Keela, the Outcast Indian Maiden by Eudora Welty

Start Your Free Trial

Download Keela, the Outcast Indian Maiden Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Keela, the Outcast Indian Maiden Summary

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Practically the entire story “Keela, the Outcast Indian Maiden” is presented as a dialogue between Steve, a young man who once was the barker for the sideshow in which Little Lee Roy, a clubfooted black man, was presented as Keela, the Outcast Indian Maiden, and Max, a man who runs a café near Lee Roy’s home and who brings Steve to see him. Occasionally, Lee Roy himself enters into the conversation, but primarily the story focuses on Steve trying to explain to Max why he continued in the barker’s job. Ostensibly, Steve has come to find Lee Roy and give him some money, or something, and thus expiate his sin against the humanity of the clubfooted black man. Once he finds him, however, he takes little note of him at all, directing his attention primarily to Max, ignoring Max’s repeated question about whether this man is the same as Keela. The only thing on Steve’s mind is to tell his story.

Steve has come to find Little Lee Roy, the story soon makes clear, not to make any reparation but, like Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner, to implicate someone else, to force Max to understand the meaning of the situation and to make him care. In horrified accents, Steve tells of Keela/Lee Roy biting chickens’ heads off, sucking their blood, and then eating them raw. In his anxious state, Steve says, “I was the one was the cause for it goin’ on an’ on an’ not bein’ found out—such an awful thing. It was me, what I said out front through the megaphone.”

Steve then tells how one man came to the show and exposed the fraud and freed Lee Roy. He insists, however, that he himself did not know the show was a fraud, that he did not know Keela could tell what people were saying to “it.” He says he has been feeling bad ever since and cannot hold on to a job or stay in one place. The fact that he still refers to Keela/Lee Roy as “it,” however, and that he does not see that his continuing to work for the show was immoral regardless of whether the so-called freak was an outcast Indian maiden or a clubfooted black man, indicates that Steve still has not faced the nature of his guilt. He seems puzzled that the man who freed Lee Roy could have studied it out and known something was wrong. “But I didn’t know,” Steve says. “I can’t look at nothin’ an’ be sure what it is. Then afterwards I know. Then...

(The entire section is 675 words.)