This lesson presents a summary and analysis of Carson McCullers’ novella, The Ballad of the Sad Cafe. The story is a Southern Gothic narrative. THE BALLAD OF THE SAD CAFÉ Source for information on The Ballad of the Sad Café by Carson McCullers, Reference Guide to Short Fiction dictionary. McCullers’s finest stories’ The New York Times the American writer Carson McCullers, and The Ballad of the Sad Café collects her best-loved.

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Carson McCullers’ The Ballad of the Sad Café: Summary & Analysis

It is also a classic example of what has come to be known as southern Gothic or southern grotesque. Forsaking mcucllers attempt at realism, the story is a lyrical parable or fairy tale that takes place in a world less physical than poetic, involving characters less real than mythical.

As critics have pointed out the genius of the work depends on the voice of the narrator who transforms what otherwise might be either foolish or repellent into the stuff of legend and dream.

The story is so filled with narcissistic mirror reflections that it turns inward on itself like the crossed eyes of Miss Amelia, which are “turned inward so sharply that they seem to be exchanging with each other one long and secret gaze of grief.

As the central expository passage of this long story or novella suggests, the basic theme jccullers the relationship between the lover and the beloved.


The narrator argues that although love is a joint experience between two people, the lover and the beloved come from “different countries. The beloved can be of any description, says the narrator, for the quality of any love is determined by the lover. Thus everyone wants to be the lover, for the state of being beloved is intolerable to most.

For the lover is forever trying to strip bare his beloved. McCullers’s story is a grotesque working out of these philosophic truths. Although the central part of the plot revolves around the mysterious arrival of the hunchback and the equally mysterious transformation of the formerly forbidding Miss Amelia into the doting lover of the indifferent and exploitative Cousin Lymon, the background for mcculers story focuses on Miss Amelia’s marriage many years before to Marvin Macy, for whom she was the beloved.

But Miss Amelia rejects this role and sends her despondent lover Macy away. When Macy, now a famed criminal who has served time mmccullers prison, returns and becomes the beloved to Cousin Lymon, the story moves inevitably toward a classic battle between the two giants for the little man.

The story reaches its climax when just wad Miss Amelia is about to triumph Cousin Lymon leaps on her back like a small animal and helps turn the tide in Macy’s favor. The hunchback’s departure with his beloved leaves Miss Amelia cracked and broken.

Serving as the backdrop for this triangular relationship is the town itself, a classical chorus for whom the central godlike figures serve as a necessary unifying force.

The Ballad of the Sad Cafe: and Other Stories: Carson Mccullers: : Books

Cousin Lymon is a magical creature who has an “instinct to establish immediate and vital contact between himself and all things in the world. When Cousin Lymon runs off with Marvin Macy, the town becomes lonesome and sad, “like a place that is far off and estranged from all other places in the world.


The story, however, ends with a coda that suggests that in spite of the breakup of the communal order established by the lover xafe Miss Amelia and the little hunchback, there still remains a metaphor of unity, albeit a unity in despair, in the description of “The Twelve Moral Men. Even as the world of the story mcullers that of hard physical reality, the poetic power of the storyteller transforms profane reality into the realm of the sacred, projecting human desire mccullerrs its most elemental forms.

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