REVIEW OF A SOUTHERN GOTHIC NOVELLA: THE BALLAD OF A SAD CAFE

 

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hand drawn – miraross.com

If you were stranding alone on a desert island, what three items would you take with you?  Keep your ideas in mind because if you were stranding alone in the Forks Falls by any chance, you would need them either. Imagine an August afternoon that you can smell of a dusty main road which has been overheated by the sun during the day. You look around and see no sign of life. The scary silence drives you mad. There is neither a small gas station nor a shop where you can buy water. You are thirsty. You try to swallow but you can feel the dryness in your throat. You start walking to see what is around, but you cannot go faster than a turtle. Every time you breathe you feel the dust on the road sticking on your lungs while a little drop of sweat runs down on your forehead. As soon as you start to smile to the melancholic background melodies of some men, as if it is the sign of life you have been looking for, you change your mind suddenly because of the house, which is probably the largest building around, in the middle of nowhere. An abandoned house: half-painted and all destroyed. It was not what you were looking for, right? You realize some shadow or some movement behind the curtain on the second floor. What is it? Is it a hallucination or are there any ghosts there? No. An old wrinkled hand opens the shutter, and you wish you would not see the crossed-eyes full of agony, heartache, melancholy, misery or morning. Crossed- eyes full of grief. Welcome to the Folk Falls, you already have met Miss Amelia Evans of The Ballad of the Sad Cafe by Carson McCullers.

The story is not a horror story but is a great piece of Southern Gothic in American literature. What makes the novella a masterpiece is its setting? The story takes place in a small town in a southern part of Georgia. “The town itself is dreary,” the narrator opens the story and the sense of place is already set in the first line. In other words, the atmosphere of the town creates a feeling of curiosity by the abandoned house in the middle of the town, the strong sense of longing for the past with grief and the thread of the unknown. Indeed, the wilderness of the setting moves the reader and, most importantly, the characters further from the “civilization.” Full of joy and horror at the same time. In the center of such a Southern land, Miss Amelia’s house is crucial either. Apart from the idea of a demolished house, its transformation from a house to a cafe means people, socializing, so the life itself. For the town, it was sad at first, then the cafe brought it to life and after the cafe, again, it started to suffer again. A sad cafe. Closed. Nothing else left to do. The last situation of the place makes a clear emphasis on Miss Amelia’s current loneliness and in a way, explains her melancholy. The loneliness, the silence and the dreary atmosphere.

Anyway, if you somehow are stranding alone in the Forks Falls, now you know what you will take with you. Otherwise, you would go mad!

Author: Özge Yücel

more on: AMERICAN GOTHIC

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