Women and Western American Literature

By Helen Winter Stauffer; Susan J. Rosowski | Go to book overview

NOTES
1.
Arthur R. Huseboe and William Geyer, "Herbert Krause and the Western Experience", in Where the West Begins, ed. Huseboe and Geyer ( Sioux Falls, South Dakota: Center for Western Studies Press, 1978), p. 9.
2.
Throughout this essay my discussion of the tall tale takes as a foundation Constance Rourke seminal explorations of the American character in American Humor ( New York: Harcourt, Brace, and Jovanovich, 1931).
3.
Eudora Welty, The Robber Bridegroom ( New York: Atheneum Press, 1963), p. 2. All subsequent references are to the same text and follow quotations in text.

A number of critics have noted the influence of tall tale humor on Welty's story. Alfred Kazin first said that the book "captures. . .the lost fabulous innocence of our departed frontier" ( An Enchanted World in America, in The New York Herald Tribune Book Review ( 25 October 1942, p. 19). He is quoted by Ruth Vande Kieft in Eudora Welty ( New York: Twayne, 1962, p. 166), while Alfred Appel Jr. echoes the same words without quotation in A Season of Dreams ( Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Louisiana State University Press, 1965, p. 72). No critic, so far as I know, has studied carefully how Welty varies the narrative conventions of the tall tale to convey her historical vision. Most dismiss the connection in one line; for example, John Peale Bishop remarks in the New Republic, 16 November 1942, "If Miss Welty meant to establish that our tall tale is the equivalent of the European folk tale she fails to do so." Although I do not deal with Welty's mythic or fairy tale sources, much discussed in general studies of her work, I do not mean to imply that her use of the tall tale style is her exclusive interest in the novel.

Many later Welty stories show the influence of western storytelling, particularly her experiments in first-person narration ( The Ponder Heart and "Why I Live at the P.O."). Losing Battles, like The Robber Bridegroom, accepts the incongruous chaos of the frontier or backwoods world, while

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