Southern Gothic Fiction

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Sean Tinsley
Eng 151C-33
3/08/2013
Southern Gothic Fiction is a genre of literature unique to the American south. Major influences of the genre itself were the culture, religion, and economic standing of the south at the beginning of the 20th century. Many who read southern gothic are transported into a grotesque fantasy world where ideas of death, good versus bad, and god are all prevalent. Many American authors were greatly influenced by the ideas of southern gothic literature such as “Harper Lee, Flannery O’Connor…William Faulkner, Truman Capote, and to a lesser extent, Eudora Welty.”(jenksps.org) The culture of the south is riddled with strong beliefs in different sects of Christianity; mainly Presbyterians and Baptists with a passionate group of Evangelicals as well. Because God plays a large role in most southern gothic literature, the idea of morality is also of huge importance. Many protagonists will be juxtaposed by a moral less antagonist; usually the epitome of evil. Along with that comes the idea of a crumbling landscape; desolate almost. I believe this represents how the south was struggling economically at the time due to the crumbling of the antebellum era. (jenksps.org) For this essay, I chose to analyze “This Is the Only Time I’ll Tell It” by Doris Betts. This story hits all the main topics of southern gothic literature; the idea of death or the grotesque, the concept of good versus bad, and God as well.

The concept of good versus evil drives the overall moral of the short story “This Is the Only Time I’ll Tell It”. In fact, this theme provides the first instance of conflict. The narrator, a man by the last name of Coney, describes to the reader a woman, Zelene, who noticed a disturbance at the Jamison household. Upon further investigation she noticed Tom Jamison trying to drown his nine month old baby girl. Fortunately, she saved the baby and “when she had brought back breath and screams, Zelene opened her clothes and fixed...
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