Abstract

This essay seeks to expand the scope of both US southern and Pacific Islander American studies by examining The Descendants (2007) in conversation with William Faulkner’s southern gothic mainstay As I Lay Dying (1930). The essay positions Hemmings’s novel in a gothic framework to reveal connections across regional gothics in the United States and expose colonial legacies. The enduring trauma of British imperialism is well-documented, but American colonialism, particularly in Hawai‘i, is rarely addressed in the continental United States, making a gothic “recontextualization” especially necessary. Both Hemmings and Faulkner interrogate the pressures the dead—both recent and ancestral—place on the living by deploying gothic tonality to illuminate social problems. In aligning gothic forms, this essay examines the literary representations of twenty-first-century plantation inheritances from the southernmost US state, Hawai‘i, and the southeastern United States. Ultimately, I argue that vestiges of the wrongs borne of their plantation origins, in both the southeastern United States and Hawai‘i, manifest across gothic forms in distress surrounding land and legacy as well as in an emphasis on futurity—all grounded in the maternal.

This content is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.