Department or Program



This thesis examines the intersection of racial and sexuality in tomboy representations in the years during and immediately after the Second World War. Drawing upon the recent resurgence of scholarship on Carson McCullers’s The Member of the Wedding (1946), I take a comparative look at other tomboy and lesbian films and novels of her time. I find this era particularly compelling for such a study because teenagers of the 1940s were coming into their identity as America returned to Victorian standards of gender and sexuality. By examining the ways in which tomboy protagonists respond to the societal pressures of white femininity in novels like Peggy Goodin’s Clementine (1946), I establish the characteristics of a typical tomboy transformation plot. I then trace how McCullers directly invokes and subverts such a narrative through a queer reading of The Member of the Wedding. Finally, I consider how Jo Sinclair tests the limits to the tomboy narrative through black tomboys, adult lesbians, and explicit references to same-sex desire in The Long Moment (1942), Wasteland (1946), The Changelings (1955).

Level of Access

Restricted: Campus/Bates Community Only Access

First Advisor

Dillon, Steven

Date of Graduation

Spring 5-2015

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 pdf file


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