Study Guide

Ballad of the Sad Cafe and Other Stories Men and Masculinity

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Men and Masculinity

Man alive! It's no surprise that a Southern female writer of McCullers's era would spend so much of The Ballad of the Sad Café's page real estate exploring manhood: whether or not characters live up to the manly standards of the day, and how men evaluate each other for threat or lack thereof.

Here, Depression-era Georgia—or mid-century New York, for that matter— doesn't look all that different from the frontier Wild West. Whether a male character is small or tall, a jockey, drunk, handsome criminal, or hunchback, we can learn about how he fits into his universe's concept of what a man is "supposed" to be.

Questions About Men and Masculinity

  1. Which men are manly enough in these stories? How does it seem to affect their happiness of fulfillment?
  2. A few of McCullers's male characters—Lymon, Morris Finestein, the Jockey, to start—are notably short. What does this seem to have to do with what a man should be, or is, in these universes?
  3. Why does Cousin Lymon lie about wrestling an alligator, when really he was attending to the ice cream maker?
  4. It's men that join in song, on the chain gang, at the end of Ballad. Sure, prisoners doing hard labor in those days were more likely to be men. But would the ending have the same affect if it was women singing instead?

Chew on This

According to narrators and other characters, many (if not most) of the men in this book don't seem to measure up to what a man is "supposed" to be, and in doing so, create a new, more useful definition.

Miss Amelia doesn't really like men very much, which is why she doesn't fall in love with Marvin Macy.

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