THE SEARCH FOR AUTONOMY IN THE WORKS OF KATE CHOPIN, ELLEN GLASGOW, CARSON MCCULLERS, AND SHIRLEY ANN GRAU
PARKER, PAMELA LORRAINE
Doctor of Philosophy
This study examines the Southern female character's search for autonomy in the works of Kate Chopin, Ellen Glasgow, Carson McCullers, and Shirley Ann Grau. The first chapter discusses the historical and sociological factors which influence this character; in addition, the qualities of the character as well as her search are described. The second chapter reveals the origins of this character as she first appears in the works of Kate Chopin. Selective works of Ellen Glasgow and Carson McCullers are examined as examples which further develop Chopin's prototype. Chapters III, IV, and V provide indepth analyses of Shirley Ann Grau's The House on Coliseum Street, The Condor Passes, and The Keepers of the House. Grau's works dealing with the South are the focal point of this study, for her works reveal the contemporary complexities and similarities of various female characters' search for self. The "Conclusion" briefly discusses the prototype's appearance in the works of William Faulkner, Walker Percy, Robert Penn Warren, and Katherine Anne Porter. Collectively, these Southern women authors reveal the tragedy of the resuscitated myth of Southern woman as Southern belle. Although the search should ideally lead to an androgynous consciousness, most protagonists' attempts to realize their androgynous selves are thwarted by the conventional Southern society. Their search for self governed overwhelmingly by historical factors suggests a kind of historical determinism, for the characters' fates begin to appear predetermined by both their real and fictional predecesors. Yet the women who write these books have themselves successfully overcome their mythic roles through their writings. Perhaps by showing the reader how to fail in the search for autonomy, these novelists suggest simultaneously how to succeed. A new role model for the Southern woman must be developed. She must be an androgynous, autonomous person who understands the role of history in shaping her life and who understands that intuition and reason complement one another.