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Rough South, Rural SouthRegion and Class in Recent Southern Literature$
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Jean W. Cash and Keith Perry

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781496802330

Published to University Press of Mississippi: May 2017

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781496802330.001.0001

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date: 23 October 2017

Elevated above the Real: The Poor White Southerner in Cormac McCarthy’s Early Novels

Elevated above the Real: The Poor White Southerner in Cormac McCarthy’s Early Novels

Chapter:
(p.26) Elevated above the Real: The Poor White Southerner in Cormac McCarthy’s Early Novels
Source:
Rough South, Rural South
Author(s):

Marcus Hamilton

Publisher:
University Press of Mississippi
DOI:10.14325/mississippi/9781496802330.003.0004

This chapter discusses the work of Cormac McCarthy, whose early novels depicted the poor white southerner. In The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, Robert Benson praises McCarthy for his vivid and honest portrayal of east Tennessee and its people—the lower classes in particular. Benson accurately characterizes McCarthy's work as a critical shift in the representation of lower-class characters in southern literature. McCarthy's focus on exploring and illuminating the lives of those often called “white trash” suggests a direct and important link between his work of the 1960s and early 1970s and the work of later southern writers invested in recovering the poor white southerner from the margins of literary representation. And yet, for several reasons, McCarthy's connection to later Rough South writers is decidedly complex. Furthermore, not all critics have been as quick as Benson to praise McCarthy's portrayal of southern poor whites. This chapter examines McCarthy's first three novels: The Orchard Keeper, Outer Dark (1968), and Child of God (1973).

Keywords:   southern poor whites, Cormac McCarthy, Robert Benson, southern literature, white trash, southern writers, Rough South, The Orchard Keeper, Outer Dark, Child of God

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