Date of Award

Spring 6-2-2015

Document Type

Honors Project

University Scholars Director

Dr. Jeff Keuss

First Advisor/Committee Member

Dr. Susan VanZanten

Second Advisor/Committee Member

Dr. Mark Walhout


southern literature, twentieth century literature, southern gothic, carson mccullers, isolation


A southern novelist of the mid twentieth century, Carson McCullers is often labeled as a Southern Gothic author, and her novels reflect the violence, grotesque characters, and dilapidated settings of the genre. However, while early interpretations of her work focused on the depravity of doomed characters, more recent analysis has opened up her work to a productive understanding of social change. Her characters are isolated from the rest of society, whether by race, religion, or sexuality, but rather than highlighting their own shortcomings, these isolating factors underscore a limitation within the social structures and the need for change. This essay examines McCullers' three novels that have received the widest critical attention: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Reflections in a Golden Eye, and The Member of the Wedding. The themes of race, sexuality, economics, gender, and religion are explored for the moments in which characters overcome their isolation, and through their interactions with one another, a positive change can be glimpsed. This examination attempts to bring McCullers work into a broader social relevance.


A project submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the University Scholars Program

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 License
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