Welty, Eudora (Vol. 105)
Eudora Welty 1909–
American short story writer and novelist.
The following entry presents an overview of Welty's career. For further information on her life and works, see Eudora Welty Criticism (Volume 1), and volumes 2, 5, 14, 22.
Eudora Welty has long been respected by her fellow writers, but it was not until the publication of her Collected Stories of Eudora Welty (1980) that she received serious critical attention. Early in her career Welty was dismissed by reviewers as a regionalist, since most of her stories are set in Mississippi. However, upon close examination of her work, critics began to see the universal themes in Welty's fiction and the skill with which she evokes a sense of place.
Welty was born in 1909 and grew up in Jackson, Mississippi. She was the oldest of three children and the only girl. Her father, Christian Welty, grew up in Ohio in a very reserved family of Swiss heritage. Her mother, Chestina Andrews, grew up in the mountains of West Virginia and never felt at home in Mississippi. In contrast to her husband's background, Chestina Andrews grew up in a spirited and gregarious family, and Welty's visits with her grandmother and five uncles in West Virginia were memorable for her. Later Welty would tell of these experiences in her One Writer's Beginnings (1984) and fictionally as part of The Optimist's Daughter (1972). Welty was surrounded with books as a child. Her father kept an extensive library, and her mother often read aloud to her. After completing public school in Jackson, Welty attended Mississippi State College for Women from 1925 to 1927. She went on to receive her B.A. from the University of Wisconsin in 1929. Welty then attended Columbia University Graduate School of Business in New York from 1930–1931 to study advertising. She was forced to return home to Jackson in 1931 when her father died suddenly. In the early 1930s Welty held a variety of odd jobs with local newspapers and a radio station until she got a position as a publicity agent for the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The job took her throughout the state of Mississippi, which helped inspire her as an artist. Welty began taking photographs of a variety of images and people she encountered in the state. Although she was unsuccessful at finding a publisher for the collection at the time, the photographs were later published in 1971 as One Time, One Place: Mississippi in the Depres-sion; A Snapshot Album (1971). Her job at the WPA also inspired Welty to begin writing about the Depression era. Her first short story, "Death of a Traveling Salesman," was published in Manuscript in 1936. Her first collection, titled A Curtain of Green (1941), followed in 1941. Welty has continued to live and write from her family home in Jackson, Mississippi, including novels and essays in addition to her short stories. Her novel The Optimist's Daughter won the Pulitzer Prize in 1972.
Very few of Welty's works are written in the first-person narrative. She prefers a conversational style with a multitude of voices. The best example of this is her novel Losing Battles (1970), which is set during the Depression. The story revolves around the family of Granny Vaughn, which gathers in Banner, Mississippi, to celebrate Granny's 90th birthday. The novel is a collection of different family members' tales as they get together for this reunion. Past and present merge as each character tells their story. One of the major characters, the schoolteacher Julia Mortimer, is not even alive in the present of the narrative. She dies shortly before the reunion, but her presence is strongly felt throughout the novel. Welty does not normally use her direct experience in her fiction, and she feels that a reader does not need every biographical detail about a writer to understand his work. However, elements of her life are reflected in portions of her writing. The Optimist's Daughter is her most autobiographical work of fiction, and there are many parallel scenes between the novel and personal scenes described in her memoir One Writer's Beginnings. The memoir is based on a series of lectures Welty gave at Harvard University about the development of her life as a writer. It is not a straight autobiography or a manual on the techniques of writing; it is simply a personal look at her journey of developing her talents as a writer. There are three sections, "Listening," "Learning to See," and "Finding a Voice." Each section shares personal memories and how, as a writer, Welty absorbed and filtered her experiences.
Since most of her work is set in Mississippi, Welty was dismissed as a regionalist early in her career. Reviewers eventually recognized the depth and universal themes present in her fiction, however. Maureen Howard asserts, "Eudora Welty is not a regionalist: She is a Southern writer who has lived all her life in Jackson, Miss. It is not surprising that she draws strength from this setting for most of the stories, but it is a mark of her great skill that her perceptions of courthouse towns, poor shacks and farms, the discarded levee are so various and unlimiting." In fact it is her ability to convey her strong sense of place that has caused many reviewers to laud her work. Some critics assert that the appeal of Welty's fiction and her ability to overcome the label of regionalist derives from the fact that she writes from two perspectives. From living in the state almost her entire life, Welty knows Mississippi and its people so intimately that she is able to vividly convey them in her fiction. The fact that her parents were not Southerners, however, gave her the opportunity to view her subject as an outsider. Welty is often praised for her use of dialect and the conversational style of her writing. In describing the varied voices in Losing Battles, Paul Bailey said, "Such talk—varied, spontaneous, recognizably absurd—is a pleasure to read because it is always revealing of character." Many critics comment on the folklore influence on her work, especially in The Golden Apples (1949) and The Robber Bridegroom (1942).
A Curtain of Green (short stories) 1941
The Robber Bridegroom (novella) 1942
The Wide Net, and Other Stories (short stories) 1943
Delta Wedding (novel) 1946
The Golden Apples (short stories) 1949
Short Stories (essay) 1949
Selected Stories (short stories) 1953
The Ponder Heart (short stories) 1954
The Bride of Innisfallen, and Other Stories (short stories) 1955
Place in Fiction (lectures) 1957
The Shoe Bird (juvenilia) 1964
Thirteen Stories (short stories) 1965
A Sweet Devouring (nonfiction) 1969
A Flock of Guinea Hens Seen from a Car (poem) 1970
Losing Battles (novel) 1970
One Time, One Place: Mississippi in the Depression: A Snapshot Album (photographs) 1971
The Optimist's Daughter (novel) 1972
The Eye of the Story (essays and reviews) 1978
Moon Lake and Other Stories (short stories) 1980
The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty (short stories) 1980
One Writer's Beginnings (lectures) 1984
Eudora Welty Photographs (photographs) 1989
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SOURCE: "A Collection of Discoveries," in The New York Times Book Review, November 2, 1980, pp. 1, 31, 32.
[In the following review, Howard discusses Welty's Collected Stories, and how her range developed throughout her career.]
In reading The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty, there is a particular pleasure in following her performance over the years. Her range is remarkable—her way of telling us that stories are as different as human faces, that beyond the common features of plot and narrative, there are discoveries to be made each time. In "A Memory" (which seems to be about her childhood), she writes, "To watch everything about me I regarded grimly and possessively as a need." Now, with all the stories gathered together, we can see with what vigilance she has continued to watch the world around her. She has transformed that early obsession into the vision of a magnificent American artist.
Eudora Welty is not a regionalist: She is a Southern writer who has lived nearly all of her life in Jackson, Miss. It is not surprising that she draws strength from this setting for most of the stories, but it is a mark of her great skill that her perceptions of courthouse towns, poor shacks and farms, the discarded levee are so various and unlimiting. The Delta, the backwoods cabin or fussy middle-class home is rendered in each story, used only as necessary. And the talk,...
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SOURCE: "Struggling against the Plaid: An Interview with Eudora Welty," reprinted in Listen to the Voices: Conversations with Contemporary Writers, Jo Brans, Southern Methodist University Press, 1988. (Originally printed in Southwest Review, Vol. 66, No. 3, Summer, 1981, pp. 255-66.)
[In the following interview, Welty discusses her approach to writing and some of her characterizations.]
Eudora Welty is the author of five collections of short stories, a book of photographs, a volume of essays, and five novels. For her novel The Ponder Heart she received the American Academy of Arts and Letters Howells Medal in 1955, and for The Optimist's Daughter she was awarded the 1973 Pulitzer Prize. Among the most honored of American writers, she has also received the National Institute of Arts and Letters Gold Medal for the Novel, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and in 1979 the National Medal for Literature for lifetime achievement.
Jo Brans is a member of the English faculty at Southern Methodist University. Brans interviewed Eudora Welty when she visited Dallas in November, 1980, to speak at SMU's sixth annual literary festival.
[Brans:] One thing that especially impressed me in the conversation yesterday was that you said you wrote because you loved language and you love using language. I know you are a photographer, and you've painted too....
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SOURCE: "Gloriously ordinary," in TLS, No. 4131, June 4, 1982, p. 608.
[In the following review, Bailey discusses Welty's Losing Battles and states that "The prevailing tone is one of glorious ordinariness, but one that never sinks into the terminally cute…."]
The belated publication in Britain of this exceptionally beautiful novel, which first came out in the United States in 1970, is both welcome and timely, coming as it does so soon after the appearance here of its author's Collected Stories. These two books alone are evidence enough that Eudora Welty is a writer of considerable distinction.
"What I do in writing of any character is to try to enter into the mind, heart, and skin of a human being who is not myself", is how she accounts for her method of working. "Whether this happens to be a man or a woman, old or young, with skin black or white, the primary challenge lies in making the jump itself." That "jump" is achieved with a seeming lack of effort in Losing Battles as the various members of Granny Vaughn's copious family gather to celebrate the nimble old lady's ninetieth birthday. No sooner have they arrived at the farm in Banner, Mississippi, than they start talking, and in a manner that is immediately compelling. The majority of Granny's descendants and their spouses are natural raconteurs, in the best tradition of the Old South, and the great...
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SOURCE: "Welty's 'Death of a Traveling Salesman,'" in The Explicator, Vol. 42, No. 1, Fall, 1983, pp. 52-4.
[In the following review, Sederberg analyzes the different symbolic associations of the name Bowman in Welty's "Death of a Traveling Salesman."]
The name R. J. Bowman in Eudora Welty's "Death of a Traveling Salesman" evokes meanings beyond those suggested either by Welty herself or prior critics. In a recent reminiscence, "Looking Back at the First Story," Welty recalls a real-life prototype for Bowman, Mr. Archie Johnson, a neighbor who in the 1930's traveled remote Mississippi roads as a Highway Department inspector and land buyer. On a literal level, the name Bowman is probably a transposition of his given name, Archie, into an equivalent surname, Bowman. Yet Welty is aware of the symbolic associations of names as well, as evidenced by her changing the antagonist's name from Rafe in the Manuscript version to Sonny in the book. She comments:
I had got sensitive to the importance of proper names, and this change is justified: "Sonny" is omnipresent in boys' names in Mississippi and is not dropped just because the boys grow up and marry; "Sonny" helped make the relationship of the man and the woman one that Bowman could mistake at the beginning; and at the same time it harked back to the fire-bringer…. Prometheus [who] was in my mind almost at the...
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SOURCE: "A Conversation with Eudora Welty," in Conversations with Eudora Welty, edited by Peggy Whitman Prenshaw, University Press of Mississippi, 1984, pp. 252-67.
[In the following interview, Welty discusses her approach to writing and presents insights into some of her characters and stories.]
[Royals:] What do you think about the concept of what we're trying to do here, that is to say, to interview a writer and try to arrive at something worthwhile through the medium?
[Welty:] I don't rightly know. I've always been tenacious in my feeling that we don't need to know a writer's life in order to understand his work and I have really felt very opposed to a lot of biographies that have been written these days, of which the reviewers say they're not any good unless they reveal all sorts of other things about the writer. I know you're not talking about that kind of thing, but it's brought out my inherent feeling that it's good to know something about a writer's background, but only what pertains. I'm willing to tell you anything I can if I think it has that sort of value. You asked me what I thought the value was, and I'm just not sure.
[Royals:] Not sure as to whether knowledge of the writer has a value? The works may stand on their own. Is that what you mean?
Well, take somebody like Chekhov. It's important to know that he was the...
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SOURCE: A review of One Writer's Beginnings, in TLS, No. 4242, July 20, 1984, p. 806.
[In the following review, Homberger states that Welty's "One Writer's Beginnings is a reminder that the imagination can be as nourished by Jackson, Mississippi, as by Henry James's London, Kafka's Prague or Kundera's Brno."]
When in 1965, during the civil rights movement, Eudora Welty wrote that "Entering the hearts and minds of our own people is no harder now than it ever was", the most common response was a subdued sense of shock at a writer so little carried away by the dramatic struggles taking place around her.
The argument that Welty's work fails to register the great traumas of the age is a way of placing her "interest" as Southern, and therefore as regional. No myth-maker like Faulkner, her work stands or falls on the sense of place, the particular character of Mississippi. She understands her people with uncanny precision. Her brief story on the murder of Medgar Evers in 1963, "Where Is the Voice Coming From?", was a fine gesture of imaginative insight. When the killer was finally caught, Welty remarks in the preface to her collected stories, it was necessary to revise certain details in her wholly invented characterization, because they had been disturbingly close to the truth.
Looking back on the 1960s, Welty recently commented on the scale of the changes...
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SOURCE: "A Visit with Eudora Welty," in The Yale Review, Vol. 74, No. 1, Autumn, 1984, pp. 147-53.
[In the following interview, Welty discusses how she develops her characters and what she thinks about writing.]
She's worn a pretty hat for the occasion, an occasion she says she has dreaded ever since she decided to make an exception to her rule, no interviews. Her smile is shy, her voice soft and hesitant: "You look like a Virginia girl." She reaches for my bag, but I protest—after all, she is seventy-five. Her hair is white. She is slight and walks with slow care in a shiny new pair of loafers. Her azure knit dress is the color of her eyes. The next day, when we have settled into pants and comfortable shoes, she tells me, "I would have worn pants to the airport, but I thought, 'She'll think I'm some sort of hick!'"
She eases herself behind the wheel of her car. She's tired. "I've been on the go ever since the first of the year. And this weekend I signed 400 of those Harvard books for a limited edition. Are you going to use a tape recorder? I always think I sound as if I don't know what I'm talking about on tape. You'll have to excuse me if I don't hear you. I don't hear as well as I used to."
The book to which she refers is her autobiographical One Writer's Beginnings. It was developed from the Norton lectures she gave at Harvard and was, she says, "the...
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SOURCE: "Eudora Welty's Beginnings," in The Southern Literary Journal, Vol. XVII, No. 2, Spring, 1985, pp. 120-26.
[In the following review, Smith discusses what Welty teaches about the sensibility of the writer in her One Writer's Beginnings.]
One Writer's Beginnings is a crucial book for the serious Eudora Welty scholar; for the reader who has been charmed and beguiled and moved over the years by her wonderful stories and novels; and for the beginning or not-so-beginning writer who has any interest in where it all comes from, anyway: fiction, I mean, and what in the world it has to do with life. The book originated in a set of three lectures delivered at Harvard University in April, 1983, to inaugurate the William E. Massey lecture series, and it remains so organized. The individual essays are entitled "Listening," "Learning to See," and "Finding a Voice," with a generous selection of Miss Welty's family photographs sandwiched in. For an explicit discussion of fiction-writing techniques, readers must go elsewhere; these essays concern the development of a writer's sensibility rather than her craft—that inner ear, that special slant of vision, that heightened awareness of the world which distinguishes art from pedestrian fiction and which distinguishes Miss Welty's fiction particularly—her embrace of the gross world in all its lovely and awful specific detail. How did this come about?...
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SOURCE: "Clytie's Legs," in London Review of Books, Vol. 7, No. 8, May 2, 1985, pp. 15-6.
[In the following review, Aaron discusses several of Welty's works and asserts that "it is by design, by her calculated disclosures, that this storyteller makes herself and her writing powerful and free."]
Eudora Welty's fictional territory stretches as far as the Northern States of her native America, and to Europe too, but its heartland is Jackson, Mississippi and its environs, a country more accessible and neighbourly than Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha. The dust and heat are the same, the people comparably rooted and earthy. Yet Faulkner's South, for all of its authentic particularity, is a space larger than life in which a magnified cast of performers carry out fated acts. His stores, work-places, forests, houses, monuments, jails and churches are the setting for a sprawling historical spectacle that violently unfolds to the accompaniment of rhetorical music.
Jefferson, Mississippi is the centre, Faulkner once said, of a 'cosmos' inhabited by people whom he could move around 'like God'. Eudora Welty's people live mostly in, or near, small free-floating towns like Morgana, with its water tank and courthouse and its 'Confederate soldier on a shaft' that resembles 'a chewed-on candle, as if old gnashing teeth had made him'. They go their own ways and are not haunted by history. You can find them in a...
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SOURCE: "Words Between Strangers: On Welty, Her Style, and Her Audience," Mississippi Quarterly, Vol. XXXIX, No. 4, Fall, 1986, pp. 481-505.
[In the following essay, Pollack analyzes Welty's relationship with her readers.]
Eudora Welty often speaks of her storytelling in terms that suggest it is a strategy for dealing with separateness. She identifies the source of her work as "attentiveness and care for the world … and a wish to connect with it," and she tells us that her "continuing passion" is "to part a curtain … that falls between people." But paradoxically, while Welty expresses her desire for "connection," she nonetheless prefers what she calls obstruction as the means to this end. "The fine story writers seem to be … obstructionists," she notes in "The Reading and Writing of Short Stories," and she finds the "quondam obstruction"—the sheer opaque curtain that veils the meaning of a work—to be "the source of the deepest pleasure we receive from a writer." I find this paradoxical combination of her thematic concern for "connection" and her preference for technical obstruction surprising and provocative, even though Welty's commentators have long discussed it and even though obstruction is commonplace in contemporary fiction. Welty's stated purpose—she writes of successful fiction as "love accomplished"—seems to be contradicted by a reader's experience of the technique she often...
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SOURCE: "The Metaphor of Race in Eudora Welty's Fiction," in The Southern Review, Vol. 22, No. 4, October, 1986, pp. 697-707.
[In the following essay, Marrs discusses certain aspects of African-American culture that Welty portrays in Delta Wedding and The Golden Apples including: "separateness despite intimate contact, a consequent and paradoxical freedom from white conventions, and a once common belief in ghosts and magic potions."]
During the 1930s and early 1940s Eudora Welty was almost as busy with her camera as with her typewriter. She photographed scenes and faces, tried to sell a book of her pictures, and gave a one-woman photographic show in New York City. A primary subject of these photographs was black life in Mississippi: a fortune teller in exotic costume, bottle trees designed to ward off evil spirits, a slave apron with a whole mythology stitched upon it, a black state fair parade, a "Colored Entrance" to a movie theater, black women wearing evening dresses or men's hats for their Saturday afternoon of shopping were all subjects for Welty the photographer. We might logically expect, therefore, black life to be an important element in Welty's fiction, and indeed it is. Although Welty's fictional world is not typically black—it is the white world she knew much more intimately—black characters appear as protagonists in four of her earliest stories. That fact has been widely...
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SOURCE: "Eudora Welty's Dance with Darkness: The Robber Bridegroom," in The Southern Literary Journal, Vol. XX, No. 2, Spring, 1988, pp. 51-68.
[In the following essay, Harrell Carson discusses the integration of fairy tale and history in Welty's The Robber Bridegroom.]
The nature and purpose of the relationship between fairy tale and reality in Eudora Welty's The Robber Bridegroom has been discussed since the earliest reviews. In what is probably the most perceptive long critical analysis of the work, Michael Kreyling has seen in the mixture of fairy tale and history an expression of the tension between pastoral dream and capitalistic reality in America. It is possible, however, to view the work in a larger metaphysical scheme—one which suggests that the moral weight of the tale comes down on the side of recognizing and accepting the unity of contraries in life, not in choosing one pole of a pair of opposites (such as pastoralism over capitalism) at the expense of the other. In this reading, we can see in the collision of fairy tale and history the tension between the human impulse to simplify life, on the one hand, and, on the other, life's insistent complexity.
Indeed, the folk fairy tale that Welty incorporated into her story is grounded on the child's need for simplicity. As Bruno Bettelheim writes:
The figures in fairy tales are...
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SOURCE: "Death and the Mountains in The Optimist's Daughter," in Essays in Literature, Vol. 15, No. 1, Spring, 1988, pp. 77-85.
[In the following essay, Watkins discusses the importance of mountains in Welty's life and in her novel The Optimist's Daughter.]
The pervasive relationship between character and place in fiction is especially important and subtle in the fiction of Eudora Welty. Place derives not only from natural geographical characteristics but also from human history and the events that have happened there. In one of several lectures and essays on the subject, Weky comments on the endurance of life in place, which transcends time, locality, and changes in the terrain:
Whatever is significant and whatever is tragic in its story live as long as the place does, though they are unseen, and the new life will be built upon these things—regardless of commerce and the way of rivers and roads, and other vagrancies.
It follows that the old life, then, goes into the place and emerges in a new life of new personages, who in turn become a part of the complexity of the place which continues to grow along with the addition of new events to old.
Central to the understanding of Welty's fiction is this union of place and person; her works, therefore, must be interpreted according to the way the psyche or the...
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SOURCE: "Place Dissolved In Grace: Welty's Losing Battles," in The Southern Literary Journal, Vol. XXI, No. 1, Fall, 1988, pp. 39-53.
[In the following essay, Walter discusses Welty's Losing Battles.]
The more one gets to know Eudora Welty's characters and to observe her construction of worlds in words and images, the more difficulty one has in seeing a division between objective and subjective, outward and inward. Her physical locales, though faithful renderings of the world's appearance in convincing visual detail, are always also figures of the thought, emotions, and dreams of her characters and narrators; and usually what wisdom her characters achieve is by way of imaginative awareness of their place as a reflector of their own and time's deepest secrets. Welty's characters typically begin in their stories with attitudes or beliefs settled in routine or tradition and sometimes hardened by a defensiveness resulting from experience of losing battles with life. Despite their accommodation, however, life turns out for them in much the same way that Judge Moody in Losing Battles says it turned out for Miss Mortimer: "What she didn't know till she got to it was what could happen to what she was." What can "happen" is hardly ever what was anticipated nor is it ever very securely within human control; rather it unfolds at the prompting of a mysterious shaping spirit alive in particular...
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SOURCE: "Some Talk about Autobiography: An Interview with Eudora Welty," in The Southern Review, Vol. 26, No. 1, January, 1990, pp. 81-8.
[In the following interview, conducted in July, 1988, Welty discusses the autobiographical aspects of her novel The Optimist's Daughter which correspond to sections of her lectures presented in One Writer's Beginning.]
The inspiration for this interview came partly as a result of a conference on southern autobiography at Arkansas State in the spring of 1988. In July of that year I visited Eudora Welty at her home in Jackson, Mississippi, where we discussed correspondences between One Writer's Beginnings and her highly autobiographical novel, The Optimist's Daughter. Miss Welty also relates memories and details which reveal more of her personal involvement in this novel.—SW
[Wolff:] One of the issues raised at the recent conference on southern autobiography is whether there is a distinct body of work that might be thought of as southern autobiography. Do you think certain aspects of southern life and culture might predispose writers to autobiography?
[Welty:] Yes, I think probably so, don't you? It occurs to me that southerners take certain things for granted—such as certain classes, certain strictures, different backgrounds—people immediately make certain assumptions. Southerners want to place...
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SOURCE: "Welty's Losing Battles," in The Explicator, Vol. 51, No. 1, Fall, 1992, pp. 49-50.
[In the following review, Nordby Gretlund discusses the scene in Welty's Losing Battles in which Granny invites Vaughn to get in bed with her, and asserts that the scene is a case of mistaken identity, not a revelation of a dark side of the family.]
It is my impression that there is an intense search among critics for censure by Welty of the farmers in her novel Losing Battles. I think that the subconscious rejection of her blatant celebration of the Beecham-Renfros stems from an unsatisfied urge among Welty's admirers to locate passages in her fiction that deal with the dark, or even evil, side of humanity. Several critics are obviously of the conviction that only the presence of unexplained evil will give her fiction its full depth, so they cast about for the negative aspects of Welty's characters. And whereas the dark side of man is definitely present in her fiction, critics are not always locating it in the right places. As a typical case in point I can refer to the many surprising interpretations of the following scene.
It is late in the evening after the reunion. Granny Vaughn has retired to her bed, and Vaughn, Jack's brother, who is twelve, is making his way through the passage of the house to the loft, to bed down after a long day's hard work:
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SOURCE: "'Among Those Missing': Phil Hand's Disappearance from The Optimist's Daughter," in Southern Literary Journal, Vol. 25, No. 1, Fall, 1992, pp. 74-88.
[In the following essay, Wolff discusses how the character of Philip Hand, from Welty's The Optimist's Daughter, was changed as the author revised the work.]
Eudora Welty published The Optimist's Daughter first as a short story in the New Yorker in 1969 and subsequently as a novel in 1972. Radically revising the character of Philip Hand during successive interim versions of the story, initially omitting and then adding, Welty finally excised most material that elaborates his character and brief marriage to Laurel. In the novel, little description of Phil remains except for a paragraph about his origins on an Ohio farm and a brief reminiscence about their wedding day, altogether amounting to no more than four pages of text. During the process of achieving the final version, Welty deleted some twenty pages of romantic scenes depicting the meeting, courtship, and marriage of Phil and Laurel.
Not included in the original story, Phil Hand evolved into a strong physical presence in the interim versions. The Philip Hand in the resulting novel, however, is dead, disembodied, arising only in Laurel's reverie on the night of her father's funeral. In the novel, though gone, Philip Hand makes his voice heard:...
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SOURCE: "The Languages of Losing Battles," in Studies in American Fiction, Vol. 21, No. 1, Spring, 1993, pp. 67-82.
[In the following essay, Bass analyzes the female characters' use of written and spoken language in Welty's Losing Battles and states "Though the feminine language modes of Losing Battles are 'opposites,' they serve a common goal: querying and challenging male-authored decrees."]
Although they serve a common end, written and spoken language complement and compete with each other in Eudora Welty's Losing Battles. Teaching, writing, and books are the province of Julia Mortimer, who dies on the morning of Granny Vaughn's reunion. Lexie Renfro had presumed to be Julia's successor, but she "fell down on Virgil" and could not finish her training at Normal. Gloria Short, Julia's chosen heir, also denies that role when she marries Jack Renfro, her pupil. Julia's opposite, Granny Vaughn, commands a different province, spoken language and its transmission of family history. Thése two feminine modes of expression differ in that written language (books, letters) conceptualizes, moves toward abstractions; whereas oral language deals with the concrete, the experiential. In a process marked by both modes, the pulpit oratory of the late Grandpa Vaughn diminishes into that of Brother Bethune speaking (to Granny's disparagement) from the family reunion pulpit.
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SOURCE: "Time and Confluence: Self and Structure in Welty's One Writer's Beginnings," in The Southern Literary Journal, Vol. XXVI, No. 1, Fall, 1993, pp. 78-93.
[In the following essay, Ciuba discusses Welty's One Writer's Beginnings, asserting that Welty's "narrative confluence abolishes distances and divisions in time, links generations, connects seemingly disparate events into the pattern of a lifetime."]
The first picture in the photo album that forms part of One Writer's Beginnings shows the young Eudora Welty in a telling moment: the delighted child is clenching her father's pocket watch, dangling its fob before the camera. "Life doesn't hold still," she later comments about her own photographs. "A good snapshot stopped a moment from running away." Like her own art that seeks the revealing gesture in the fleeting scene, the emblematic photo of the one-year-old halts Eudora Welty forever in the paradoxical position of keeping time—of marking its passage and holding it as a possession. One Writer's Beginnings is written precisely at the point of such temporal convergence. It reveals the confluence of past and present as the design of Welty's life and art by making such intersection the structural principle behind her lifestory as an artist.
In writing her autobiography at such a junction, Welty turns what seems like a necessity of the genre into a...
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SOURCE: "That Which 'The Whole World Knows': Functions of Folklore in Eudora Welty's Stories," in The Southern Quarterly, Vol. XXXII, No. 1, Fall, 1993, pp. 9-15.
[In the following essay, Vaschenko discusses the folklore elements present in Welty's short fiction.]
When it is approached, the subject defined appears to be a part of the general mystery that the stories of Eudora Welty present for any attentive reader. Yet the literary and the folk do intertwine in such an unprecedented way in her narration that this constitutes a challenge for any critical mind.
This approach to the short stories and novellas of Welty reveals some of their complexity of form and meaning, for the genres of folklore employed are as various as the means to employ them. Indeed, the field to be covered quite unexpectedly may turn out to be so vast that it cannot be encompassed here. Yet what may be called the most pronounced ways to bring the folk elements into narration, as manifested in Welty's shorter fiction, will be discussed here at length. I should like to approach my subject from the point of view of the aesthetic function performed by concrete folklore elements.
In the American tradition, folklore is understood in a broad sense to include almost all of the manifestations of folk life, not just verbal art. From that point of view, we should begin with the mythological dimension,...
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SOURCE: "Wafts of the South," in TLS, No. 4767, August 12, 1994, pp. 20-1.
[In the following review, Shields discusses three books: a biography of Eudora Welty, a collection of her book reviews, and her novel The Optimist's Daughter.]
Eudora Welty was born in 1909 in Jackson, Mississippi, where she still lives. This stern rootedness has always compounded the wonderment in Miss Welty's admirers, for there is, first, her long list of writing accomplishments to contemplate, and then an accompanying respect for her serene, unwriterly willingness to stay put. She is, in a sense, a curiosity in American literary history, a writer who stayed home, who has lived, in fact, in the same house she moved to with her family when she was a girl of sixteen.
Her five novels, her dozens of short stories and essays, and her fine memoir One Writer's Beginnings, all found their sense and shape in an upstairs bedroom of the Welty house on Pinehurst Street. The mention of this upstairs bedroom may call to mind Emily Dickinson (another writer who kept to her room), but the comparison fails from the start; Eudora Welty's writing has always turned outward to embrace the society she was born into, and her life, moreover, has been characterized by a rare richness of friendship. Old friends, familiar surroundings, conversation, books, occasional travel, the pleasures of the post, the sustaining power of...
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Prestianni, Vincent. "From Porter to O'Connor: Modern Southern Writers of Fiction. Seven Bibliographies of Bibliographies." Bulletin of Bibliography 48, No. 3 (September 1991): 137-51.
Provides a bibliography for other bibliographies about Welty and other Southern writers.
Butterworth, Nancy K. "From Civil War to Civil Rights: Race Relations in Welty's 'A Worn Path.'" Eudora Welty: Eye of the Storyteller, edited by Dawn Trouard, pp. 165-72. Kent, OH: The Kent State University Press, 1989.
Discusses the place of race relation's in Welty's "A Worn Path" by analyzing the character of Phoenix.
Caldwell, Price. "Sexual Politics in Welty's 'Moon Lake' and 'Petrified Man.'" Studies in American Fiction 18, No. 2 (Autumn 1990): 171-81.
Discusses Welty's short stories "Petrified Man" and "Moon Lake" stating that "These stories portray the comedy of human beings trying to impose their interpretations on nature."
Clerc, Charles. "Anatomy of Welty's 'Where is the Voice Coming From?'" Studies in Short Fiction 23, No. 4 (Fall 1986): 389-400.
Analyzes Welty's short story "Where is the Voice Coming From?"...
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