Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program




Major Professor

Dr. Elizabeth Steeby

Second Advisor

Dr. David Rutledge

Third Advisor

Dr. Rhiannon Goad


Utilizing a girls’ studies perspective and materialist feminist lens, this paper seeks to put Carson McCullers’ The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1940) in conversation with Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1943). Besides being published in the early 1940s, both works feature young girls navigating class struggles, exploring their identities, and struggling against dominant ideologies specific to their time and place. McCullers’ and Smith’s novels depict how a patriarchal, capitalist society imposes upon young women a narrow, misogynistic view of themselves and the women around them—facilitating the social reproduction of oppression and alienation. In depicting these realities of girlhood during the early twentieth-century, these authors established their work as inherently feminist. However, the conversations surrounding these novels must continue to evolve and include topics like unwaged labor, slut-shaming, purity culture, and internalized misogyny, among others.


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