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able-bodied superiority by casting the female and the feminized

men as deficient, deviant, or inferior. This male-centered attitude is

reflected in his demeaning representations of his frail wife Alison,

his effeminate fellow officer Lieutenant Weincheck, and the

eunuch-like houseboy Anacleto. “Morbidity” is the word that is

conjured up in his mind when he thinks of Alison and Weincheck.

A “big-nosed female Job” (McCullers, 2001c: 339), Alison suffers

from diseases ranging from “empyema, kidney trouble . . . , and . . .

heart disease” (361). However, her husband thinks that her pains

are not real but instead result from a “hypochondriacal fake that

she used in order to shirk her duties

that is, the routine of sports

and parties which he thought suitable” (362). After discovering her

husband’s affair with Leonora, Alison, frantic with anger and

frustration, clips off her nipples with the garden shears (327).

Although this “scandal” shocks everybody, it does not deter the

affair, which continues in a more subdued way. A bizarre

friendship even begins between “the wife who has been betrayed

and the object of her husband’s love.” McCullers describes Alison’s

strange emotional attachment to Leonora as “morbid”; it is a

“bastard of shock and jealousy” (328). Throughout the novel,

Alison lies in bed most of the time. She finally dies in an asylum to

which she has been sent by her husband.

Since its publication,

Reflections in a Golden Eye

has been

charged with “morbidity,” a word that in psychoanalytic parlance

is closely related to the feminine gender. According to the Oxford

Dictionary, the word “morbid” is “characterized by an abnormal

and unhealthy interest in disturbing and unpleasant subjects,

especially death and disease.” Tethered to perversity and pathology,

morbidity must be understood as an antisocial affect that is infused

with the death drive. For McCullers’s contemporary critics, her

depiction of her characters’ emotional perversities or failures has

been interpreted as an indulgence in the vagaries of abnormal

psychology. This unwholesome obsession with morbidity offers no

redemption and proves a disappointing limitation in McCullers’s