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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: To Kill a Mockingbird and the Southern Gothic Tradition

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Harper Lee's 1960 novel To Kill a

Mockingbird belongs to the southern

gothic literary tradition as honor that

became prominent in the 20th century and

furthers the Gothic tradition of

exploring the macabre islands lurking

beneath the apparently a tranquil

surface of reality as in gothic novels

the southern gothic genre derives

tension from the suppression of dark

urges secrets and past violence which

threatened to erupt over the course of

the novel these southern gothic elements

are apparent and works by writers

including William Faulkner and Flannery

O'Connor the genre was on the wane by

the 1960s but writers have continued to

employ its conventions the works of

contemporary writers including Dorothy

Allison Barrie Hannah and Cormac

McCarthy have attributes of southern

gothic novels positioning To Kill a

Mockingbird within the southern gothic

context helps us understand the novel as

part of a dynamic literary tradition and

adds depth to its representation of

small-town culture and racism emerging

in Europe the Gothic genre saw great

success in the 1800s with works

including Frankenstein Jane Eyre and

weathering Heights and has remained

popular gothic novels typically

incorporate dark themes the supernatural

and remote settings with severe weather

to explore repressed secrets that

continue to influence the present these

same gothic conventions are also found

in works of the Southern gothic

tradition but in southern gothic the

narrative is transported from castles or

windswept Moors to the rural South the

conflict is between the racism and

violence of the region's past and


familiar southern gothic elements exist

in To Kill a Mockingbird monstrous

characters including Bob Ewell and the

ghost like Boo Radley populate the

novel's rural Alabama setting where

quite unexpectedly snowfall occurs Tom

Robinson's trial and the attack on Scout

and Jem by Bob Ewell represent the

struggle between the region's suppressed

violent racist history and its more

genteel surface image

to kill a mockingbirds arrived at the

end of southern gothics initial

flourishing william faulkner the author

of novels including As I Lay Dying

and the sound and the fury was one of

its earliest and best-known proponents

his stories take place in rural

Mississippi and feature characters

grappling with the racial and economic

anxieties of the post-civil war south

haunted houses and characters taboo

themes such as incest and suppressed

racism and violence feature prominently

in his stories Faulkner's famous quote

the past is never dead it's not even

past underscores how the characters in

his books and in Southern gothic writing

in general cannot move beyond the sins

of their forefathers Flannery O'Connor

is another writer associated with the

genre even though she loathed the term

southern gothic she's best known for her

short stories including a good man is

hard to find and everything that rises

must converge O'Connor's works are

renowned for their cynical outlook their

exaggerated characters called grotesques

and their complex treatment of race in

the segregated south shocking acts of

violence remind the reader that dark

mysterious drives lurk beneath the

surface of small-town life while To Kill

a Mockingbird has many similarities with

other southern gothic works

it also has differences it's family

friendly tone contrasts with the more

adult subject matter and language of

other southern gothic works since it's

told from the perspective of a young

girl who doesn't understand many of the

adult topics being mentioned it dwells

less on sex violence and evil than other

southern gothic works the humor in To

Kill a Mockingbird is also gentler than

other southern gothic works whose humor

is typically dark and at the expense of

the characters it's also more hopeful

instead of ending in murder and

hopelessness we see good represented by

Boo Radley and the Finch's triumph over

Bob Ewell's evil we still see violence

rooted in the past but it's tempered by

hope for reconciling with history and


from past sins some characters are

driven by typical repressed torments but

others are motivated by desire to do

good and enact societal change secrets

lose their power to hunt in the light of

day as when boo finally emerges from his

house to be seen the novel's final words

most people are nice when you finally

see them evoke hope for a less

prejudiced more enlightened future


The Description of To Kill a Mockingbird and the Southern Gothic Tradition