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Southern and African American Literature’s Characteristics

Both Southern and African American Literature have distinct characteristics that make them recognizable. On the one hand, there are the traditional and family-oriented Southern themes, with emphasis on concrete imagery, grotesque humor, and the Southern gothic. Some examples of this can be seen in Eudora Welty’s Petrified Man as the story reveals that the petrified man is wanted for rape. In Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, the importance of family and tradition is conveyed in Stella’s choosing of her abusive husband over her promiscuous sister. The importance of physical place, also a prominent characteristic of Southern literature, is represented in A Streetcar Named Desire using the extensive descriptions of the city, the flat where Stella lives, and the transportation Blanche takes to see her. Flannery O’Connor’s Good Country People serves as an excellent example of grotesque Southern humor, with the story of the Bible salesman stealing Hulga’s wooden leg.

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Incidentally, religious imagery is notable in both Southern and African American literature. An example of this is Alice Walker’s Everyday Use, as she repeatedly uses church imagery in her descriptions of her experiences. Such as when the narrator says, “the spirit of God touches me, and I get happy.” This use of imagery highlights how the author and the general African American community seem to see the world through the eyes of religion and society.

Furthermore, freedom and independence-themed African American writing convey the identity concerns and uncertainty of societal standing. In a way, that freedom is seen in Yusef Komunyakaa’s My Father’s Love Letters in the mother’s story of her gaining independence from her husband’s abuse. What African Americans had to endure for generations, she endured the mistreatment until she had enough and could flee. The imagery throughout Southern and African American writings is vivid and powerful, but most importantly, distinct.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, October 30). Southern and African American Literature’s Characteristics. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/southern-and-african-american-literatures-characteristics/

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StudyCorgi. "Southern and African American Literature’s Characteristics." October 30, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/southern-and-african-american-literatures-characteristics/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Southern and African American Literature’s Characteristics." October 30, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/southern-and-african-american-literatures-characteristics/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Southern and African American Literature’s Characteristics'. 30 October.

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