Critics generally agree there was a unique sense of community in the South prior to World War I. However, the novels of the South demonstrate a definite lack of community. In fact, Southern novelists from World War I through the present write about characters who fail to effect communal relationships with others.
Andrew Lytle's The Long Night details the life of Pleasant McIvor, a character who prefers alienation. When confronted by social rituals, McIvor retreats; when faced with a situation requiring the ritual of revenge, Pleasant shuns a familial solution and attempts to effect retribution single-handedly. Lytle shows that the character cannot exist in virtual isolation, and Pleasant does marry and have children, and he does contact a relative from outside his nuclear family when he needs to disclose the events of his life.
In The Fathers, Allen Tate creates Lacy Buchan, a boy torn between the ritualized Buchan world and the isolated Posey world. Lacy can live the public life of his father and can learn the social rules as a guide to life, or he can choose to deny his father's way and follow the individualized, isolated existence represented by his brother-in-law, George Posey. Tate's novel reveals Lacy's struggle and shows that there is no true closeness among men who follow either manner of life.
William Faulkner's work also demonstrates an ironic attitude toward the concept of community. His novel Go Down, Moses depicts characters acting out rituals, but Faulkner demonstrates tensions in the ritual process, forces that work to destroy the potential community. Ike McCaslin, the central character, participates in the hunt, engages in long discourse, and even marries. But none of these actions unites him, finally, to his fellows, and Faulkner shows him alone, without the son he wanted and without the respect of the younger hunters, an old man isolated in a tent in the midst of the rapidly diminishing wilderness.
The conclusion of this dissertation presents a brief look at more recent Southern novels, novels that also illustrate the lack of meaningful community.