Project Director

Shaheen, Aaron

Department Examiner

Guy, Matthew


Dept. of English


University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Place of Publication

Chattanooga (Tenn.)


Historically speaking, the South has maintained rigid, male dominated constructions of gender, which have manifested themselves in almost every aspect of the southern individual’s actions, sense of self, and appearance. While much of southern culture has been centered on this rigid identity, the southern gothic literary tradition strays from this stark binary, especially in its depiction of female characters. Through the use of grotesque representations, these characters are able to form a unique identity and deviate from the phallocentric social norms, though it often comes at the cost of social alienation. However, even when tragedies strike these gothic heroines, their grotesque qualities serve to highlight the oppression shown toward the southern woman. Carson McCullers provides a great understanding of the effect the grotesque has on the woman and her place in society. Though she did not write prolifically, she wrote profoundly. The importance of the appearance of the grotesque in her works is that it operates on an individual basis, shaping characters’ understanding of themselves, their lives, and their social agency. Through her female characters, she demonstrates how the grotesque shakes the political sphere and demands attention. In this thesis, I shall track the growth of the identities in two of McCullers’s female characters and how their experiences as grotesques allow them to break free from the cultural standards of their time. I will analyze Mick Kelly from 1940’s The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and Miss Amelia Evans from 1951’s The Ballad of the Sad Café. To do so, I shall focus on how and why two grotesque qualities of these characters, androgyny and gargantuanism, display a refusal to abide by the restricted, conventional role of a female in Southern society, and allow them to create a new sense of self and purpose.


B. A.; An honors thesis submitted to the faculty of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Bachelor of Arts.




McCullers, Carson, ǂd 1917-1967 -- Criticism and interpretation


Southern literature; Carson McCullers; The ballad of the Sad Café; The heart is a lonely hunter; Grotesque; Gender studies


English Language and Literature

Document Type



56 leaves