Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Petrified Man” basically consists of two sets of conversations between Leota and Mrs. Fletcher; the story’s “action” takes place wholly in these conversations. In small-town America, much of what constitutes “real life” consists of the images created by conversationalists such as Leota and Mrs. Fletcher, and the dialogue between these two characters is thus a perfect device for capturing the banality and pretentiousness of much human encounter.

Welty was a master at depicting in fine detail the life of the small southern town, and “Petrified Man” bears the verisimilitude that has earned for her this reputation. She effectively employs the visual, tactile, and olfactory images that place the reader in the beauty parlor with Leota and company. Though the reader never directly confronts the Pikes, Leota’s husband Fred, or Mr. Petrie, Leota’s vivid descriptions serve well enough as surrogates. Despite her own posturing, Leota’s dialogue cannot help but reveal the truth about herself and others, and this is a tribute to Welty’s skillful use of the style and substance of the small-town southern experience in the story’s extended conversations.

Petrified Man Bibliography

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Champion, Laurie. The Critical Response to Eudora Welty’s Fiction. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994.

Gygax, Franziska. Serious Daring from Within: Female Narrative Strategies in Eudora Welty’s Novels. New York: Greenwood Press, 1990.

Gretlund, Jan Nordby. Eudora Welty’s Aesthetics of Place. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1994.

Gretlund, Jan Nordby, and Karl-Heinz Westarp, eds. The Late Novels of Eudora Welty. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1998.

Johnston, Carol Ann. Eudora Welty: A Study of the Short Fiction. New York: Twayne, 1997.

Kreyling, Michael. Understanding Eudora Welty. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1999.

McHaney, Pearl Amelia, ed. Eudora Welty: Writers’ Reflections upon First Reading Welty. Athens, Ga.: Hill Street Press, 1999.

Montgomery, Marion. Eudora Welty and Walker Percy: The Concept of Home in Their Lives and Literature. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2004.

Waldron, Ann. Eudora: A Writer’s Life. New York: Doubleday, 1998.

Weston, Ruth D. Gothic Traditions and Narrative Techniques in the Fiction of Eudora Welty. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1994.