Mark Twain is credited with creating the term "bad boy" in boys' literature from 1865 (Murray 75). His Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) subsequently ignited the "bad boy boom" (Kidd 75). Though Tom Sawyer was not a best-seller until the twentieth century, the novel has come to represent the quintessential boys' book of the American nineteenth century (Parille 2-6). Although it has been 135 years since Tom Sawyer was published, I argue that the concept of the bad boy continues in contemporary literature, specifically Willie Morris' Good Old Boy (1971), although the bad boy has morphed into the concept of the "good.ol' boy." This concept is not limited to children's literature, however; the "good ol' boy" has become a fixture in Southern culture. Though Morris indicated in several interviews that his writing was inspired by Twain, little critical research takes up Morris as an author and practically none draws connections between the works of Morris and Twain. Here, I trace the evolution of the bad boy in American literature from Twain's Tom Sawyer to Morris' Good Old Boy, noting that in Southern culture, the "bad boy" morphs into the "good old boy,"- also known as the "good ol' boy" - a concept rooted in nostalgia that has moved beyond the genre of children's literature and has infiltrated Southern identity.
Synergy: A Journal for Graduate Student Research
Pittman, Jennifer Burkett, "From Bad Boy To Good OL' Boy: Literary Origins of the South's Notorious Figure" (2012). Articles. 49.