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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Essay on the Ballad of the Sad Cafe by Carson McCullers

The Ballad of the Sad Café, by Carson McCullers, is a story about a lonely and isolated town that is once the location of a thriving café.  Nothing was happening in the town until the time when the dreary town became a witness to the love triangle among the three main characters of the story.  Marvin Macy the handsome man who had a history of nefarious and sadistic activities married Miss Amelia Evans who was a wealthy and lonely woman.  The two lived together only for ten (10) days before they separated because she refuses to consummate the marriage.  When Lymon arrived, he and Macy lived together until the former was charmed by Macy.

There are other writers who say that “The Ballad of the Sad Cafe” represents the unconscious self of Carson McCullers.  Just like the story of Amelia Evans and Marvin Macy, she and her husband both have extramarital affairs during their marriage.  In addition, one of the couples also had a homosexual affair.  Thus, for these writers, “The Ballad of the Sad Café” is Carson McCullers’ means of expressing her grief over her tumultuous married life. 

The story takes place in an old abandoned city in a small and lifeless town. However, this town was not always so empty and dreary. Ms Amelia Evans suddenly had an idea of opening a café.  For a while the town was alive.  The people were also happy.  For a while also Miss Amelia Evans was in love with the arrival of Lymon.

However, when calamity struck she was forced her to close down her café, the entire town became boring and lifeless once more. The only lively atmosphere in town was now desolate and boarded up. Miss Amelia Evans, the owner, now spends her time barricaded in the café, staring down at the empty city every once in a while with her scary crossed-eyes.  

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Because of her misfortunes, Miss Amelia made the decision to close her café and along with that went the last ounce of excitement in the abandoned district. The narrator has a very depressed tone of expression when describing the surroundings. It seems as though all hope has been lost. The loneliness of the town symbolizes the loneliness of the main characters in the story.  Miss Amelia Evans was loved by Marvin Macy yet she never loved him back.  Miss Amelia Evans loved Lymon yet he never loved her back.  Lymon loved Marvin Macy who also never loved him back. 

The café symbolizes the life of Miss Amelia herself. “It is a face like the terrible dim faces known in dreams--sexless and white, with two gray crossed eyes which are turned inward so sharply that they seem to be exchanging with each other one long and secret gaze of grief.”(3-5) She is described as colorless, grey, and lifeless, identical to her surroundings. The narrator explains that the café which used to be lively and full of people had been reduced to an abandoned building. This resembles the life of Miss Amelia because she went from being a rich and successful business owner to a lonely discarded lady who lived a life of solitude.

In conclusion, The Ballad of the Sad Café depicts a miserable small town plagued by absence of love, abandonment, depression, and dullness. The exuberance of the town was extinguished by the closing of the town’s centerpiece, which was the café. By analyzing the work of Carson McCullers, one can notice the many literary devices used by the author to enrich the story and give the reader a better sense of understanding and perspective. 

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