Advisory Committee Chair
Advisory Committee Members
Date of Award
Degree Name by School
Master of Arts (MA) College of Arts and Sciences
Set in the fictional town of Raynham, Alabama in the Tennessee Valley region, Blackbird in Flight opens with the voice of Fenton Knox as he reminisces about the day four-year-old Molly Sutherland drowned at the drip hole where he and his family were picnicking with the Sutherlands. Fenton, who was fifteen at the time, sees a snake in the water and inaccurately assumes it is a cottonmouth. In an attempt to catch and kill the snake, Fenton is bitten. As the remaining adults attend to Fenton’s wound and successfully eliminate the snake, Molly wanders out into the water unsupervised and drowns before being pulled out by Ellis Knox, Fenton’s father. Recognizing his role in the accident, Fenton is forced to face his own guilt as he attempts to reconcile the death of this young girl with the presence of a God he senses through his relationship with nature. While Fenton serves as the primary protagonist of Blackbird in Flight, the novel also incorporates the perspectives of two other characters, Molly’s parents, Adler and Nell Sutherland. As a result of their daughter’s death, Nell and Adler become isolated in their own grief, creating an irreconcilable chasm between the two characters. Nell ultimately finds solace in an affair with Ellis Knox, Fenton’s father, leaving Adler alone and alienated from his family. Blackbird in Flight is primarily concerned with the loss of a child and the implications of such a loss on the relationships of those who remain. As Fenton navigates this grief-stricken existence through his observations of both Nell and Adler, his connection with nature serves as a stable force through which he interprets death. By exploring the themes of grief, guilt, and spirituality through Fenton’s relationship with the natural world, Blackbird in Flight offers a unique perspective on Southern attitudes regarding family and loss.
Watson, Holly, "Blackbird in Flight" (2017). All ETDs from UAB. 3284.