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Bare and deserted by ten o’clock at night, those streets had been an aching monotony, a weariness of hard lights and empty pavements, a frozen torpor broken only occasionally by the footfalls of some prowler—some desperate, famished, lonely man who hoped past hope and past belief for some haven of comfort, warmth, and love there in the wilderness, for the sudden opening of a magic door into some secret, rich, and more abundant life.There had been many such, but they had never found what they were searching for.
In neither Mc Cullers nor Wolfe is the hold of the Southern community upon characters very real.
Neither is very much involved in the kind of historical tradition or community identification that writers such as Faulkner and Welty use for the stuff of their fiction.
A major difference between Mc Cullers’s South and Wolfe’s is that there is no sense of Wolfe himself feeling trapped in it. Carson Mc Cullers’s people are there to stay, and their yearning for something better and finer and more fulfilling has a kind of painful about it.
Their yearning for the metropolis, as has often been said, is like that of Chekhov’s provincial Russians for Moscow: for a place of impossible fulfillment that is too far off in time and space to represent anything more than a forlorn hope.
Like Carson Smith Mc Cullers, Thomas Wolfe was raised in a small Southern city, of lower middle class origins and status, and yearned to get away.
Eugene Gant looked out northward and eastward over the mountains toward the shining city of his dreams; Frankie Addams and Mick Kelly, unlike their creator, are less precise about exactly where they wish to go, but they are sure they want to get out of their imprisoned circumstances.From Columbus, Georgia to New York City is a long way.Biff Blannon’s restaurant is presumbly called the New York Cafe because of the ironic contrast between what it is and what its name signifies.We are dealing, therefore, with certain works of fiction written and published during a period of intense and often brilliant creativity, by a young writer, a as it were, one who did not develop or extend her range afterward. Whatever the faces and tensions that were central to her life and art, and which ultimately destroyed both, they attained, during this period, an equilibrium that made her fiction possible.A writer, too, whom I have found can exert a very powerful influence on young people, in particular other young writers.The habitues are there because they live in a small city in southwestern Georgia instead of New York, or even Atlanta.It is like the blue hotel in Stephen Crane’s story of that name, set out on the Nebraska prairie and painted a surrealistic blue to signify the exaggerations of its pretension amid the lonely, terribly barren, and empty expanses of a late 19th-century West only recently changed from being uninhabited prairie and now living in the dreary backwash of a crude provincial life. I suppose it depends upon the viewpoint, and Carson Mc Cullers’s view-point at the time she was writing was not exactly that of the Nashville Agrarians, or even of William Faulkner or Eudora Welty.They had been dying in the darkness—without a goal, a certain purpose, or a door.And that, it seemed to George, was the way the thing had come. Yes, it was there— on many a night long past and wearily accomplished, in ten thousand little towns and in ten million barren streets where all the passion, hope, and hunger of the famished men beat like a great pulse through the fields of darkness—it was there and nowhere else that all this madness had been brewed.As he stood upon the hill and looked out on the scene that spread below him in the gathering darkness, with its pattern of lights to mark the streets and the creeping pin-pricks of the thronging traffic, he remembered the barren nighttime streets of the town he had known so well in his boyhood.Their dreary and unpeopled desolation had burned its acid print upon his memory.