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An Analysis of the Grotesque in the Ballad of the Sad Cafe

Author ZhuWanZuo
Tutor DuCuiQin
School Lanzhou University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Carson McCullers The Ballad of the Sad Cafe grotesque carnivalization
CLC I712.074
Type Master's thesis
Year 2012
Downloads 162
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Among the writers of the twentieth century American literature, Carson McCullers is a highly regarded one. She wrote The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1940), Reflections in a Golden Eye (1941), A Tree, A Rock, A Cloud (1942), The Ballad of the Sad Cafe (1943), and The Member of the Wedding (1946) and so on. Among them, The Ballad of the Sad Cafe is considered her masterpiece, and was Carson McCullers’s first book which was introduced to China. Most of the Chinese domestic studies on The Ballad of the Sad Cafe focused on the significance of creating the freakish characters, the theme of love and loneliness, its feminism and homosexual dimension and so on.In this thesis, there is an attempt to study the novel The Ballad of the Sad Cafe by applying Mikhail Bakhtin’s grotesque theory. In grotesque literature, carnivalization is the soul. In The Ballad of the Sad Cafe. the grotesque characterization, the grotesque plot, and the grotesque theme reveal the grotesque nature, and all these elements construct a carnivalized grotesque world. In this world, there are characters composed of double images, clowns, fools and rogues, and the carnival square is built up, which serves as the scene of the plot. In the carnival square, the ritual of crowning and decrowning take place, which embodies a spirit of subversion and doubleness.This thesis consists of four chapters.Chapter One briefly introduces the author and the book The Ballad of the Sad Cafe, including a summary of its plot, a review of studies on the book, and the aims of this thesis.Chapter Two is a concise presentation about Bakhtin’s grotesque theory, which introduces the theory’s origin, its main features and elements, along with some key concepts which are essential to the analysis of the novel in the following chapter.Chapter Three is the main body of the thesis in which a thorough analysis of the grotesque in The Ballad of the Sad Cafe is developed. There are three parts in this chapter. In the first part, the analysis of the grotesque characters is displayed. These characters include the rogue, the clown, and the dualistic image; the second part explores the grotesque of the plot, which refers to the rituals of crowning and decrowning, the cafe which serves the carnival square where the rituals take place, and the special effect of the liquor. The third part deals with the grotesque theme, a theme of ambivalence and subversion.Chapter Four is the conclusion. Through summing up the major points mentioned in the previous chapter, it can be affirmed that parallels can be drawn between Bakhtin’s grotesque realism theory and Carson McCullers’The Ballad of the Sad Cafe. The chapter finally reveals that by the constructing of the grotesque carnivalized world, the author McCullers aims to build the relationship among all the differences and confinements, because what is reflected in her work is not only the subversion to the old social and ideological order, but more importantly, is the attempt (although it failed) to embrace a new one that is regenerative and compassionate.

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