Strange Bodies: Gender and Identity in the Novels of Carson McCullers

By Sarah Gleeson-White | Go to book overview

Conclusion
Final Thoughts on the Grotesque

Carson McCullers's freakish fictional world, a world populated by dwarfs and giants, mutes, sexual deviants, and androgynes, is ripe for an analysis of the grotesque that privileges abnormality—the distorted body and its aberrant pleasures—over the pure-cut lines of the normal body. Although McCullers's grotesque subjects are painfully marginalized according to social and cultural norms, they mischievously disrupt the simple and fragile distinction between normal and abnormal, queer and straight. Although I have explored McCullers's grotesque world in the context of desire and gender in particular, there are, of course, other important elements that structure identity in her texts: race, class, disability, and age. A future focus on these elements, which overlap with sexuality and gender, might not only consolidate the status of McCullers's work as important social commentary but also point the way to further readings of McCullers's unfinished subjects.1

Throughout this study I have intermittently attended to the pain of the unfinished. The portrait of Honey Camden Brown in The Member of the Wedding epitomizes such pain as does Penderton's questioning of Langdon's wisdom in Reflections in a Golden Eye: “ 'You mean…it is better…for the square peg to keep scraping about the round hole rather than to discover and use the unorthodox square that would fit it…?'” (R 112). The women in the novels—Miss Amelia, Mick, and Frankie— similarly experience the pain of compromised promise at the end of their respective stories. Even Biff, whose schizophrenic vision at the end of The

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