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McCullers, Carson

finally female writes amelia

(US, 1917–67)

Born in Columbus, Georgia, McCullers suffered from an extraordinary range of illnesses throughout her life, which finally caused her to relinquish the idea of a musical career. She writes almost obsessively about outsiders. Often, as in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter 1940), the outsider is a young girl nearing puberty. Mick Kelly wants to become a famous pianist, but sees that accepting womanhood will mean staying in socially acceptable roles and stifling her ambition. As a result, she comes to identify with others on the margins of society, including a deaf mute—memorably played by Alan Arkin in the film version—and a black doctor trying to raise the standards of his community. In The Ballad of the Sad Café (1951) the heroine is Amelia Evans. Immense, introverted, and mannish, Amelia falls in love with Cousin Lymon, a sexually impotent and malevolent dwarf. The theme of the unacceptable female, and the female who is unacceptably creative, recurs repeatedly in McCullers’ work, more conventionally in The Member of the Wedding (1946), in which another tomboy, Frankie Adams, dreams of becoming a great poet. When she is not allowed to go on her brother's honeymoon, Frankie is faced by the facts of adult sexuality, finally accepting the role of ‘southern belle’. McCullers writes in a clear, beguiling style that makes her freakish world absolutely compelling.

Flannery O'Connor, Karen Blixen

(writing as Isak Dinesen), Eudora Welty  LM

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