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Nick Cave’s novel And the Ass Saw the Angel attempts to exist firmly within the Southern Gothic tradition, pulling direct inspiration from authors such as William Faulkner, Cormac McCarthy, and Flannery O’Connor. However, Cave’s novel seems to lack the careful construction and purposefulness of these writers, with its graphic violence, constantly shifting tone, style, narrative voice, and employing an utterly bizarre and arcane vocabulary. This essay aims to illustrate that although this may make the work seem poorly composed and somewhat slipshod, the manic prose of Cave’s novel is actually rather purposeful, presenting the protagonist’s descent into madness in an evocative manner. As the narrator’s mind splits and crumbles, so too does the text, in a more literal sense: constantly changing from poetic and lofty to more direct and graphic prose, distinctions between first and third person narrations becoming all but absent by novel’s end, and imagined and chimeric words often replacing those that are genuine. Nick Cave’s seemingly frenzied and random choices with regard to language and narrative structure may at first blush seem inferior to the writers he draws inspiration from, but actually illustrate his competence and creativity as a novelist in the Southern Gothic tradition.


Undergraduate paper submitted in December 2013 for the Senior Literature Capstone course with Dr. Richard Magee, English Department, Sacred Heart University.

Presented at the 2014 Sacred Heart University Academic Festival.



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