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Folk Ballad of the South

The Ballad of the Sad Cafe - Carson McCullers

McCullers' voice in this haunting tale (like that of Ngugi wa Thiong'o in A Grain of Wheat) often takes on the folk ballad posture of an anonymous (or perhaps dispersed) community member. She labours over the authenticity of this tone, fleshing it with a complete vocabulary of cultural experience available in the town, emphasising its remote status and insularity without superiority, and often repudiating stereotype. Despite this refusal to retreat to the default god-author position, she is able to create many spectacular 'filmic' moments, particularly with the final coda describing the music of the chain gang.

McCullers foreshadows compulsively; almost everything that occurs in the story is hinted at, and sinister inevitability dogs the halcyon days of the middle section. Surprisingly then, the denouement still astonishes; the folk myth tapestry is completed by a dramatic climax, a (literally) monstrous twist, and a lingering mystery.