The motherless child : the absent mother in twentieth-century Southern fiction

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Margaret Katherine Grimes (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Charles E. Davis

Abstract: Many twentieth-century Southern works feature at least one dead, absent, or incapacitated mother, leaving the child vulnerable but also helping him or her develop maturity and strength. Generally, though, this literature is full of lost children who grow up to be lost adults. The loss of the mother in Southern literature is more than a plot device or an appeal for pity; the absent mother in Southern fiction represents the loss of the motherland. For white Southerners, the motherland is the antebellum South, in which one knew one's place. The New South is uncertain, like a child without a mother and, consequently, without an identity. White Southern women writers such as Porter, McCullers, Welty, O'Connor, and Alther often use the absent mother to represent freedom from the patriarchy of the Old South. Reynolds Price does so, as well. Generally, however, white men who write in the South, such as Faulkner, Warren, Price, Ehle, and Tate, mourn the loss of the mother and the motherland, as white men lose their identity and power.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 1993
Mother and child in literature
Southern States $x In literature

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