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I think that you could see Johnny's fight with Gotha as an example of the conflict that the Civil Rights movement caused in the South. I think that one of McCammon's purposes in the novel is to reveal how the Civil Rights Movement caused challenges within the White community. Too often, the struggle is depicted as one where all Southerners are seen as members of the Klan or closeted White supremacists. I think that McCammon is using the novel to show how the Civil Rights Movement found a chunk of its voice through White Southerners recognizing the movement's need and desire for change. Certainly, this is reflected in Johnny's fight with Gotha. Johnny is not the strongest person in Zephyr and not the most popular. He is "the ordinary person" capable of doing "extraordinary things." Johnny does not succumb to the pressure of the Branlin boys running amok. He realizes that he might not win, yet he takes the risk to fight, suffering greatly as a result. He continues to fight and eventually defeats the Branlins, specifically Gotha. This ends up demonstrating to Cory how goodness must be actively pursued and does not automatically win outright. Johnny's fight with Gotha is representative of how people of color in the South struggled and fought through difficulties to both emerge victorious and inspire others, namely Southern and Northern Whites, that their struggle was not a mere political struggle, but a moral struggle of good against evil. Cory realizes this as a result of Johnny's struggle with Gotha, a force of malevolence.
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