|"Tell my old friend Elizabeth Bowen|
I will be back for her day during
Irish Story Week"-Eudora Welty-
So far I have read and posted on two of Eudora Welty (1909 to 2001-Mississippi, USA), "Why I Live at the P. O." and "The Petrified Man". (I included a bit of background information on Welty in those posts, so in this post I will just talk briefly about two more of her stories that I was very happy to find online.)
Welty's stories all seem to be set in small Mississippi towns in the 1930s and 1940s. Several of them are set in Victory, Mississippi, a town she made up. Each of the four stories I have read so far are really quite unique.
I will generalize a little at the end of the post.
"Worn Path" is about a very old Black woman on her way to a clinic to get medicine for her grandson. It is told in a very simple style, almost as if it were a folk story rather than the carefully crafted work of art it is. As the woman makes her long journey she encounters obstacles (at times it almost felt like something out of The Wizard of Oz) from a barking dogs to a young Caucasian hunter. (As background information, we do need to know that setting is one in which racism is very much still a daily factor in life and is accepted as the norm.) The hunter tries to help her, offering her a nickel but he treats the woman-old enough to be his great-grandmother with no respect as if she were a simple minded child. The woman also clearly has a diminished mental capacity brought on by her old age. The story seems so simple on the surface but it admits of many readings but just for the mere facts of the story as well as the multiple symbolic themes we can find-
You can read "Worn Path" online here
"Lily and the Three Ladies" is about Lilly,a learning challenged girl now grown to sexual maturity. Her mother died a long time ago and three ladies have been taking care of her. Now that she is becoming physically an adult they want to put her in a home This passage set the tone of the story and also gives a good sense of Welty's prose style in the story:
Mrs Watts and Mrs Carson were both in the post office in Victory when the letter came from the Ellisville Institute for the Feeble Minded of Mississippi. Aimee Slocum, with her hand still full of mail, ran out in front and handed it straight to Mrs Watts, and they all three read it together. Mrs Watts held it taut between her pink hands, and Mrs Carson underscored each line slowly with her thimbled finger. Everybody else in the post office wondered what was up now.
"What will Lily say," beamed Mrs Carson at last, "when we tell her we're sending her to Ellisville!"
Lily has her own idea. Lily tells them she is going to get married!- They ask her to who and it turns out it is to a musician in a traveling show that passed through the town last night. Everybody assumes the worse. It was very interesting to see how the ladies talk about the possible molestation of Lily in the very reticent era and place of the story. They assume at first the musician just told her he wanted to marry her to get her to sleep with him. There is a really neat twist here and will not spoil it. It is very interesting to see how Welty shows us the very different attitudes toward Lily of each of the three women.
"Lily and the Three Ladies" can be read online here. (This goes to a web page of the New York Times and I had to register-free-to view the story.)
If you like you can go to Youtube and search and you will find a very wonderful interview with Welty where she talks about "A Worn Path" and also dramatizations of these stories.
Welty's stories seem to be about marginal people in small town Mississippi but they are really universal in their application, I think. They seem very simple but they have a myth feel and I think they could sink down into your mind if you read them a few times. So far I not have a favorite among her stories.
Please leave a comment if you might be interested in participating in Irish Short Story Week-March 13 to the 20-