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Carson’s Characters

Miss. Amelia, Cousin Lymon, and Frankie reside in the world of fiction created by Carson McCullers. Carson McCullers was born Lulu Carson Smith in Columbus, Georgia. Born in the south, her characters are southern in nature and manner. “Though she was a progenitress to much “southern writing”, she had a manner all her own.”(Bloom 17) Miss. Amelia and Frankie are dominating female characters possessing strong male features. Cousin Lymon is a strange character who possesses bird-like character traits. The home Carson created for these characters are in the pages of her novellas, “The Ballad of the Sad Caf�” and “A Member of the Wedding”. “The Ballad of the Sad Caf�” is a “novel which dramatizes a strange love affair of two men and a women and incorporates elements of folklore.”(McDowell ) “A Member of the Wedding” is a novella surrounding the life of Frankie Addams, a confused young girl in search of “the we of me.”(McCullers 47) The characters in these novellas have unorthodox lives, exhibit freakish qualities, and allow their environment to imprison them.

Carson McCullers characters have unorthodox lives. Miss. Amelia is a rich southern woman who enjoys her independence, but still yearns to be a part of something else. Despite her strange marriage and quick divorce, she allows a stranger to enter her life and is forever changed by his presence. Amelia’s first husband was a handsome man, but she was unwilling to consummate their marriage. Cousin Lymon is completely different, unlike the first husband; Lymon is a hunchback with bird-like features. Through out the story McCullers likens Lymon to a bird. Despite Lymon’s afflictions he does not shy away from the limelight. He is constantly the center of attention, like a circus freak, gaining both admiration and pity. Frankie lives in a world of fantasy. Frankie, like Amelia, enjoys being alone, yet she wants to be a part of a “we”. Unlike typical young girls, Frankie enjoys running around outside more then playing inside with dolls. These three characters do not have normal lives.

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The characters in McCuller’s novellas exhibit freakish qualities. Amelia is a plain looking woman. The features that standout causes her to resemble a freak. Amelia is very tall and wears men’s clothing. She is very strong and masculine. Miss Amelia “denies her femininity” and is a “solitary” person. (Fowler) Cousin Lymon is a hunchback. “He was scarcely more than four feet tall”, and “his crooked little legs seemed to thin to carry the weight of his great warped chest and the hump that sat on his shoulders.”(McCullers 400) Lymon would fit in better in a circus then in a small country town. Frankie, like Amelia, is very tall. She was taller then all the kids in her neighborhood, including the boys. The girls in her neighborhood would not allow her to play with them. Frankie’s peers considered her freakish in appearance. Amelia is a grown women, Frankie on the other hand is still growing. As each year passes her continuing growth launches her deeper into the world of freaks. Amelia, Lymon, and Frankie’s physical appearance makes them freakish.

The characters in these two stories allow their environment to imprison them. Miss Amelia despite her strong character allows her defeat to her ex-husband and lost of Lymon to destroy her. The caf� is closed down and she hides in her home. The only time she notices the outside world is to look out the window, longingly waiting for Lymon to return. Lymon is never free. Through out the story Lymon is dependent on someone else. Imprisoned by the hand life has dealt him, Lymon constantly relies on others for self- affirmation. Lymon will never be independent and will always be in the prison he has created for himself. Frankie tries to fight her surroundings but is unsuccessful. After a desperate attempt to run away she returns home. The world is no longer a place of adventure for her. “Between herself and all the places there was a space like an enormous canyon she could not hope to bridge or cross.”(McCullers 600) Unlike Lymon and Amelia, Frankie is constantly changing and growing. Through the course of the story Frankie emerges from her cocoon and begins to tentatively fly. After the death of John Henry, her cousin and dear friend, she gains a new friend Mary Littlejohn. The story ends with the door bell ringing, and Frankie feeling “an instant shock of happiness.”(McCullers 605) Despite the various actions of each character, each one is limited by the environment surrounding them.

Carson McCullers is an excellent southern writer. In her writings the reader is made to feel welcomed and accepted. Her characters are lively and varied. Most readers can find some similarities in themselves to Carson’s characters. Amelia, Lymon, and Frankie are dysfunctional characters. The attributes they lack is the reason they are captivating to read about. Each character is different, but each one struggles with their own personal demons. The demons are different but the fight is the same. Carson McCullers is an exceptional writer and mediator to a world full of interesting characters.

Works Cited

Bloom, Harold. ed. Modern Critical Views Carson McCullers. New York Chelsea House Publishers, 186.

Fowler, Doreen. “Carson McCullers’s Primal scenes The Ballad of The Sad Caf�.”

Critique 4. (Spring 00). GALILEO. Academic Search Premier. 0 May 00


McCullers, Carson. A Member of the Wedding. 146. New York Houghton Mifflin,


---. The Ballad of the Sad Caf�. 151. New York Houghton Mifflin, 001.

McDowell, Margaret B. Carson McCullers Criticisim and Interpretation. New York

Twayne Publishers, 180.

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