Why Southern Gothic Rules the World -MO Walsh

Second, the basket. The basket on this bike is full of vivid characters. Scholars are quick to call them “grotesques”, as they are often deformed or bigoted or violent but, in the hands of a southern writer, they are written with empathy and truth. Tom Robinson, for example, the black man accused of raping a white woman in Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, has a lame left hand. Mrs Dubose, the old lady who lives near the Finches in the novel, is a mean-spirited racist. For lesser writers, these are throwaway details used to make fun of the south. For Lee, though, Robinson got his hand stuck in a cotton gin when he was 12 years old; Mrs Dubose is a dying morphine addict struggling through the pain of getting clean before she meets God. This is not grotesque. This is hard work and a hard life, and these characters merely bear the physical scars of what many of us carry internally. Why do readers relate to this? Perhaps O’Connor nailed it best when she said: “I use the grotesque the way I do because people are deaf and dumb and need help to see and hear.” The southern gothic, without exception, makes its characters loud and clear.

-MO Walsh, July 4 2015, The Guardian

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