Final Southern Gothic Lecture Child of God due May 13, 2018
Assuming everyone has read the first 20 pages of Child of God* you now realize how far we have come down the road of “grotesqueries” from our early reads in Fe
uary. For the majority of you who paid attention to my “lectures” and comments in the (sometimes) extensive details of an assignment, you have been rewarded with insight into this fascinating category of Southern literature.
As I stated at the beginning of the Semester:
Southern Gothic literature is a genre of Southern writing with stories that often focus on grotesque themes; and while it may include supernatural elements, it mainly focuses on damaged, even delusional, characters.
Although inspired by Gothic literature, Southern Gothic does not dwell on supernatural and suspense. Rather there is oftentimes a dark humor in the stories. It follows the idea of exposing the problems of society, but does so by developing complex characters. The authors explore the behaviors of (usually strange) people and the social order of the South. Through their stories, the authors try to show that the social order is fragile and the realities behind it are actually distu
ing. The authors work to point out truths of Southern culture and its moral shortcomings. The themes of this genre are developed around these goals.
The stories of Southern Gothic are, of course, set in the South. They may take place on a plantation, old slave quarters, or
oken down towns and/or counties. There are many Southern elements in the stories, including dialect, habits, and personalities. The history of the South is represented through the settings of the stories.
The characters are usually complex, and many of them are mentally unstable. Many of the characters may also be
oken in spirit and struggling to find a place in society once again. The morality of characters are often questioned. Through their characters, the authors examine the harm that people can do to each other. There are also many characters who are seen as innocent, such as children and/or the mentally handicapped but whether mentally unstable, dark, or innocent, the characters try to make sense of the world around them and the society in which they live.
The plots of Southern Gothic stories can be distu
ing and many of the events contained in the stories are linked to racism, violence, and poverty. (See the characteristics of Southern Gothic Literature below and also via link in Course Materials.)
Elements of traditional European Gothic literature:
1. Setting in a castle, primarily in dungeons or cellars, caves below ground level.
2. An atmosphere of mystery and suspense.
3. An ancient prophecy
4. Omens, portents, visions.
5. Supernatural or otherwise inexplicable events.
6. High, even overwrought emotion.
7. Women in distress and sometimes threatened by a powerful, impulsive, tyrannical male.
8. The metonymy of gloom and ho
Additional (overlapping) characteristics of Southern Gothic literature include:
· isolation and marginalization
· violence and crime
· importance of setting (personal or geographic “space”)
· illness and/or disability
· freakishness and the grotesque
· destitution and decay
· oppression and discrimination
In addition to the above categorizations there are usually indications that for some white characters the memories of slavery (an institution that the South fought to hold on to) still “colors” their perspective on race. This attitude is a result of a sense of great injustice at losing the Civil War.
As you have noticed and will need to know for The Final, our Southern gothic authors tended to be outsiders in their own Southern community for various reasons. For example, Carson McCullers (“Lonely Hunter”) and Truman Capote (“Other Voices”) were bisexual and homosexual respectively in an early 20th century conservative South; Flannery O’Connor (who is considered the most “gothic” of them all) was a conservative and devout Catholic in a Protestant (primarily Baptist) South. In addition, her terminal illness required she leave the sophisticated world of writers up North to where she had traveled and move back home to be cared for by her mother. (interestingly “mothers” are less than admirable personalities in her fiction); William Faulkner (“Emily”) was certainly set apart from his Southern neighbors by his extraordinary writing talent and fierce intellectualism. Despite the national fame from winning the Nobel Prize in Literature WF chose to remain in the South where he could no doubt continue to be inspired for his characters described as white, poor, illiterate and mentally challenged; Robert E. Howard (Pigeons From Hell) was known as a loner who never left his mother’s home but in his short life managed to make his mark by authoring “Conan the Ba
arian”. Finally we have Cormac McCarthy, the only author cu
ently alive who entered the genre after its heyday and is famous for many works adapted to successful films that you have probably seen. However, his Child of God is the only work I would consider true modern-day Southern Gothic and in its bleak ho
or it is a real example of the genre as it has morphed into the 21st century.
Child of God assignment – DB due 5/13: Submit two paragraphs and one opinion sentence as an attached file to the relevant DB.
FIRST PARAGRAPH: After you have completed the novel Child of God see the reviews posted. Find a reviewer's opinion (a sentence or two or a phrase) with which you agree or disagree and add your own example from the text to add to the reasoning for your opinion. Of course make sure you can discern the difference between the reviewer’s summary, evaluative opinion and generalized comment on life or society, etc. before you select your text to agree or disagree with.
SECOND PARAGRAPH: Based on the definitions of the Southern Gothic genre above, give one example of how Lester Ballard fits the profile of a Southern Gothic character even though he is of a later period in time.
OPINION SENTENCE: Tell me how your reading experience of Child of God compares to the other works read this Semester, i.e., more/less/just-as abso
ing and whether you think it is appropriate or inappropriate to use in this course. Your opinion is valuable.
No more than THREE of you can choose the same review so as soon as you finish the book go to the relevant DB and post the name/date of your selected review as your subject/thread to inform your classmates. You will lose points if you do not follow these instructions co
**SPECIAL NOTE: http:
ill_1.html = true story of Eddie Gein, a serial killer and grave ro
er in Wisconsin a
ested in the late 1950’s who sounds suspiciously like McCarthy’s Lester Ballard character. McCarthy claimed in an interview 20 years after writing Child of God that he was inspired by a “historic Tennessee murder case” but my relentless Google search could not find a real case that matched the details of Child of God as well as the Eddie Gein Wisconsin case that was extremely famous in its time and inspired quite a few books and subsequent very famous movies. However, the South being the South there probably was a Tennessee murder case, just not notorious. - MM