Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Charmaine Mosby, Nancy Davis, James Flynn

Degree Program

Department of English

Degree Type

Master of Arts


The misfit and the dream of escape are popular motifs in American literature, particularly in the literature of the South. Critical studies of works employing these themes have largely ignored the connection between the two. The Southern misfit – the Southerner who fails to or refuses to conform to his society’s strict standards – often dreams of escaping the restrictions of the South for some Northern “promised land.” In the works of two Georgia writers, Carson McCullers and Flannery O’Connor, the related themes receive different treatments. Carson McCullers’s misfits in the novels The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and The Member of the Wedding are adolescent girls who fail to meet their society’s expectations to be ladylike and free of personal ambitions, and McCullers seems sympathetic to her misfits’ longing to escape. In Flannery O’Connor’s short stories, her misfits are often intellectuals who feel unappreciated and alienated in their “culturally stagnant” hometowns, but O’Connor usually demonstrates that the real problem of these intellectuals is not the restrictions of the South but the characters’ own lack of self-awareness.


Arts and Humanities | English Language and Literature | Literature in English, North America