Themes

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 255

The Golden Apples by Eudora Welty is a collection of seven short stories—all related and largely within the same setting. Published in 1949, the collection is largely regarded as a sort of novel and as Welty's authorial masterpiece.

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The mythological framework is a theme that is carried throughout the collection. All but one of the stories are set in Morgana, Mississippi. Although this town does not actually exist, it's possible that the name is an allusion to a type of mirage conjured by the legendary sorceress Morgana le Fay. The title itself borrows from multiple mythological frameworks—the Norse pantheon eats golden apples that give them immortality, and the Greeks told the story of Atlanta and her golden apples. This structural background of mythological presence allows Welty to make her own characters become myth-like. In the first story, King MacLain is risen to a sort of mythological status with his many wanderings and stories told about him.

But humans are not gods, nor are they immortal, so the reader can see the theme of mortality and human frailty, which brings an appropriate conclusion to the stories. Even King MacLain, a figure hearkening back to Zeus himself, finally has his moment of memento mori—a reminder that he will die. "The Wanderers" is the seventh and final story which depicts the funeral of the first narrator and the ruminations on life of one of the (possible) children of MacLeod. Either a demigod or mere mortal, Virgie eventually leaves her hometown and closes the story of Morgana.

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