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The Ballad of the Sad Cafe by Carson McCullers

Dr. Susan Cotton, English 1302

Topics and Themes

  • Loneliness
  • Isolation
  • The Power of Love
  • Psychological phenomenon that causes human beings who are worshiped to despise the worshiper
  • The use of music to substitute for words and powerful feelings

Amelia Evans - Owns the Sad Cafe and is a tall, powerful, independent, shrewd, industrious, and capable loner.

Cousin Lymon - A sociable man who enjoys entertaining the townsfolk with tall tales. He claims to be a cousin of Amelia and despite his being a dwarf and a hunchback, she adores him.

Marvin Macy - An outlaw and ex-husband of Miss Amelia.  He returns to town when he is released from prison.

Narrator - An unnamed, omniscient resident of the town.  His observations and memories are the story.

Stumpy MacPhail - A foreman who hangs around Miss Amelia’s store and café.  

Henry Macy - Marvin Macy’s brother. Where Marvin is evil, Henry is kind and meek. He tells Amelia that Marvin is getting released from prison.  

Merlie Ryan - A sickly weaver who made up the rumor that Miss Amelia killed Cousin Lymon the first night he stayed. He frequently makes up rumors, so no one believes him. 

  • Compassion in the narration
  • Character study
  • Reliability of the narrator
  • Southern grotesque
  • Mystical qualities connecting story to the Southern Gothic period
  • Sad Cafe as folklore

A coda is defined as:  

a concluding section extraneous to the form as usually defined; any concluding passage that can be understood as occurring after the structural conclusion of a work and that serves as a formal closing gesture. Although codas may on occasion consist of only a few perfunctory chords, they may on other occasions assume considerable dimensions and cannot always be regarded as essentially superfluous. 


a sequence following the resolution of the story at the end of the final act that provides a more definite and satisfactory conclusion to the work, often indicating what the main characters go on to do next; the audiovisual equivalent of the afterword or epilogue in a book. 


Coda [It., tail]. (2003). In D. M. Randel (Ed.), The Harvard dictionary of music (4th ed.). Harvard University Press. Credo Reference

Coda. (2014). In R. W. Kroon, A/V a to z: An encyclopedic dictionary of media, entertainment and other Audiovisual terms. McFarland. Credo Reference

Author's Life, Critical Reception and Importance of her Work

The Cambridge Guide to Women's Writing in English: Carson McCullers (eBook)

Includes entries for writers, texts, general terms, genres and movements.

Modern American Women Writers (eBook)

Presents commentary and analysis on American women writers from a variety of ethnic groups and genres. Entries include biographical information, critical analysis, and bibliographies of key primary and secondary works.

Carson McCullers (eBook)

Provides in-depth analysis of the life, works, career, and critical importance of Carson McCullers.

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