Hillbilly Elegy

Don Bowman Character Analysis

J.D.’s biological father. Mamaw and Bev claimed that Don was an abusive husband and a neglectful parent, a father who willingly abandoned the family. When as a teenager Vance reconnected with him, though, he heard a different side of the story: that Don had fought tirelessly to attain custody of J.D. during the divorce and that the only reason he backed off was because he worried the battle was negatively affecting the boy. Regardless of what happened, it was clear to J.D. that his father had completely changed—now he lived a quiet life with his new wife and children, a life organized around Christian evangelism. Because J.D.’s childhood lacked a formal religious presence, his father’s church greatly appealed to him. He even lived with Don for several weeks once when his mother decided to move away from Middletown with her boyfriend Matt, and though he enjoyed the peace of his father’s family and religion, he soon left them behind to go live with Mamaw.
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Don Bowman Character Timeline in Hillbilly Elegy

The timeline below shows where the character Don Bowman appears in Hillbilly Elegy. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5
The Hillbilly Identity Theme Icon
Upward Mobility and Personal Agency Theme Icon
Religion and Education Theme Icon
Vance learned when he was in kindergarten that his father, Don Bowman, was giving him up for adoption. Don was Bev’s second husband, but they split... (full context)
Chapter 6
The Hillbilly Identity Theme Icon
...with his role as J.D.’s adoptive father. Sensing this, Bev encouraged her son to call Don Bowman one day, a suggestion that prompted J.D. and his biological father to slowly rekindle... (full context)
Upward Mobility and Personal Agency Theme Icon
Religion and Education Theme Icon
Vance started visiting Don, impressed by the stable life he led. It became clear to him that his father’s... (full context)
Chapter 8
The Hillbilly Identity Theme Icon
Upward Mobility and Personal Agency Theme Icon
Instead of following Bev to Dayton, Vance decided to live with Don Bowman, his father. Don was happy to have him, and the time they spent together... (full context)