The Member of the Sad Cafe: Analyzing McCullers Masculine Female Characters

The Member of the Sad Cafe: Analyzing McCullers Masculine Female Characters

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Out of the pantheon of Modern Southern Literature authors, Carson McCullers is arguably one of the best writers to emerge out of the genre in the twentieth century. With her intricate weaving of character development, she creates personas that strike the reader memorably and come alive with the power of their own natures. Two such characters emerge from her famous short stories: Frankie Addams from The Member of the Wedding and Miss Amelia Evans from The Ballad of the Sad Cafe. These characters are unique as they both struggle to fit in with society’s ideal of women in the South, and are isolated from the ‘normal’ life of a Southern woman. Both Frankie and Miss Amelia confront gender issues as untraditional women who attempt to take on male roles in their communities, where straying from the ‘status quo’ is seen as untrustworthy and threateningly different; these issues eventually detach them from traditional Southern society. Because Frankie and Miss Amelia are not content with the traditional roles of Southern womanhood, their actions cause strife in their behavior, their controlling mindsets and in their families.
The behavior of both Frankie and Miss Amelia is generally perceived as odd throughout each of their stories. Frankie has an extremely difficult time connecting with other girls her age around her, girls that were once her confidants but ‘now they had this club and she was not a member...they had said she was too young and mean’ (McCullers 265). As a result Frankie resorts to spending her free time with her cousin half her age. She also struggles with sleeping by herself at night, and until the beginning of the novel had previously slept in a bed with her father for comfort like a child. During her sleepovers with he...


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...and a mindset, a way of life that states ‘I don’t want realism, I want magic!...I don’t tell the truth, I tell what ought to be the truth!’ (Williams ), driving her to drastic actions such as meeting up with a soldier in a bar as a twelve-year-old. Frankie clearly has an internal struggle with the age-old transition from girl to a young woman, and lacking a mother-figure, is forced to figure out the changes happening within her with odd company; this, along with her violent tendencies, separates her from her family and her old friends. Her father’s self-distancing from his daughter also has a peculiar way of affecting her, as she ‘began to have a grudge against her father and they looked at each other in a slant-eyed way’ (McCullers 276), which isolates her from the only parent-figure she has, and one that was never consistently available for her from the beginning.

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