Southern Gothic: The Top Works That Changed Literature and Film

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Gothic tendencies are not new to US literature. Moreover, a particular literary trend has emerged in a specifically American context, placing grim mansions, ghosts, large families, and dark secrets in the sweltering (both figuratively and literally) atmosphere of the Southern states: the Southern Gothic style.

Students absorb story after story while studying American literature of the period. Frequently, it is difficult for them to choose among the broad palette of gothic works of fiction. If you’ve run out of options, here are some of our favorites or honorable mentions that are most often studied in college.

The Southern Gothic phenomenon in American culture

Initially, ‘Southern Gothic’ was used as a pejorative term. Still, later it became clear that it quite accurately reflects the artistic features of a range of works by several different writers. Since it is virtually impossible to describe the American South without completely ignoring the complex social, cultural, and political context of the place, certain features of the Southern Gothic have seeped into quite realistic texts. Therefore, they comprise an integral part of education for students and are examined in detail during every literature class.

A list of Southern Gothic books and movies

Many works belong to this field, so in this review, we will focus on the most frequently studied in college. They are the finest examples and can rightly be considered the best southern gothic novels and films by William Faulkner, Harper Lee, and a movie adaptation of a Tennessee Williams literary work.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird earned acclaim and became one of America’s best American gothic books in the twentieth century. It has been translated into many languages owing to its accuracy and vivid description of the social setting of the time. It includes descriptions of deeply disturbing or eccentric characters such as Atticus, Scout, and Dill, grotesque situations, and other sinister ventures into racism, poverty, alienation, crime, or violence.

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All this is a bit difficult for still “green” students to grasp and comprehend on their own. What’s more, their minds may be preoccupied with so many other university matters that there simply isn’t enough mental capacity for a detailed analysis of the events in the piece, which professors usually ask them to include in a To Kill a Mockingbird argumentative essay. Frequently professors also request to describe Dill To Kill a Mockingbird character and dwell on his personality. It’s a challenge, so sometimes, students may need help to complete such daunting college assignments perfectly.

 “As I Lay Dying” by William Faulkner

As I Lay Dying is an early (1930) novel by William Faulkner, arranged into monologues by numerous characters. ‘It’s just thirteen blackbird points of view,’ the writer himself said evasively about his novel, baffling lit critics and commentators. This piece details the story of Addie Bundren’s family as they attempt to fulfill her dying wish: to be buried in Jefferson, Mississippi. The author uses modernist techniques to create a complex book that explores mortality, class, language, and faith to achieve emotional tension in the narrative. These themes, so vivid for the time, should be at the forefront of students’ minds, which is why many educators choose to address this masterpiece in their classes.

“A Streetcar Named Desire” by Tennessee Williams

A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams is undoubtedly an ode to the South in all its manifestations, albeit a very peculiar one. This writer was able to create the kind of masterpiece that has since become a cinematic classic. For this play, Williams won the Pulitzer Prize, and in 1952 he was nominated for an Oscar as the best screenwriter for its adaptation for the screen. Now the film based on the book explores the cultural conflict and the conflict between the sexes in the Southern United States. Although the movie is somewhat theatrical, it is emotionally intense. It has a lot of teachable moments that should be taken into consideration during the educational process.

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Conclusion

As you can see, the theme of American life in the South is complex, as it incorporates many of the conflicts and problems of ordinary people back then. These issues have not gone unnoticed by many creators, which is why today, there are numerous literary and cinematic examples of the Southern Gothic genre. They are so good at conveying the theme that they are even studied by students in colleges.

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