Misogynistic Themes in Murder Ballads: Background information when reading The Killing Hills

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The Killing Hills

by Chris Offutt

The Killing Hills by Chris Offutt X
The Killing Hills by Chris Offutt
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    Jun 2021, 240 pages

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Amanda Ellison
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Misogynistic Themes in Murder Ballads

This article relates to The Killing Hills

In The Killing Hills, which takes place in Kentucky, misogyny manifests in attitudes toward key female characters, notably the town sheriff. Additionally, the act of femicide is a central theme and a reminder of cultural aspects of female subjugation, including the murder ballad, a song format that is notably popular as a sub-genre of Appalachian folk music.

The origins of the murder ballad can be traced back to regions of Britain and Scandinavia, and became part of an oral tradition imported to the United States by British migrants who settled in Appalachia. One of the earliest examples of the song form, "The Twa Sisters" (The Two Sisters), is known to have existed in Britain as far back as 1656. It tells the story of one sister murdering another due to jealousy, and has spawned many versions, including one that emerged in Kentucky in 1917. While the murder is not committed by a man, the song tells of a male suitor who is the source of the sisters' rivalry. Thus, femicide in this ...

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