The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty Summary
by Eudora Welty

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The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty Summary

The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty is a collection containing the short fiction of American author Eudora Welty. It won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1983.

Eudora Welty was a writer known for her complex portrayal of relationships and for writing on the importance of location. As a writer from the American south, specifically Mississippi, Welty conjured the history and geography of the American South in her writing. Many of Welty's stories grapple with the role of an individual—oftentimes more marginalized individuals such as women or people of color—within society. Two particularly well known stories by Welty are "A Worn Path" and "Why I Live at the P.O."

In "A Worn Path," the narrator describes the various obstacles an elderly black woman, Phoenix Jackson, must overcome in order to go to town and pick up medicine for her grandson. Phoenix faces challenges from nature and also from other humans, showing how entwined she is with her community and surroundings. Although Phoenix shows incredible love and kindness for her grandson, the novel also shows how difficult life is for rural black Americans.

"Why I Live at the P.O." is a short story that takes the form of a monologue. In it, the narrator, referred to as "Sister," explains what led her to leave her family and move all of her personal possessions into the local post office. In the process, Sister reveals many sources of conflict and family secrets. The story is humorous due to the strange logic that Sister and her family use to justify their actions, and also due to the diction, which contains many southern idioms and turns of phrase.

Both stories exemplify Eudora Welty's ability to capture characters who are both a part of their society and in conflict with it, as well as her ability to give voice to characters who might typically be silenced in society.

Summary

(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty contains forty-one stories—the distinguished Southern writer’s complete short fiction—in which, by focusing brilliantly on the Mississippi milieu she knew from her life experiences, Welty creates symbolic situations that transform the ordinary into the mythical. Although Welty’s stories do not often focus on realistic social situations that emphasize the external life of women in Southern society, they are filled with strong and independent women who memorably assert their unique identity.

Typical is Ruby Fisher in “A Piece of News ,” who is trapped in a marriage that allows her no sense of herself as an independent person. When she sees a story in a newspaper describing how a woman named Ruby Fisher was shot in the leg by her husband, her elaborate fantasy of her own death and burial is an ironic effort to find a sense of identity. When her husband tells her that the newspaper is from another state,...

(The entire section is 726 words.)