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Exploring Southern Gothic

One of the most prominent features of Southern Gothic is the prevalence of decay and ruin in it's settings as well as it's characters. In many instances, shabby respectability struggles to prevail but is no match for moral apathy and stark violence. Such is the case in two of Flannery OConners most famous short stories, A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Good Country People. In other examples of Southern Gothic, any attempt at propriety is disregarded altogether. Characters are often consigned to the outskirts of respectable society and experience a sense of alienation as a result. This common theme can be found in William Faulkners Barn Burning, where Abner Snopes defies societal norms and is ordered to leave the county.

In "The Confession," siblings Caleb and Lena live with their father and brother in a dilapidated shack. Due to their father's violent temper, the atmosphere in the house is tinged with danger and shame. Physical blows are used to resolve conflict, and distrust among the family members is almost palpable. A striking aspect of many Southern Gothic stories is the feeling of imprisonment experienced by the characters as a result of their circumstances. In the wake of their fathers brutality, the shack housing Caleb and Lena becomes claustrophobic and reflects the dismal prospects the siblings face.

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I believe Southern Gothic fiction continues to have an impact on American literature because it turns an unrelenting eye on the underbelly of polite society. It shines a spotlight on sensitive issues many would rather not examine. But it shouldn't be mistaken for mere social commentary its far too twisted and bizarre for that. Southern Gothics frequent blending of the macabre, grotesque, and fantastic invokes feelings of disorientation and unease. It does not make for comfortable reading. Yet for me, Southern Gothic encompasses some of the most powerful fiction ever written.

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Posted in Performing Arts Post Date 11/15/2016


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