Salvage the Bones

by

Jesmyn Ward

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Randall Character Analysis

Seventeen-year-old Randall is Esch, Skeetah, and Junior’s older brother. He is quiet and focused and very tall; he is a skilled basketball player who moves “like a rabbit” on the court. He has dreams of pursuing the sport and maybe even making a career of it, but his family’s extreme poverty prevents him from pursuing opportunities such as basketball camps and intensives. Randall is skeptical of Skeetah’s dogfighting, and especially bristles when Skeetah puts China in harm’s way when she’s a new mother, demonstrating his protective nature as the eldest of his siblings and, arguably, the man of the house.

Randall Quotes in Salvage the Bones

The Salvage the Bones quotes below are all either spoken by Randall or refer to Randall. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Bloomsbury edition of Salvage the Bones published in 2011.
The Sixth Day: A Steady Hand Quotes

Daddy has only knocked down one of the chicken coop's walls. The chickens wander drunken and bewildered around his feet, seemingly mystified that he is dismantling their house, even though they haven’t roosted in it in years. In the half-light from the bulb from the shed and Daddy's headlights, they look black. Daddy lets his hammer fall, and the chickens scatter, fluttering away like leaves in a wind.

"The storm, it has a name now. Like the worst, she's a woman. Katrina."

"There's another storm?" Randall asks.

"What you think I been talking about? I knew it was coming," Daddy says. Like the worst, l repeat. A woman. He shakes his head, frowns at the coop. "We going to try something."

“What?”

“I want you to get on my tractor and I’m going to direct you to this wall right here.” Daddy points at the longer wall. “And we going to knock this damn thing over.”

Related Characters: Esch (speaker), Randall (speaker), Daddy (speaker)
Page Number: 124-125
Explanation and Analysis:
The Eighth Day: Make Them Know Quotes

I listen for the boys and the dogs somewhere out in these woods, but all I can hear is the pine trees shushing each other, the oak bristling, the magnolia leaves hard and wide so that they sound like paper plates clattering when the wind hits them, this wind snapping before Katrina somewhere out there in the Gulf coming like the quiet voice of someone talking before they walk through the doorway of a room.

A cloud passes over the sun, and it is dark under the trees. It passes, and the gold melts through the leaves, falls on bark and floor: foil coins. Soon we reach a curtain of vines, which hang from the lowest branches to the needle-carpeted earth, and we crawl. Skeetah dusts China's breasts off, waves us on. We have been walking for a long time when I hear the first tiny bark.

"You tired?" Randall asks.

"No," I say. My stomach feels full of water, hurts with it, but I will not tell him that. I push aside a branch, let it go, but it still scratches my arm. Medea's journey took her to the water, which was the highway of the ancient world, where death was as close as the waves, the sun, the wind. Where death was as many as the fish waiting in the water, fanning fins, watching the surface, shad- owing the bottom dark. China barks as if she is answering the dog.

Related Characters: Esch (speaker), Randall (speaker), Skeetah
Page Number: 159
Explanation and Analysis:

Skeetah is squeezing China’s neck, murmuring in her ear. This time I cannot hear what he says. Skeetah is whispering so closely to China's ear I only catch half of his lips behind the red-veined white of her ear. Her breast drips blood. China licks Skeetah's cheek.

Rico stands, already smiling.

"Maybe I don't want the white [puppy]," Rico says. "Maybe I want the colored one that got more Kilo in it." He laughs.

Skeetah stands, and China, stout and white, looks up at him. "She fights," Skeetah says.

Randall pulls the stick from his shoulders, swings it around

to his front. "She's already fucked up enough," Randall says.

"Cuz, if she lost, she lost," Big Henry says, slowly, as if he is tasting the words.

"She didn’t lose," Skeetah breathes.

Related Characters: Skeetah (speaker), Randall (speaker), Rico (speaker)
Page Number: 174
Explanation and Analysis:
The Ninth Day: Hurricane Eclipse Quotes

"It's salty. Taste like pecans. And if worse comes to worst, we can eat like China." Skeetah rubs China from her shoulders to her neck, up along her razor jaw, and holds her face, which goes wrinkly with the skin smashed forward. It looks like he is pulling her to him for a kiss. She squints. I want to kick her. Randall shoulders his box, grabs the ramen box from me, and turns to walk into the house. Junior is tying his cord around an old lawn mower now, pulling at it like he's playing tug-of-war. The sun shines, blazes like fire, funnels down in the gaps between the trees, and lights up Skeetah and China so that they glow, each kneeling before the other, eyes together. Skeetah has already forgotten the conversation, and China never heard it.

"We ain't no dogs," Randall says. “And you ain't either."

Related Characters: Skeetah (speaker), Esch, Randall, Junior
Page Number: 193
Explanation and Analysis:
The Eleventh Day: Katrina Quotes

I kick, grasping at the air, but the hurricane slaps me, and I land in the water on my back, the puppies flying out of the bucket, their eyes open for the first time to slits and, I swear, judging me as they hit.

"Esch!" Randall yells, and Junior tightens his legs like a looping shoestring across Randall's waist. Randall grips Junior's shins, those legs thin as rulers. Randall cant jump in. "Swim!" he screams.

I kick my legs and palm water, but I can barely keep my head above it. It is a fanged pink open mouth, and it is swallowing me.

"Fuck!" Skeetah yells. He looks down at China, who is thrusting up and against his sling.

"Esch!" Junior screams, and the water is dragging me sideways, away from the window, out into the yard, toward the gullet of the Pit. I snatch at the puppy closest to me, the brindle, which is limp in my hand, and shove it down my shirt. The white and the black-and-white have disappeared.

"Fuck!" Skeetah screams. He grabs China’s head, whispers something to her as she scrabbles against him. Her teeth show and she jerks backward away from him. She writhes. Her torso is out of the sling he has made. Skeetah grabs China by the head and pulls and her body comes out and she is scrambling. She flies clear of him, twists in the air to splash belly first in the water. She is already swimming, fighting.

Related Characters: Esch (speaker), Skeetah (speaker), Randall (speaker), Junior (speaker)
Page Number: 234-235
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Salvage the Bones LitChart as a printable PDF.
Salvage the Bones PDF

Randall Character Timeline in Salvage the Bones

The timeline below shows where the character Randall appears in Salvage the Bones. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The First Day: Birth in a Bare-Bulb Place
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
...house built in a clearing in the woods called the Pit. Though Esch’s older brothers Randall and Skeetah and even Esch herself came into the world quickly, Junior came out “purple... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Nature and Control Theme Icon
...“what China is doing is fighting, like she was born to do.” Skeetah urges Esch, Randall, Junior, and their daddy to leave the shed and give China some space to breathe... (full context)
Myth Theme Icon
...her brothers talking with their friends; she could recognize the voice of Manny, one of Randall’s buddies, talking about how no more hurricanes were going to hit. Esch heard her Daddy... (full context)
Nature and Control Theme Icon
...earlier that day. As she walked outside and greeted Manny, who was playing basketball with Randall in the yard, she felt hot and nervous. Before she could talk to Manny, Daddy... (full context)
Myth Theme Icon
...she hurried to rinse the cut underneath the faucet on the side of the house. Randall came up beside her and examined the cut; he told her to press on it... (full context)
Myth Theme Icon
China grows stiff and rigid, glowering past her puppies and Skeetah towards Esch, Randall, and Junior. Skeetah tells everyone to leave the shed so that he can tend to... (full context)
The Third Day: Sickness in the Dirt
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
...bathroom floor until she feels like she is about to fall asleep again. Junior and Randall call for her, after a while, to which she shouts that she is busy shaving... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
...water, but Esch worries that their father will notice it’s missing. Skeetah says he’ll get Randall to lie for them and invites Esch along on the adventure, oblivious to the fact... (full context)
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
...to leave. Junior listens, but as he goes calls that he is going to find Randall and tell him that Skeetah is doing “something bad” to the puppies. (full context)
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
...goes off to wash his hands while Esch sits on the steps of the house. Randall approaches with Junior in tow, and asks what Skeetah is doing to the puppies. Skeetah... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
Randall and Manny arrive, and Randall tells everyone that Manny’s cousin Rico lost his last dog... (full context)
The Fourth Day: Worth Stealing
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
As Skeetah and Esch make their way back around to investigate, they realize that Randall, Big Henry, and Junior have followed them through the woods. Skeetah insists that someone needs... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
...herself. She finds a spot and goes, but just as she feels relief, she hears Randall’s whistle, and is overcome by terror: the white property-owners have come home. (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
As Skeetah reaches the tree line, Esch, Junior, Randall, and Big Henry all begin running back through the woods. Behind them, Esch hears the... (full context)
The Fifth Day: Salvage the Bones
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
...and begins wrapping his cuts with it. Esch knows that the bandage is one of Randall’s old ones from basketball. Seeing Skeetah struggle to dress his angry wounds, she offers to... (full context)
The Sixth Day: A Steady Hand
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
At the park, Manny is playing basketball with Big Henry, Randall, and some other neighborhood boys while his girlfriend Shaliyah watches with her friends. Esch wonders... (full context)
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
...park with China on the leash, trying to get her to sweat out the wormer. Randall and Big Henry talk about basketball camp; Randall knows that the coach will pick between... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Myth Theme Icon
...choking sound with each breath. Daddy is still working on the coop, and he calls Randall to come help him—after all his hard work, he has only been able to knock... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
Daddy instructs Randall to get onto his tractor and drive it towards the coop to knock it down.... (full context)
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Esch peeks out into the yard; Junior is shadowing Randall, and climbs up onto the tractor to help him. Daddy tries to dissuade Junior from... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
...around China’s food dish, looking for milk. Outside, the tractor engine turns over, as if Randall has started it up again; Daddy shouts “Don’t do it,” but his words are garbled,... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
...and forth, chewing at it. Skeetah yells for her to stop, but she does not. Randall, meanwhile, tries to stop the tractor, but it is positioned on a hill, and it... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
...the “pulpy puppy” away from her, and it lands on the floor of the shed. Randall runs towards Daddy and the shed as Daddy collapses; he is missing the middle, ring,... (full context)
The Seventh Day: Game Dogs and Game Men
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Myth Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
...in the front seat with his hand wrapped in a towel while Esch, Junior, and Randall sat in the back seat, trying not to choke on the smell of blood in... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Randall has a basketball game later today, and Esch oils her hair and gets ready. Skeetah... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
...is almost time to leave for the game. Big Henry asks Esch if she thinks Randall is ready for the game, and she insists he is. Marquise tries to flirt lewdly... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
...is dark and hot, and Esch sits with Junior, Big Henry, Marquise, and Skeetah as Randall warms up on the court. Skeetah tells the others how earlier, when the puppies nursed,... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Nature and Control Theme Icon
...go to the bathroom. As she makes her way out of the gym she watches Randall on the court, and doesn’t even notice when she bumps smack into Rico—Manny’s cousin. Manny... (full context)
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
...down on the court, blows his whistles at the boys, but they don’t stop fighting. Randall’s coach, realizing that it is Randall’s family up in the stands causing a scene, takes... (full context)
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
Esch pulls Junior towards the doors as the fight migrates outside. Randall follows the group, demanding to know what has happened. Rico snarlingly tells Skeetah he’ll see... (full context)
The Eighth Day: Make Them Know
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
...is only allowed to go, he says, if she goes. He also tells her that Randall and Skeetah are arguing—Randall insists that Skeetah shouldn’t be taking China to the fight, regardless... (full context)
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
...Junior is sitting on the floor outside of Esch’s door. He lets her know that Randall has fixed Daddy’s breakfast, and that Daddy, after spending some time hollering about the approaching... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Nature and Control Theme Icon
...gives China a bath. As Skeetah washes her with dish soap so that she gleams, Randall approaches him and tells him, again, that he shouldn’t be taking China to the fight.... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Myth Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
Esch, Skeetah, Randall, Junior, and China head through the woods towards the clearing where the fight is to... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
...the dogs’ fight ended in a draw. Rico is insistent on getting his puppy, but Randall insists that the night has ended in a tie. As Rico threatens Skeetah, Randall steps... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
Randall excoriates Skeetah for wanting to fight China and begs him to think of China’s puppies,... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
...he doesn’t want the white puppy after all—he wants one with “more Kilo in it.” Randall begs Skeetah to stop the fight, but Skeetah insists China hasn’t lost yet—he puts her... (full context)
The Ninth Day: Hurricane Eclipse
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
...the bathroom and finds Daddy throwing up into the toilet. He asks her to get Randall. (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
In Randall and Skeetah’s room, Randall is in bed but Skeetah isn’t. After the fight last night,... (full context)
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
Esch wakes Randall and tells him that Daddy is sick in the bathroom and asking for him. They... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Outside, the wind has grown stronger. Esch and Randall look through Daddy’s pickup truck for nails, hammers, drills, and spare boards to put up... (full context)
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
Skeetah says he needs to go to the store for supplies for China, and Randall tells him to pick up canned food while he’s at it. Skeetah insists he doesn’t... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Esch and Randall chase Junior to where he’s hidden—beneath the house—and drag him out. Randall asks Junior what’s... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
Later, Esch and Randall recount the story about Junior and the ring to Skeetah—Esch has found the ring and... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
Esch, Randall, and Junior work together to prepare the house for the storm. They board up windows,... (full context)
The Tenth Day: In the Endless Eye
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
Randall and Esch count and sort all the food they have in the house and become... (full context)
Myth Theme Icon
...the yard for some air. Skeetah is busy washing and arranging all of China’s things. Randall asks if Esch has any ideas about how to get some more food, but she... (full context)
Myth Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
Randall suggests they all hunt for eggs, and urges Skeetah to stop fussing over China and... (full context)
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
...back up to the house so that she can hard boil them. As Junior and Randall place them in the pot, Esch counts them, and is excited to realize that there... (full context)
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
Manny calls for Randall, and the two go outside to talk while Esch finishes up the eggs. Manny and... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
When Esch catches up with Manny, he asks if Randall wants something—she says that it’s her, though, who has something to say to Manny. Manny... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Myth Theme Icon
...her own children, and then flew away into the wind. When Medea shrieked, Jason heard. Randall comes upon Esch and asks her what’s wrong, but she insists she’s fine. Randall tells... (full context)
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
As they run through the woods, Esch asks where Skeetah and Junior are; Randall replies that they’re somewhere else in the forest. Esch notices that the woods are empty... (full context)
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
Esch and Randall approach the house and try to get the boards on the windows off; they can’t,... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Myth Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
Randall and Esch head back through the woods towards the Pit. Halfway through, they encounter China,... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
...the fact that her jaw is still red and bloody with the chicken’s guts. When Randall asks what China is doing in the house, Skeetah explains he’s bringing her inside for... (full context)
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
Daddy asks Esch to make him some soup, but Randall says he’ll take care of it. Esch and Skeetah stand together in the hallway, with... (full context)
The Eleventh Day: Katrina
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Myth Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
...noise elsewhere in the house; Esch and Skeetah run out to the hall to see Randall heading into Daddy’s room, where a tree has fallen in and left a gaping hole... (full context)
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
A little while later, Randall notices that the floor is wet. Esch has been concentrating on her mythology book, rereading... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Myth Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
Daddy instructs Randall to open up the attic. Skeetah hands Esch the puppies’ bucket so that he can... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
Randall, Skeetah, and Junior all jump down onto the tree, and then it is Esch’s turn.... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
...and pushing her through the broken window. He calls for China, but she is gone. Randall and Junior haul themselves up into the house while Daddy swims lopsidedly, favoring his bad... (full context)
The Twelfth Day: Alive
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
...atop the gas tank and the inside of the house wet, muddy, and in disarray. Randall pointed out that their family needed to get to shelter, especially with Daddy’s hand having... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
...who’d washed away. In the crowd gathered at Big Henry’s, Esch locked eyes with Manny—when Randall saw, he asked her if Manny was her baby’s father, and she nodded. Randall announced... (full context)
Myth Theme Icon
Big Henry walks over to Esch and asks if she, Randall, and Junior want to take a car ride through the neighborhood to see the damage.... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Myth Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
...back down the ravaged road, they come upon the ruins of a local liquor store. Randall suggests they get some bottles for Daddy, and they all get down on hands and... (full context)
Motherhood and Violence Theme Icon
Nature and Control Theme Icon
Poverty and Survival Theme Icon
Randall asks Skeetah to come back to Big Henry’s with them—they are all worried about him.... (full context)