Last Reviewed on March 16, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 692
Eudora Welty's Collected Stories includes forty-one pieces, almost of them previously published in other collections of Welty's work; altogether, the book spans years of Welty’s writing career. Many of the stories have women protagonists, some of whom are alienated from their relationships and living situations. Only rarely do they take steps to change those situations.
In “A Piece of News,” previously published in A Curtain of Green, a woman named Ruby Fisher reads a story in a newspaper about a woman named Ruby Fisher who had been shot in the leg by her husband. Although this is obviously a different person, the flash of recognition is enough to prompt her to feel angry toward her husband as well as vaguely uneasy about something she cannot quite pinpoint, “an untouched mystery.” The third-person narrator describes Ruby’s personality as both passive and not passive, touched with restlessness:
Her anger passed like a remote flare of elation. Neatly avoiding the table where the bag of coffee stood, she began to walk nervously about the room, as if a teasing indecision, an untouched mystery, led her by the hand. There was one window, and she paused now and then, waiting, looking out at the rain. When she was still, there was a passivity about her, or a deception of passivity, that was not really passive at all. There was something in her that never stopped.
One of Welty’s most well-known stories is “A Worn Path,” in which an elderly African American woman makes a long journey into town; only at the end do we learn that her purpose is to obtain medicine for her grandson. Phoenix Jackson is poor but determined; she has no car and walks almost everywhere. Her clothes and accessories reflect her poverty, as the cane she carries was made from an umbrella, and the apron she wears over her dress was pieced together from sugar sacks. Welty describes the terrain she traverses and the conversations she carries on with animals, whether present or not, and a scarecrow she encounters in an empty field. Although she is determined to reach her destination, her mind sometimes plays tricks on her:
[S]he sat down to rest. he spread her skirts on the bank around her and folded her hands over her knees. Up above her was a tree in a pearly cloud of mistletoe. She did not dare to close her eyes, and when a little boy brought her a plate with a slice of marble-cake on it she spoke to him. “That would be acceptable,” she said. But when she went to take it there was just her own hand in the air.
(The entire section contains 692 words.)
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