“So Far as I and My People Are Concerned the South Is Fascist Now and Always Has Been”: Carson McCullers and the Racial Problem
AbstractCarson McCullers was deeply aware of the guilt of southern whites with respect to the oppression of blacks, and her fiction presents an intricate web of different configurations of the racial problem in her native South. In The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter she paints a very sympathetic and complex portrait of an African American man, a Martin Luther King avant la lettre. He actively fights for the civil rights of his race, yet paradoxically his obsessive blackness draws him close to the whiteness that oppresses him. In The Member of the Wedding McCullers connects racial oppression with gender oppression in the context of the prejudice of the reactionary South of the 1940s, linking the failed desire for gender fluidity with a similarly failed desire for racial hybridity. In Clock without Hands she brings existentialist influences to bear on the attitudes of her white characters with respect to the violent racial relations at the outset of the civil rights movement, and explores the tragic consequences here, for both whites and blacks, of polarized conceptions of blackness and whiteness.
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