Themes and Meanings
“Shower of Gold” opens The Golden Apples (1949), a collection of stories that has much of the unity of a novel. It can be argued that the collection has a kind of lyrical form. Eudora Welty describes the pervading impulse of the collection when she describes her motive for writing as a lyrical impulse “to praise, to love, to call up, to prophesy.” Some of the meanings of “Shower of Gold” emerge from examining the allusions to myths.
The title alludes to the story of Zeus’s intercourse with Danae, mother of Perseus. According to Ovid, Perseus was “conceived in joy beneath a shower of gold.” Snowdie is similar to Danae, whose father did not want her to bear children, in that the people of Morgana see her as fated to remain single because she is an albino. King is like Zeus in his reputation for fornication and, later, for adultery. That their children are twins suggests an allusion to the union of Zeus with Leda, which produced two pairs of twins. By associating King with Zeus and Snowdie with at least two of Zeus’s mortal lovers, Welty sets up an opposition that gives meaning to the story and that is elaborated in the other stories of The Golden Apples.
To Mrs. Rainey, one of the mysteries of the McLain marriage is that Snowdie is quite happy to be abandoned with only her children. During King’s absence, she lives contentedly, “taking joy in her fresh untracked rooms and that dark, quiet, real quiet hall that runs through her house.” This happiness arises from the opposition between Snowdie and King. This opposition may be described with the terms “Apollonian” and “Dionysian” as Friedrich Nietzsche uses them in Die Geburt der Tragödie aus dem Geiste der Musik (1872; The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music, 1909).
Snowdie is Apollonian, preferring a quiet, orderly, and stable life. She is willing and happy, on the whole, to live her life in the narrow, intensely rule-governed town of Morgana, where public opinion rigidly enforces social and sexual morality. King is Dionysian, a wanderer of the fields and of the world, lawless, promiscuous, and fascinating. His principle of being seems to require that he flout rules and...
(The entire section is 554 words.)