Carson McCullers's THE BALLAD OF THE SAD CAFE explores what it means to love and to be loved from the perspective of a bizarre romantic triangle. Cross-eyed, masculine Miss Amelia Evans, owner of the general store in a small town, marries Marvin Macy, who adores her. But what she wants is a helper, not a lover; when Marvin expects sex from her, she throws him out. Her cousin Lyman, a dwarf, comes to town, and Miss Amelia falls for him hard, rediscovering her feminine side in an attempt to seduce him and converting her store into a cafe where Lyman can hang out and feel comfortable. Then the rejected Marvin Macy returns to town, and Lyman becomes infatuated with him. The denouement is a scene of grotesquely brutal violence, as McCullers takes love to its furthest extreme, as it approaches hatred. McCullers's novella, with its lyrical writing, deeply eccentric characters, stiflingly hot setting, and passion-fueled action, epitomizes what is known as "Southern Gothic." The musical theme of the book's title is reinforced in the text, which begins and ends with the haunting, mournful songs of a chain gang, placing the novel vividly in time and place: 1928 Georgia.