Southern Contemporary Fiction and the Issue of Race
Thesis: Southern contemporary fiction contained a lot of truths about the race relations between Black and White Americans in the twentieth century.
Since the beginning of the twentieth century, there has been a significant shift in the focus of southern literature, both fiction and nonfiction. In the nineteenth century, most Southern fiction works were mainly on the Civil War and the Reconstruction. However, as that generation died away, the new crop of authors who had never experienced the civil war or the Reconstruction became more objective in their writings ...view middle of the document...
Atticus also frequently called African Americans Negroes which is today considered to be a degrading term. The use of the words nigger and Negro are also frequent in William Faulkner’s Absalom Absalom! And Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind which is the second most favourite book in the United States after the Bible. The frequency of the use of these words towards African Americans shows that racism was the norm in the early and mid twentieth century. Racist and bigoted language was also a part of the Pollitt family conversations in Tennessee William’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof though it was targeted at Arabs rather than the local black community.
Racial tension and violence
The issue of Racial tension and violence is common in many contemporary Southern fiction novels. In Absalom Absalom! Thomas Sutpen violently quelled a slave uprising in Haiti and was rewarded by the plantation owner who gave him his daughter to marry. At the same time, while Henry could tolerate the idea of Charles, his half brother having an incestuous relationship with Judith, his sister, he could not stomach the idea of an inter racial marriage as Charles was part Black, for which he ended up killing Charles after he refused to end his relationship with Judith. In to Kill a Mockingbird, Tom Robinson, who was black, was falsely accused of raping Mayella Ewell, a white woman. Despite Tom’s lawyer, Atticus proving that Tom was innocent, he was still convicted of rape on the mere fact of his skin colour. A gang of white men tried to lynch Tom but are stopped by Scout, Jill and Dem. Tom is later shot seventeen times after the guards claimed that he was trying to escape, despite the fact that he had a dysfunctional arm which would have prevented him from climbing the wall. When Atticus’ children visited a church whose congregation was mainly Black, some of the congregants received them with open hostility. Racial tension also existed between members of the same race. Bob Ewell saw Atticus as a black sympathiser and threatened his family. The Black community also questioned Calpurnia’s loyalties because she was a servant of a white family.
Prejudice and Bigotry
Prejudice and Bigotry with a racial bias are constantly a part of the relations between blacks and whites in contemporary Southern fiction, not only against African Americans but also against poor whites. In Absalom Absalom! Tomas Sutpen abandons his first wife Eulalia after finding out she had some black ancestors as he believed in the One Drop Rule which meant that Eulalia was Black, no matter how distant the ancestry. In To Kill A Mockingbird, the town of Maycomb had extremely narrow, rigid rules of behaviour and anyone who deviated from them was considered a deviant. The predominant white community tried to instil the conformity that whites were on top and blacks at the bottom. Anyone who tried to challenge that was seen as dangerous. Thomas Robinson was convicted of a crime he did not commit as the jury was...