Modern South

Southern literature is famous for the number of writers that it produced during its rebirth. Writers including Flannery O’Connor and Truman Capote are among the most famous that emerged during the reconstruction of the South.  Most of the writings of Southern literature concentrated on the importance of family and the shared history of the South. Southern literature consists of all writings about the American South and the states that comprise the entire region. Most of the themes arise out of the common history including slavery and the reconstruction of the South. The nature of the south including its conservative culture, the dominant religion, the use of the southern dialect and the significance of the family form a part of the focal point of southern literature. Moreover, southern literature contains certain aspects of the troubled south including racial issues.

One of the common themes that dominated southern literature is the use of southern gothic in their art. Southern gothic is a subspecies of gothic that was primarily exclusive in the American South. In the application of gothic in literature, themes such as flawed characters were incorporated to represent the different gender roles as well sinister events in the history of the South (Taylor et al., 2001). In essence, dark romanticism coupled with other unique styles merged to form a form of social critique. O’Connor is one of the early writers of southern literature and she was well versed in the use of southern gothic to express different messages. She is renowned for using ironic incidents in validating the cultural values of the people of the south. Later, Capote utilized the use of southern gothic to incorporate suspense while still exploring social issues among his people. In particular, macabre events and grotesque images were used to express the black magic of the southern people. The works of all the leading figures of literature helped in the expression of different aspects of the southern states by employing gothic representations in their text.

In the southern literature, modernization was widely exploited as a theme due to the influence that it had on the society. It is argued that modernization actually occurred after the emergence of southern literature and that the latter had an influence on the former. Most of the works of ancient southern writers depicted the south as a region that lagged behind the other parts of America in terms of development and modernization. However, as the Harlem renaissance began to take root, literal development led to sights of modernization as more and more artists began to gain widespread recognition. The writers observed the effects that this improvement had on the lives of the people.

Issues such as the negative evils associated with modernization are well captured in Capote’s work. In most of his books, he portrays modernization as a wave driven by the white supremacists and that led to the corrosion of southern values. For instance, the change in dressing among children of the south was a social concern and is well documented in his writings. O’Connor was no exception as she started detailing the cultural issues at a tender age of eleven. Specifically, the issue of modernization was considered a bitter sweet achievement due to its two sided impacts. On one side, modernization brought development to the people in terms of industrial and financial improvements. On the other hand, the concept led to the decay of social values amongst the children of the southern states.

Southern literature further explored the theme of urbanization, a new concept during the early stages of the emergence of southern literature. Before urbanization took root, the south was largely an agrarian region with little industry and development to write about. Writers of the time including O’Connor lamented at the lack of urbanization and blamed the government for marginalizing the regions. Apparently, the region was being marginalized for having majority of its population as blacks who had been released from slavery. White supremacists viewed the region as practically useless and unimportant in the quest to make America great. O’Connor led a cohort of other leaders in bashing the nature of governance and the lack of willpower to bring urbanization to the region.

Later on when marginalization had taken deep roots in the region, leading writers were at the forefront in recording the progress made. O’Connor further used her literal skills to explore the changes being made in the region and the positive impacts that urbanization accrued. The increase in employment in the region was highly praised and recorded as a source of great joy among the southern people. However, urbanization was not without criticism as writers after writers lamented at the negative influences that the new development had brought to the people. Despite the financial and economic gains, the writers argued that the region had suffered socially and culturally at the expense of urbanization. For instance, Capote was a leading critique of the urbanization process in the south. In his books, there are instance of disagreements with the true value of urbanization where he suggest that urbanization had far much disadvantages compared to advantages. In truth, urbanization was recorded as having led to the moral decay of the southern youths and the significant changes in family values. For instance, it was normal to find writings detailing how people no longer considered having many children as cool.

Ever since the start of southern literature, incidents of religious beliefs and the significance of the same on the livelihoods of southern people dominated the writings of famous writers. Most of the writings of early writers were heavily filled with religious themes and images thus portraying the religious nature of the people of the south. In particular, Christianity was the main religious faith subscribed to by the southern residents with a few Muslims and Hindus. Values taught in Christianity were mainly employed in texts to communicate the message of love, understanding and respect among the people. Perhaps it is no wonder that the southern people had so much harmony as evidenced in their struggles owing to the values taught in religion.

Characters in the works of O’Connor had religious connotations attributable to Christianity as well as others in works of other great writers;. In most of her books, the heroes were presented as people of religious faith and those that were kind and respectful to others. Moreover, leaders in the writings were presented as being people that taught religious themes to their people and helping the people live in harmony.  The singling out of Christianity perhaps was due to their dominance of the religion in the south and the personal impacts on the different writers. In the works of Capote, the same theme is evident as he embarks on the biblical teachings to produce pieces that banked on religion to make people better. The place of religion in society is well explored with most of the leaders in the books subscribing to religious faiths. It is no coincidence that both writers among others employed religion in communicating different messages through their writings. This is not however an attempt to portray religion as a righteous faith that is without blemish. The same writers condemned religious leaders that exploited their followers thus discouraging people from misusing religion to control others.

Violence is another theme that dominated the writings among different southern writers including O’Connor and Capote. Most of the writers portrayed violence in bad light and especially violence emanating from such issues as slavery and racism. The incidence of black struggle against oppressive rule was well documented with instances of bloodshed appearing in the writings of both O’Connor and Capote among other writers. In using violence to show the struggle for different rights, the writers were communicating a message of equality while showing the value of violence in forcing people to respect one’s rights. Essentially, the message of peace was also conveyed with an emphasis on violence being the last resort.

O’Connor is very effective in employing the use of violence to communicate the struggles among the southern people. Perhaps it’s the period that she was born that shaped her development as a writer during a time of civil war and unrest in the region. These events are well documented in her works and communicate the messages of peace and reconciliation. The struggles associated with racism were a common occurrence in her childhood and she started documenting the same at a very early age. Moreover, the violence extended to the black population by the white supremacists forms a large part of her literal works. The message communicated by her writings portrays that violence does not pay and that it only breeds hatred among the involved parties.

Capote is also adamant in his use of violence as a theme to communicate the negative effects of the same. His writings are filled with instances of economic underdevelopment owing to the incidence of violence among participating parties. For instance, in the civil war, most of the region was faced with underdevelopment following years of violence. Even when people are oppressed, Capote insists that violence is the last option in settling of disputes. The manner in which he portrays the outcome of violence communicates the disadvantages of having violence within a people.

In addition, Southern literature uses the themes of sex and sexuality and the growing influence among the people of the south. As the region was faced with urbanization, industrialization and development, there were incidences of changes in sexuality and the concept of sex in the society. The changing application of sex was a concern explored in the writings of great writers including O’Connor and Capote. Both writers were effective in the application of sex and sexuality as a theme that dominated the South. Even to date, issues of sexuality that were pointed out in the great works of such writers dominate the society to great depths today. Capote for instance, questioned the rising case of sexual activity among the young people, something that was not common before industrialization.

Southern literature is a genre that is most effective in communicating different themes that dominated the southern states. The issues addressed in the writings of different writers back then in history continue to affect the currents southern states to great depths. For instance, sexuality and violence and the significance of the same, continue to affect the modern states in the south. O’Connor and Capote both use their literal talents in communicating aspects of the society that affected the southern states during their time. They acted as prophets who anticipated events that come to fruition in today’s world.


Works cited

Taylor, Todd W, Joseph M. Flora, and Lucinda H. MacKethan. The Companion toSouthern Literature: themes, Genres, Places, People, Movements, and Motifs. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2001. Print.



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