after her mother learnt of her husband’s behaviors, she was still confused whether to chase away the husband and protect her daughter or continue staying with the husband.

Due to the strong love that Allison had towards her mother, she decides to accept everything that happens to her. She decides not to hate her step father who molests and abuses her sexually. She considers herself as trash and compares herself to something that is meant to be used. In the story, we learn that Allison so loved her aunt that she could spend most of her time visiting her and helping her perform some household duties. Even in her aunt’s home, her step father still followed her to beat and abuse her.

What is shocking is that her auntie seems to reason the same way as her mother. After learning of the molestation and harassment that Allison is passing through, she also decides that the step father should not be chased away. She considers other options provided that the family remains intact. But because Allison loved her mother and her auntie, she respects their decision and gives in to all sorts of harassment.

All this made her develop strong feelings towards women than men. She believes that women were taken as trash. She now takes everything valuable including what others considers to be trash. She takes women as normal human beings who are vital and vibrant deserving due respect (Allison, 1988).

In mama, Allison realizes the love that she has for her mother. It is this love that dwells throughout the stories. Allison so loved her mother that she dint think of any revenge despite the physical and emotional torture she was undergoing through.

In this story, there was domestic violence that overwhelmed Allison’s family. We are told that the step father could lock Allison in the bathroom and physically molest her. She had a strong and loving relation with her mother. Having been beaten by her step father, her mother could scream loud and save her from the brutal acts of her husband.

She could take her away, wash her and wipe her clean. She could soothe her to relieve pain and make her comfortable. This is the reason why Allison could not afford to loose her mother in any way. She would rather persevere and stay with her mother than loosing her. She so loved her mother that she obeyed every step that her mother took.

This shows that the relationship between the two was strong and full of love, emotions and caring. Since it is her mother who brought her step father in the house, we expect Allison to hate her mother due to the step father’s actions. Instead, Allison feels no hatred to her mother even after being molested by her step father. It is this kind of love that made Allison to develop a soft spot for women in general.

This contributed to her growing up to be a feminist and a working class lesbian. She ensures that women’s rights are respected and obeyed. She does not want to see a situation where women are molested and sexually abused (Allison, 1988).

In the gospel song, Allison shows her love to a girl who is least popular in the whole school. At first, she wants to become a singer of gospel music but she does not posses the voice. In the process, she meets an albino girl who has no friends at all and decides to become her friend.

She strives to insert a sense of acceptance into her friend’s mind. Allison does not take her as trash but instead decides to love her and make her feel loved. At her friend’s family barbecue, Allison decides to attend without even accepting the invitation. She shows up abruptly demonstrating the love she has to her friend.

During the funeral, she makes herself available when her friend starts to moan. Due to the overwhelming tears, she decides to insert her face in her mother’s dress. The relation between her and her mother was very strong. Allison took her mother as the only source of comfort at times of problems.

This made her develop a loving attitude towards female. She fights for the rights of women and forms movements that will protect all women. In don’t tell me you don’t know, the narrator’s auntie makes a step to reconcile two parties. She comes in between Allison and her mother to restore the love between them. Allison felt bad about what was happening to her in presence of her mother.

She felt that her mother should have protected her from abuse. Her mother was in a dilemma to choose between her daughter and her husband. Finally, Allison decides to reconcile with her mother and step father. She says that the reconciliation contributed to her present determination. She is determined for the well being of women in general (Allison, 1988).


It is the love and strong relation between Allison, her mother and her female relatives that made her develop a soft spot for women. She turned out to be more attracted to women than men. She finally became a working class feminist and a lesbian. The suffering and the abuse she went through made her determined to protect women in general.


Allison, D. (1988). Trash: Short stories. Ithaca: Firebrand books publishers.

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IvyPanda. 2018. "Dorothy Allison’s Trash." July 13, 2018. https://ivypanda.com/essays/dorothy-allisons-trash/.


IvyPanda. (2018) 'Dorothy Allison’s Trash'. 13 July.

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