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

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

"Lily Daw and the Three Sisters" by Eudora Welty Her First Short Story

"Lily Daw and the Three Sisters" by Eudora Welty (1941)

The Short Stories of Eudora Welty
A Reading Life Review Project

Today I am starting another Reading Life Review project.   I intend to read post at least briefly on all of the collected short stories of Eudora Welty. Maybe I will finish this project in a couple of months or it might take years but I am very happy to be adding it to my projects.   My post on her story, "The Well Worn Path" is among the top ten most viewed, out of 1202, posts on my blog so I know world wide interest in her work is very high. ( I am going to repost on stories I have previously read by Welty as I come to them in my sequential reading of her work.)

Eudora Welty (1909 to 2001, Mississippi, USA) is one of several  great writers from the American southern state of Mississippi.   (There is some background information on her in my prior posts on some of her short stories.)

Today I am posting on the lead story in Welty's first collection of short stories, A Curtain of Green and Other Stories, "Lily Daw and the Three Ladies".   The opening line of this story is perfect its is compression of so much of history and society in one sentence.

"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."

The news in the letter is great, they learn that their niece Lily, a full grown mentally retarded woman, has been accepted at the  Ellisville Institute for the Feeble Minded of Mississippi.   They tell each other how happy Lily will be when she hears the great news.   Lily came into their care through a family tragedy and they are frankly worried about what kind of trouble Lily, who is is physically a grown and attractive woman, will get herself into and they want her off their hands.    When they tell Lily the big news she has big news of her own, she is getting married.   Of course this causes great consternation and they demand to know who the identity of the man.   They are also concerned if he has done something with Lily.   The conversations about this are just perfect. Lily does not want to go to the home for the feeble minded but somehow her aunts get her on the train going to Ellisville.   There feelings for her come out totally when we learn that they will not actually acompany her all the way there and will just hope the institute sends someone to pick her up.   Then just as the train is ready to leave, Lily sees a man on the train platform and yells out, there he is!.

The rest of the story is just so amazing and speaks so deeply of the cruelty and sexual fears of the older women in the story that I will leave it untold.

Welty is a master of dialect.   I loved this story and am totally looking forward to reading all of her short stories.

Do you have a favorite Welty story?   Please share your experience with Welty with us.

My thanks to Max u for giving me a gift card which allowed me to purchase the ebook in which I read this story.

Mel u


Caroline said...

I have read Why I Live at the P.O. and was very impressed by it. I was planning on reading one of her novels next. I'm sure she is a fine novelist as well.

Suko said...

This sounds like a short story not to be missed!

Dwight said...

You're in for something special. Welty has long been one of my favorite writers. Looks like I need to revisit her soon...thanks!

Mel u said...

Caroline. Yes that is a great story

Suko. Thanks as always for your comments

Dwight. I wish I could watch the Parades End Bbc program!

Buried In Print said...

What a fantastic project, and I'm seriously tempted to join you. Especially as it would make a fascinating accompaniment to my read-through of Munro stories. (They are often discussed in company.)

I think I have a copy of her collected stories here; I'll lay hands on it and see if it starts with the story that you've begun with (I don't understand collections, even when one thinks there are complete, different editions' contents may vary).

Mel u said...

Buried in Print. It would be great for us to read these together. I will read all and post on a few. The edition I have, an e book, the cover is in my sidebar, has 65 stories

Buried In Print said...

My edition includes a 1980 preface from EW that says it includes all her published stories to date and two unpublished stories. There are 41. So my hunch is that she continued to publish and I could fill the gap by collecting the later volumes (must be two?) when the time comes. And, yes, the first is the first as it appears in your collection, too, so that will be my first stop; I'm looking forward to them!

Mel u said...

Buried in Print. My edition has 41 stories also so we have same one. Hope you can read along. I will step up my very neglected Munro reading. Lots of her stories can bye read online, ok maybe lots is a stretch but a good number.

Buried In Print said...

At first glance, this seems such a simple and accessible story and yet there is a lot of detail there.

Even the title is revealing, at least once you read the story, because clearly Lily Daw is no lady, whereas the other three women certainly are. (I wonder, will she be considered a lady after the end of the story?) Three Ladies AND Lily.

And there simple sentences that seem to reverberate with more meaning. Like this, about Lily: "She had a purse and a Bible and a warm cake in a box, all in her lap." (It *seems* as though she has all the trappings of being a lady, but no....)

I enjoyed the descriptions (of the unpainted house that leans, for instance) and the dialogue, but most of all I was amazed at how distinct those three women become, over only a few pages. And what I think has the most scope for discussion is the ending (but I won't give anything away). How lonely it all must be for Lily, even when surrounded by so many people.

I wasn't planning to post on each story myself, but I can already see that I'll be adding great gobs to your comment section otherwise, so I might have to rethink. Awfully glad to be trying these stories though!

Mel u said...

Buried in Print-thanks so much for your comment-I thought about your observation of the three things Lily had in her lap-it is almost as if her aunts are trying to turn her into a lady by giving her these things for her trip-