American Southern Writers
What do you think southern literature consists of? Some may say the significance of family, others may say the sense of community and ones role within it ; maybe religion and the burdens/rewards religion often bring or land and the “promise” it brings? In this investigative paper I will be analyzing the main aspects present in southern literature, including family, land, religion, and community. In the texts I will be analyzing, some will follow the “traditional” aspects for the time period and others will be have “nontraditional” aspects for the south. Lastly, I will be looking at what specific aspects certain texts focus on.
“Shiloh” ,written by Bobbie Ann Mason in the early 1980's, is a text focusing on the family aspect. In the traditional context of family you think of the women staying home cooking and cleaning while the husband goes out to work and make money. Contrary in “Shiloh”, due to a bad tractor trailer accident, the wife, Norma Jean, is then forced to work and Leroy, her husband, stays at home. “She lifts three-pound dumbbells to warm-up, then progress to a twenty-pound dumbbell.” Not something you picture when you think of the “traditional” house wife. From the typical housewife stereotype you can imagine an apron and a fresh hot pie laid upon a set of oven mitts, not dumbbells. She also attends a body building class. Norma Jean also comes off as a rather educated women being that she is educated in English and started taking night classes. I find the fact that Norma Jean is an independent women to be nontraditional. A major example of her independence is when at the end of the story Norma Jean wants a divorce, which is another attribute of the nontraditional housewife. Even though this passage contains a number of nontraditional aspects, it isn't all nontraditional. For example, Norma Jean and Leroy got married at the age of 18, which was normal and somewhat traditional. Norma Jean also participates in some domestic perspectives of being a wife such as cooking and cleaning throughout the story. Now we must analyze aspects of the story “He”, which portrays an important aspect of southern literature, the close relationship and relevance of family.
Family and community are the two aspects in Katherine Anne Porter's story “He”. He is never named and even though never directly stated, it quickly becomes clear He suffers from some kind of mental retardation. Throughout this story Mrs. Whipple, He's mother, is constantly worrying about what people and her neighbors think about her and her son and how she raises him. How people perceive Mrs. Whipple and her family is very important to her. In the first paragraph Mr. Whipple complains about how times have been hard and Mrs. Whipple kept saying, “Don't ever let a soul her us complain” because she cant stand being pitied but in reality she did not want her neighbors thinking they were better then her and her family of belittling her and her family. It also becomes more clear throughout Mrs. Whipple's pride is big. Mrs. Whipple wants to kill a pig of theirs and Mr. Whipple doesn't want to because he said it will be worth money come Christmas. But Mrs. Whipple insists because she would, “hate for his (Mrs. Whipple's brother's) wife to go back and say there wasn't a think in the house to eat.” Mrs. Whipple is more of a traditional wife/mother, especially when you compare here to Norma Jean from “Shiloh”. Mrs. Whipple cooks, cleans, and tapes her children up when they get bruises. All of the children do chores also which is another traditional job for children to do during the time period this story was written. The children carried wood and water, Aden and Emly, Mrs. Whipple's two other children, help with cleaning and He helps with farm chores such as going for the bull to breed their cow and going and catching the dinner pig. A community aspect is show at the end of “He” also when he grow sick and…