Term of Award

Spring 2021

Degree Name

Master of Arts in English (M.A.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Literature

Committee Chair

Caren Town

Committee Member 1

Bradley Edwards

Committee Member 2

Joe Pellegrino


Midcentury American life featured a post-war economy that established a middle class in which disposable income and time for leisure were commonplace. In this socio-economic environment, consumerism flourished, ushering in the Golden Age of the automobile: from 1950 to 1960, Americans spent more time in their automobiles than ever before, and, by the end of the decade, the number of cars on the road had more than doubled. While much critical attention has been given to the role of the automobile in American novels, less has been given to its role in American short stories. The automobile has been featured in literature since its creation, but after Henry Ford perfected the assembly line – making cars more readily available and less costly – the automobile became an American crown jewel. The apex of the American car industry came just after World War II, and the wax and wane of this Golden Age can be traced throughout 20th Century American short stories. The automobile is an extension of one’s identity and an essential fixture of the American Dream. This project focuses on selected short stories from three distinct authors, writing before, during, and after the mid-century car boom. Arna Bontemps, Flannery O’Connor, and Breece Pancake use the automobile as a motif in their texts, and, while each author presents the car in her own light and from his own angle, the unprecedented freedoms and inherent dangers connected to the automobile are almost universal.

OCLC Number


Research Data and Supplementary Material