Moon Lake Questions and Answers
by Eudora Welty

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In the short story, Moon Lake by Eudora Welty, what are the literary symbols that my teacher is requesting?  I am having trouble picking them out.

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Madeleine Wells eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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3)Phallic Symbols.

Both the lake and surrounding landscape are characterized as masculine in character and an element of rugged sexuality. The lake is euphemistically called Mr. Dip, and it is watched over by a powerful lord of the woods, in the person of the enigmatic and virile Loch Howard.

"Gee, we think you're mighty nice," they sang to Mr. Dip, gasping, pounding their legs in him. If they let their feet go down, the invisible bottom of the leg felt like soft, knee-deep fur. The sharp, hard knobs came up where least expected. The Morgana girls of course wore bathing slippers, and the mud loved to suck them off.

Loch watches over his domain and keeps order by blowing on his horn (a phallic symbol) the proper times for eating, rising, and sleeping. In the story, his own rescue of Easter from a near-drowning is described in the context of a curiously erotic act, where the male dominates over the female.

He lifted up, screwed his toes, and with a groan of his own fell upon her and drove up and down upon her, into her, gouging the heels of his hands into her ribs again and again.

Loch's saving of Easter, the female camper with the most masculine energy in her group, symbolizes the rite of passage every girl endures in her initiation into the mysteries of the patriarchal power structure. The male dominates as well as saves. This dichotomy confuses the girls who watch helplessly:

"Keep away. Keep away, I told you, you better keep away. Leave me alone," Loch Howard was saying with short breaths. They hated him, Nina most of all. Almost, they hated Easter...

In saving Easter, the dominant, masculine figure of Loch also joins himself to the feminine.

By now, the Boy Scout seemed for ever part of Easter and she part of him, he in motion on the up and down, and she stretched across.

Please note: The incomplete sentence in Answer 1 'However, like Morgana, they also...' should read:

However, like Morgana, they also hold the essence of life in their feminine frames; how they choose to wield their power lends considerable irony to the story. In legend, the famed Morgana Le Fay appropriated Merlin's power and position for her own; similarly, at the end of the story, Nina and Jinny Love decide that they will be old maids for life, thus rebelling against what they consider to be a suffocating masculine power structure. They resolutely reject Loch Howard's masculine agency, deciding to forego both masculine protection and love, despite Loch's saving of Easter's life.


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Madeleine Wells eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Literary symbols are usually objects, events, actions, or even characters which represent deeper ideas within the context of a story.

Literary symbols and examples.

Some symbols in Eudora Welty's Moon Lake:

1)Morgana, Loch, and Moon Lake.

The lake, a symbol in itself, is extremely important in Eudora Welty's works. Water symbolizes both salvation and the presence of treacherous challenges, and this is highlighted in various ways in the short story, Moon Lake. In the Arthurian Legend, Morgana was the goddess of the lake. She was also a shape-shifter, enchantress, and a healer. It is, therefore, no accident that the paying campers in Eudora Welty's story are from a town named Morgana. As paying campers, the high society girls claim precedence in terms of their patronage and on account of their status in society. They are like little 'goddesses' who treat the orphan campers with contempt and disdain. However, like Morgana, they also

Loch is an Irish and Scottish Gaelic word for a fresh-water lake. It is also the name of the lone lifeguard at the camp, Loch Howard. Indeed, in the story, Loch is a presence unto himself and set apart from his girl charges. In fact, he doesn't even want to be there; he's just been roped into guard duty by his mother.

Loch Howard appears to be a symbol for the King of the Wood in Diana's sacred grove. In reference to the name Moon Lake, we know that Diana is the moon and huntress goddess of mythology. Her sacred grove at Lake Nemi is the site for periodic battles to the death; the grove is also a place for redemption. According to the legend, a sacred oak tree grows in Diana's grove. No one may break off any branch of the tree without permission, and only a runaway slave may do so if he is brave enough to attempt it. In breaking off a branch, the slave earns the right to fight the King of the Woods to the death and to earn the title of Rex Nemorensis (King of Lake Nemi Grove) if he emerges as the victor. The spilled blood of the combatants nourish and fertilize the earth in the sacred grove, and the new king holds his position until his sovereignty is challenged by another runaway slave.

Source: Lake Nemi:Diana's Sacred Grove.

In the story, Moon Lake, Loch Howard is the quintessential King of the Woods. He is set apart from the girls not only by his position, but also by his virility and his physical superiority. As with every King of the Wood in Diana's sacred grove, he is a man who eats, sleeps, and walks alone. Loch represents patriarchal power and detached leadership. He becomes a figure of fascination for the girls; they are simultaneously afraid of him and obsessed with his soulful rendition of taps every evening. As with Diana's Lake Nemi grove, the lake at the camp is treacherous; it's full of weeds and cypress roots, and it is a place of conflict. The lake is where the girls who can swim claim superiority over the girls who cannot. As in the Lake Nimi myth, the lake camp at Moon Lake is also the place where Loch Howard has to prove his fitness as lord of the woods and trusted protector.

2)The book, The Re-creation of Brian Kent.

In the story of Brian Kent, we have a protagonist who tries to commit suicide by drowning after he discovers his beloved wife's infidelity. The river, with its treacherous currents and sunken rocks, is both a challenge and a redemptive element in Brian's life. When his wife's life hangs in the balance after an accident in the river, Brian tries to revive her despite their estrangement. In doing so, he both redeems himself and rises above the destructive power of his wife's base hedonism. His wife dies, but Brian succeeds in overcoming the challenges of his past in order to carve a new beginning with Betty Jo by his side.

In Moon Lake, Jinny Love catches Nina reading The Re-creation of Brian Kent. It isn't a book fit for ten year olds, and Nina sheepishly puts it aside. However, the book itself symbolizes the need to transcend the status quo and to overcome the strictures which threaten to circumscribe one's freedom. Thus, both Jinny Love and Nina (paying campers) are fascinated with Easter (the presumed leader of the orphans). Easter represents independence and individuality. She is adventurous, unconventional, and thumbs her nose at traditional norms of conduct for a young lady. In the story, she owns a large jack-knife, which is confiscated when Jinny Love tells on her. Later, the girls are horrified and fascinated by her smoking habit. The book also foreshadows Loch's efforts to save Easter when she experiences a near-drowning, recapitulating Auntie Sue's rescue of Brian Kent in The Re-creation of Brian Kent.

Read about a review of The Re-creation of Brian Kent by Dr. Joyce Kinkead.




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