This literary musing on Mick Kelly, the complex yet lovable tomboy character in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, is excerpted from Girls in Bloom: Coming of Age in mid-20th Century Women’s Fiction by Francis Booth. Reprinted by permission.
Carson McCullers (1917-1967) was born Lula Carson Smith but chose to use the gender-neutral Carson; she was the epitome of the literary tomboy: as tall as a man, with long, lanky limbs, short, bobbed hair, boyish dress, and elfin face – the ideal author to create fictional tomboys.
And that she did, in two of literature’s greatest tomboys, Mick Kelly (The Heart is a Lonely Hunter) and Frankie Addams (The Member of the Wedding), with their equally gender-neutral names. Read More→
This intriguing look at Petrova Fossil, one of the three Fossil sisters of Noel Streatfeild’s best-known work of children’s literature, Ballet Shoes (1932), is excerpted from Girls in Bloom: Coming of Age in mid-20th Century Women’s Fiction by Francis Booth, reprinted with permission
Noel Streatfeild (1895 – 1986; note that she was a female author with a male-sounding first name and an unconventionally-spelled surname), was born in Sussex, England and was the daughter of the Bishop of Lewes.
She wrote several children’s books, of which Ballet Shoes – beautifully illustrated by her older sister – was the first and most well-known and well-loved by more than one generation of girls; her subsequent books were renamed by the publishers to have the word Shoes in the title, though in fact they are not a series. Read More→
One of Kate Chopin’s most interesting heroines is the tomboyish teen Charlie Laborde of the eponymous short story “Charlie” (1900). This fascinating musing on this little-known character is excerpted from Girls in Bloom: Coming of Age in mid-20th Century Women’s Fiction by Francis Booth, reprinted with permission:
Girls in coming of age novels often keep diaries: it is a very good device for an author to let us in on the girl’s feelings, and in this case for the author to enjoy herself playing with ideas of fiction, style and truth.
The authors themselves had in many cases kept diaries as a teenager: as a fourteen-year-old, Louisa May Alcott wrote in hers: ‘I have made a plan for my life, as I am in my teens, and no more a child. I have not told anyone about my plan; but I’m going to be good.’ Read More→
According to the dictionary, a tomboy is “an energetic, sometimes boisterous girl whose behavior and pursuits … are considered more typical of boys than girls.” This anachronistic social construct is, alas, still present in this day and age, even as gender norms have loosened. The insightful musing on literary tomboys presented here is excerpted from Girls in Bloom: Coming of Age in mid-20th Century Women’s Fiction by Francis Booth, reprinted with permission:
The word tomboy goes back to the sixteenth century in England; it was first recorded in 1553, when it meant a ‘boisterous boy,’ but it soon changed its meaning. The Oxford English Dictionary of 1579 defines it as a ‘bold or immodest woman;’ perhaps from the word ‘tom,’ which had the implication of a prostitute for centuries. Shakespeare used tomboy in this sense in Cymbeline, 1611, as did Thomas Middleton in A Game at Chess, 1624. Read More→
This analysis of “Désirée’s Baby,” an 1893 short story by Kate Chopin, explores the narrative of miscegenation and motherhood in the antebellum American South. Chopin is best known for the groundbreaking classic novella The Awakening (1899).
Désirée, a young woman adopted as a child, is married to a plantation owner named Armaud. She is startled when she suddenly realizes that their baby is of a darker complexion than her own and her husband’s.
Chopin uses the setting of Louisiana to create a delicate yet hostile environment for a disillusioned young mother. Motherhood in this era can be deemed sensitive and complicated, since Désirée lives in a time when its treatment is based on ethnicity and social stratification. Read More→