Welty grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, and has seldom left its confines, yet manages to address in her fiction, with quiet stealth, human issues that transcend time and place. This bittersweet summer memory, recalled by the narrator over the distance of some years, is as quiet as the summer day it depicts, wrapped in the same sultry air, and illuminated by the same glaring, steely sun as the memory itself.
A plot, Welty has mused in her essays, “is not a pattern imposed; it is inward emotion acted out.” She strives in this story, as in all of her work, to write the depths of human character and emotion, to find in the small moment the motives that drive everyone. The vermilion red of the blood running across the white handkerchief, reminiscent of menstrual blood gushing unbidden, is so instantly recognizable to the young girl that she faints. A surreptitious touch, never acknowledged, becomes the object of passionate fantasy. The young girl’s body lies unexplored, so alien to its owner that she never relates a single physical sensation throughout the entire story. However, she is fascinated and horrified by the sagging, obvious body of the fat woman.
Welty expresses the change in the girl in the symbol of the white pavilion that lies near the lake. At the beginning of the story, it has a “clean pointed roof,” while at the end, it lies “small” and “worn,” so pitiful that the girl bursts into tears. The framed world she saw through her hands has changed irrevocably, and she, like the boy she loves, must face the world “solitary and unprotected.”