2015 Louisiana Studies Conference Presentation Abstract
“Gender Dynamics in Gaines’s Bloodline”
Presented by Benjamin Forkner, Northwestern State University
While an analysis of Bloodline through the lenses of both the sequence of stories and cyclical quality of this work impels me to insist on the cohesive nature of the stories, Gaines binds the stories together through the use of thematic leitmotivs. An important aspect of this cycle appears in the ever-present confrontation between the Old South and the New South. Each story presents and develops this confrontation from different perspectives, allowing the reader to fully grasp its nature and relevance for the main characters and in the unfolding of each story’s narrative. Obviously, the question of modernization and urbanization are key components in the rural South during the first half of the twentieth century. While Gaines avoids advocating in favor of the Old South or New South, in Bloodline, he emphasizes the negative effects of a rapid modernization that, agriculturally, favored the white farmers and consequently led to a flight of black rural communities (especially men) to urban centers. Yet, Gaines keenly emphasizes the modern benefits of a greater access to higher education for African Americans as a tool to challenge the oppressive white authority. This cycle mirrors the dilemmas the African American community in South Louisiana had to face during a twenty year period which yielded unprecedented changes. As the community was dispersing, progressively ending a way of life that had remained the same for decades, new ideas came forth, giving this stagnant and fractured community the means to redefine itself.