Queers, freaks, hunchbacks, and hermaphrodites: psychosocial and sexual behavior in the novels of Carson McCullers.

No Thumbnail Available
Rusell, Judith
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Middle Tennessee State University
Focusing on her five novels, this study examines the ways in which Carson McCullers prefigures late twentieth-century queer theory analysis. McCullers' fiction incorporates the post-modern concept of a continuum of human sex and gender expression; a destabilizing examination of the interconnectedness of homophobia, misogyny, and male homosociability; a realistic representation of a hermaphroditic or third-sex category; a critique of compulsory heterosexuality; and an examination of changing cultural models in which conventional ideologies are de-naturalized and made problematic.
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1940) calls identity itself into question as its characters transgress relational sex and gender categories. Reflections in a Golden Eye (1941) critiques the institution of the United States military and its promotion of aggressive heterosexual masculinity. The Ballad of the Sad Cafe (1943) presents a woman in overalls---or a man in a red dress---who is both masculine and feminine and who challenges binary schemes of sexual identification. The Member of the Wedding (1946) presents a young girl's refusal to become "woman" as she embraces her androgyny and accommodates her differences in a world that insists on heteronormativity. Clock Without Hands (1961) locates "queerness" in a repressive social order which becomes the focus of shame and prejudice it once projected onto its socially ostracized figures.
McCullers' life itself invites a queer reading of her fiction; her personal rejection of conventionality is supported by biographical data and is reflected in her humanistic portrayals of the marginalized characters who haunt her novels.
Major Adviser: Will Brantley.