Publication Date

Spring 2022

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Wes Berry (Director), Alison Langdon, Ted Hovet

Degree Program

Department of English

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Coined by Stanford University sociologists Dr. Rob Willer and Dr. Christabel L. Rogalin in 2005, the masculine overcompensation thesis asserts that a man will reciprocate challenges to his masculinity with his own intense display(s) of masculinity. This new thesis combined the preliminary research completed by Adler and Freud, offering a new perspective on masculinity. Alongside societal and psychological applications, the masculine overcompensation thesis can also be applied to fictional literary relationships, especially within the pages of three southern novels: Lewis Nordan’s Wolf Whistle, Ron Rash’s One Foot in Eden, and Lewis Nordan’s The Sharpshooter Blues. A common thread of overcompensatory firearm usage underscores every event in the aforementioned novels, and this commonality invites further exploration into the nuances of the masculine psyche. In Nordan’s Wolf Whistle, characters Solon Gregg and Lord Poindexter Montberclair, who are products of drastically different environments, struggle with two masculine insecurities: homosexuality and infidelity. In Rash’s One Foot in Eden, Billy Holcombe grapples with his sterility and compensates for his emasculation by shooting the most masculine resident of Jocassee: Holland Winchester. Finally, in Nordan’s The Sharpshooter Blues, Ramon Fernandez Raney (nicknamed “Hydro”) suffers both physically and psychologically from a specific medical condition: hydrocephalus. With his deformed physicality and mentality, Hydro must compensate for his emasculated form by embracing the skills of a sharpshooter, leading to his eventual decline. Given these exemplars, it is clear that each man relies on violence and firearms to secure false senses of masculinity, leading to an overcompensation of masculine dominance. By charting each man’s struggle to live up to Southern conceptions of masculinity, Nordan and Rash are able to present their characters’ internal weaknesses and provide commentary on the societal pressures that guide a man’s actions.


American Literature | Appalachian Studies | English Language and Literature

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