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Girlhood with Grit: The Tomboy "Other" in Twentieth Century Literature of the American South

Colonna, Kristin Girlhood with Grit: The Tomboy "Other" in Twentieth Century Literature of the American South. 2015. Radford University,

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This thesis examines the function of a tomboy protagonist in three twentieth-century, Southern American texts: Carson McCullers’ 1946 novel, The Member of the Wedding; Harper Lee’s 1960 tale, To Kill a Mockingbird; and Dorothy Allison’s 1992 narrative, Bastard Out of Carolina. Basing its analysis in poststructural theory, intersectional feminist criticism, and gender and queer studies—particularly the works of Simon de Beauvoir and Judith Butler—this thesis proposes that McCullers, Lee, and Allison employ tomboy characters to critique socially constructed and hierarchical systems of gender, sexuality, race, and/or class—depending on each novel’s particular concerns. Each author highlights her character’s marginal position within those structures. This thesis argues that the non-normative gender performance of tomboy characters not only exposes the marginalizing nature of dominant discourses of gender and sexuality but also critiques other systemic injustices in the U. S., such as race or class relations. The first chapter explores McCullers’ Frances “Frankie” Addams and her tomboyism as contextualized by wartime rhetoric of the 1940s. The second chapter considers Lee’s Jean Louise “Scout” Finch and her tomboy ways as received during 1960s Cold War McCarthyism and the beginnings of the civil rights movement. The third chapter examines Allison’s Ruth Anne “Bone” Boatwright and her tomboyish nature in the socioeconomically and still racially divided American Deep South during the late twentieth century. Each chapter considers the historical context of the era, which grounds the analysis of the character and her gender presentation in the normative expectations of their respective time periods. This thesis seeks to establish the tomboy character as a device by which the author illuminates, examines, and critiques ideological structures of gender, sexuality, race, or class.

Item Type: Thesis
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Divisions: Radford University > College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences > Department of English
Date Deposited: 09 May 2016 13:00
Last Modified: 20 Apr 2023 12:57
URI: http://wagner.radford.edu/id/eprint/221

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