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, November 2, 2015

"A Waitress". A Short Story by Constance Fenimore Woolson (March 1894, Harper's Magazine, included in Dorotny and Other Italian Stories)

A Post by Ambrosia Boussweau, European Correspodent of The Reading Life Concerning How Italians Are Viewed in the Italian stories of Constance Fenimore Woolson 

Contains a good short bio and a list of her works.

Mel has talled about the contrasts we have seen in the short stories of Constance Fenimore Woolson between Protestants  and Catholics. Lighter versus darker skinned people (in the context of these stories of Woolson darker skin toned Europeans like Italians and Minorcans are Catholics and Americans and the English are depicted and assumed to be Protestants and lighter skinned. The stereotypes of the time  meant lighter skinned people were more concerned for the future, more even tempered and in control of their impulses, harder working and less inclined to violence.  On the negative, they are seen as relatively repressed, dominated by social concerns, and not in touch with their emotions.  They also more or less take for grant do their social superiority.

In "A Waitress" two Americans friends have been reunited after a long hiatus.  One has a villa in the Tuscan hills and his friend is visiting.  They are enjoying a delicious meal cooked by  the man's chef.  The food is served by Modesto, who is called "a waitress".   She is very much a nurturing kind person, feeding beggars and stray cats.    The conversations about the woman are about herm great value as a servant.  Italian servants, as depicted in the stories, are not just employees, they look up to their employers as their "masters".  Modesta's fiancĂ© also works at the villa, he is an unreliable layabout who will be a very poor husband.   The conversational,tone is superior and condescending, through it Moseta is praised for her goodness of heart and her loyalty.

There is a big fiesta the men attend.  Constance does an excellent job of describing the actions at the fiesta.  Among the many locals at the fiesta is a Swedish woman, temporarily stuck there.  Compressing a lot, the party is really fun to read about, the Swedish woman dances with Modesto's fiancĂ©.  Modesto goes crazy and pulls out a knife and has to be restrained from killing the other woman.  

I will stop telling the plot here as I hope some will read her stories.  The ending could if you wanted to,be seen as two Americans basically shrugging of the violent action with the suggestion "That is just the way they are".  Of course this does  not mean these are the values of the author, though they were of the time and class of the visitors to Italy depicted in the stories.

Ambrosia Boussweau 

1 comment:

Suko said...

This story sounds quite fascinating. Very nice presentation, Ambrosia. I have been introduced to many short stories on The Reading Life, which is a wonderful, prolific book blog.