Moon Lake Summary
by Eudora Welty

Start Your Free Trial

Moon Lake Summary

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Download Moon Lake Study Guide

Subscribe Now

“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 difference in viewpoint is the lengthy discussion among Nina, Jinny Love, and Easter about their names. Because no one around Morgana is named Easter, Jinny says, Easter’s name is not a real name. Troubled, Nina tries to convince Easter that her name is merely misspelled; if it is in fact Esther, she says, it could be a real name, because there are other people around Morgana who are named Esther. Nevertheless, Easter will not be renamed. While the girls from Morgana derive their senses of identity from their senses of family and community, Easter is proud of being her own creation. She has no father, and her mother has abandoned her. She was free to name herself, and now she is free to choose her own future, in a way that Nina and Jinny Love cannot be. If Easter goes off to become a singer, as she plans, no one will argue with her.

The girls from Morgana are always alert for outward signs of social deficiency, such as the dirt ring at the back of Easter’s neck and the mispronounced words of the Yankee counselor, Mrs. Gruenwald. They accept the fact that Loch is different; after all, he is a boy. When, at the end of the story, they see him silhouetted in his tent, stark naked, they speculate as to whether he has been beating his chest, Tarzan-like. Nina is fascinated enough by these outsiders to wish that she could slip into their skins, if only...

(The entire section is 713 words.)