“Moon Lake” illustrates how complex the relationships within a group can be and how subtly the distinctions between insider and outsider can be drawn. The story begins by pointing out that the girls at summer camp on Moon Lake are very much aware of lifeguard Loch Morrison’s deliberate dissociation from them. Although Loch must work as their lifeguard, he does not intend to become a member of their group. The group of girls is split into two segments: the regular, paying campers from Morgana, Mississippi, three miles away, and the charity campers, who are orphans from the county home. The two groups dress differently and behave differently. The Morgana girls swim confidently, while the orphans, who cannot swim, simply stand nervously in the water until they are allowed to come out.
As the story progresses, Welty makes it clear that different people have different perceptions of social acceptance. For example, from Loch’s lonely eminence as the only male in camp, all the girls are beyond the pale; he is secure in his society of one. To the leaders of the Morgana group, Nina Carmichael and Jinny Love Stark, it is the orphans who are outsiders. The Morgana girls automatically stick out their tongues at the orphans, only occasionally shifting from contempt into condescending pity. Easter, however, the leader of the orphans, scorns the soft girls from town, who do not even own jackknives, must less know how to throw them.
One example of the...
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