Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Monday, March 7, 2011

Two Short Stories by Eudora Welty-"Worn Path" and "Lily and the Three Ladies"

"Worn Path" (1941, 8 pages) by "Lilly and the Three Ladies" (1940, 6 pages) both by Eudora Welty

"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-

Mel u


As the Crowe Flies and Reads said...

Yes, yes, yes. I love Miss Welty's stories and I am always happy to see that she has a readership beyond the US South where her stories are set. She's one of my favorites!

Unknown said...

first i love eudora welty and would love to participate in irish short story week, as i love short stories.

thanks! :D

Dwight said...

There's a wonderful interview with Welty on YouTube about The Worn Path: Interview

Dwight said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JoAnn said...

I recently purchased Welty's Collected Stories and look forward to reading both of these.

I've returned from London, but haven't managed to get back to my blog yet. Hope to participate in your Irish Short Story week though.

ds said...

Oh, that Ms. Welty, she's a sly one! Now two more must reads...sigh.
Love the festive shamrock background--yes, I will attempt your Irish short story week.

Anonymous said...

Ms Welty's works are so engaging. I seem to want to read every line quickly to get to the next. The place she speaks in Mississippi there is an actually facility for mentally challeged people. The town is actually named Ellisville, Mississippi.

RR@15037 said...

By a circuitous and delayed route, I have discovered your posting, and I want to thank you for reminding me that I need to return to my reading roots: literature from the American south (especially Eudora Welty, Flannery O'Connor, Walker Percy, William Faulkner, and Carson McCullers). Again, thank you; my words are inadequate to express how much your posting has belatedly influenced me. Now, without delay, I return to my roots!

Mel u said...

R T (Tim). I was very moved by your comment. Thanks very much. Maybe like the Irish, writers from the American south gained wisdom in cultural defeat. All the writers you mentioned had relatives who lived through the worse of reconstruction days in the old confederacy.