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, October 15, 2012

"The Hitch-Hikers" by Eudora Welty

"The Hitch-Hikers" by Eudora Welty

The Short Story Initiative for October
Crime Stories

"Toward Evening, somewhere in the middle of the Delta, he slowed down to pick up two hitch-hikers".

A Simple Clockwork, my collaborator in The Short Stories of the Philippines Project, is holding a yearlong event  devoted to the short story.   Every month she offers us a  different theme.   This month it is crime stories and in November the focus will be on short stories from India.  (You can find more data on her blog and learn how to participate.   Last month we had short story enthusiasts from all over the world join in.)

One of my several reading projects is The Collected  Short Stories of Eudora Welty.   I intend to read all of them, maybe it will take a month or maybe years, and post on some of them.   For me personally it is too time consuming to post on all of the stories.   I was originally not planning to post on "The Hitch-Hikers" until I realized it was a perfect Southern Gothic style crime story which would allow me to participate in Nancy's event.   (You can find some background information on Welty in my prior posts on her work)

One of the words of received wisdom in the American South is "never pick up hitch-hikers".  ( "Hitch-Hiker" is American slang for a person who solicits a ride from a stranger by standing on the side of the road with their thumb stuck out.).   Hitch-Hikers were considered to likely be escaped convicts and such and female hitch-hikers were looked upon as likely prostitutes.   These parental warnings did not always sink in as we learn in this great story.

Tom Harris, a thirty year old travelling salesman (travelling salesmen are big in the short stories of the American South) picks up two men by the side of the road, one with a guitar case.  The car is crowded in the back with his supplies so they all have to sit in the front seat.  The one with the guitar starts to sing.  They begin to talk.   Mississippi in the late 1930s was in the midst of a horrible economic time so tramps were common.    They stop to get some food, the tramps are his company, and he buys them some lunch and beer when they stop at a roadside place, also a brothel.  The guitar player begins to sing.  There is a huge amount in this story.   I think I can tell the conclusion without spoiling the story but if you do not want to know the end stop here.

The tramp that does not have the guitar murders the one that does by bashing his head in with the guitar case.  He reveals they had intended to steal the car also.   The killing was motivated by feeling that one tramp thought because he had a guitar he was better than the  other.    The biggest quandary at the end of the story is who will get the guitar now that the owner is dead and the other man is headed for prison or a death sentence.

Please share with us your favorite Welty story and consider joining in for The Short Story Initiative  for October, focusing on Crime stories.

Mel u
The Reading Life


joanne fox said...

I have only read one Eudora Welty story, I think it was set in a haridressing salon. It impressed me though, and I've been meaning to seek out more. Thanks for the reminder. It's also lovely to see what she looked like.

Buried In Print said...

Oh! There are six stories between Lily Daw and this one in my edition: I'm already soooo far behind! LOL

Mel u said...

Joanne Fox-I think you mean "The Petrified Man", a great story. thanks so much for your comment

Buried in Print-for me it is too time consuming to post on all her stories-I will post on at least ten out of the collection. thanks so much for your comments and visits-I really appreciate it-

HKatz said...

I haven't read much of Welty yet, but have a couple of her books (one novel, one short story collection) on my to-read list.

A while ago I read a short story she wrote about a grandmother who takes a long difficult walk to town to get medicine for her grandson. It's called "A Worn Path" and is very poignant.

Unknown said...

That's interesting. I've never read a story by Welty before. But I did read a story that revolves around a familiar theme, written by Ruth Rendell, except that in the story, the hitch-hiker has an awful reason to really hitch-hike and she ended up dead in the end.

Enzo Potel said...

Hello, Mel! I´m from Brazil, a huge fan of Eudora Welty´s short stories.
I keep a blog about the southern writers, but i love Mansfield and Woolf too.
Your blog is going to make me buy the Elizabeth Bowen´s Collected!
I´m waiting for the portuguese translation of "Loving", by Henry Green, very well commented by Welty and Bowen.

Have you ever read some of the Evan S Connell´s short stories? He´s amazing, very human and delicate. Died this month! Try "Arcturus", or "The Condor and the Guests" (from his first book, superb!)

Well, Welty! My favorite story is, with no doubt, "No Place for You, My Love". Then i discovered that magical experience with reality that is "The Golden Apples", and almost all the stories of this book touched me very much.
But from her first book, i think "Death of a Traveling Salesman" is amazing and is a kind of key to all of her works.

Congratulations for this blog!

jade said...

Nice post. It shows how rich could a literature be in terms of translation.Through translating shows the rich blend of knowledge and culture in a society.Whether in Portuguese translation or in any foreign language translation helps one to get acquainted with the thoughts, traditions, principles and actions of the people from the region..I could say that translators really play a big role in our society.I can't see machines taking over the jobs of human translators in the near future, as they have done with so many other professions.

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Unknown said...

I really appreciate this post. I am one of the people who loves reading but not yet read Welty's books. this therefore makes them the next books on my reading list. I hope they will be among the interesting books in my life.