Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

The Stories of Elizabeth Spencer is a collection of short stories by one of the most-admired writers in that genre. As a native Mississippian, Elizabeth Spencer is well aware of the restrictions that a traditional society places on all of its members and especially on its women. Many of the characters in her stories are torn between their desire for freedom from family and community pressures and their equally intense need for the sense of stability and permanence that they derive from their heritage.

The collection is introduced by two brief but significant essays. In her preface, the author asserts that even though many of her stories were written while she was living in Italy or in Montreal, she can see that at least in memory the South was always with her. While she was always conscious of place, however, it was not until she had been writing for three decades that a unifying theme appeared in her fiction: the affirmation that girls and women can find ways to make what is for them a very difficult world “possible, livable.”

The foreword by Eudora Welty points to one source of support for such women. As Welty describes their friendship of long standing, which began when Spencer was still in college, it is evident that this relationship, based on respect for each other as individuals and as writers, meant much to both women. Spencer’s fellow Mississippian sees qualities in her friend’s fiction that reflect the tradition of...

(The entire section is 570 words.)