Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Katherine Clay Bassard

Second Advisor

Dr. Katherine Saunders Nash

Third Advisor

Mr. Harrison Candelaria Fletcher


This thesis examines the use of interior narrative techniques such as free indirect discourse and internal monologue in two of James McBride’s neo-slave narratives, Song Yet Sung (2008) and The Good Lord Bird (2013). Very limited critical attention has been given to these neo-slave narratives that illustrate McBrides attention to characterization and focalized narration. In these narratives McBride builds upon the revelations he explores in his bestselling memoir, The Color of Water (1996, 2006), where he learns to disassociate race and character. What he discovers about not only his mother, but also himself, inspires his re-imagination of the people who lived during the antebellum period. His use of interior narrative techniques deviates from his peers’ conventional approach to the neo-slave narrative. His exploration of the psyche demonstrates a focalized attention to the individual, rather than a characterization of the community, which is typically portrayed in neo-slave narratives. In conclusion, this thesis argues that James McBride’s neo-slave narratives reveal his interest in deconstructing the hierarchal positioning of whites and blacks during the antebellum period in order to communicate that although African Americans were the intended victims, slave masters and mistresses were oppressed by the ideologies of slavery as well.


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VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission