From Paternalism to Paternity: The Modern Southern Gentleman in the American South

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Richard Alan Waters Il
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University of the South , English Department , Sewanee Senior Honors Theses 2024 , William Faulkner , American South. , Southern Gentleman
As William Faulkner often does, his bildungsroman, The Unvanquished, spotlights a dilemma in the old social hierarchy of the American South. The Southern Gentleman, an aristocratic figure whose principal role was to prevent chaos from engulfing his community, finds himself in a present that rejects him. However, Faulkner, through his main character, Bayard Sartoris, introduces the potential for a revised version of the Southern Gentleman who can exist in the contemporary world. Found in a place where he no longer belongs, the Southern Gentleman, a man who mirrors the qualities of the Chivalric tradition who historically was considered the patriarchal figure of his community, transforms into a man with modified masculinity, prompting him to become a paragon of fatherhood. This project investigates the Southern Gentleman's shift from paternalism to paternity by analyzing Harriett Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom 's Cabin, Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird, Walker Percy's The Last Gentleman, and Will Alexander Percy's autobiography Lanterns on the Levee as means to begin uncovering the complicated nature of gender and its strange relationship with authority in the American South.