Eudora Welty: Two Pictures at Once in Her Frame

By Barbara Harrell Carson | Go to book overview

VII
The Tie That Binds: Losing Battles

Losing Battles ( 1970) is Eudora Welty's most complex exploration of how metaphor and imagery can express the human experience of the coexistence of contraries in a way impossible through discursive language. The novel focuses on humanity's eternal involvement in what seem to be hopeless struggles against the same universal enemies: the battles are between people and nature, between generations, between the pull of family ties and the need for individuality, between ignorance and wisdom, between life and death. 1 These battles are almost certain to be lost (that is, the conflicts will never be settled permanently).

Nevertheless, Welty's novel suggests, the paradoxical potential of victory exists: the possibility of acting heroically, of achieving a depth of feeling (compassion, love, courage), and of growing in understanding within the changeless struggles.

This double vision of coexisting victory and defeat is developed in Losing Battles by a group of four overlapping image patterns, within each of which is an apparent contradiction: mythological imagery suggesting heroic grandeur is used to describe simple hill folk of Mississippi in the Thirties; images of motion and of stasis are applied to the same events; circle imagery associated with enclosure and limitation seems contradicted by imagery of chains and spirals; and images of light and darkness describe the same object (indeed, at one point, darkness is explained in terms of light). Welty not only confronts the contradictions within each group, but also connects each group with the other, making Losing Battles not the sprawling, disjunctive novel early critics thought, but an astonishingly unified work. 2

The underlying source of unity in Losing Battles derives primarily from Welty's use of mythology and archetypology.

-117-

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Eudora Welty: Two Pictures at Once in Her Frame
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements vi
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction viii
  • Notes xxv
  • I- Confluence- One Writer''s Beginnings 1
  • Notes 12
  • II- Inside the Labyrinth- The Eye of the Story 13
  • Notes 27
  • III- The Tangled Bank- Stories of Initiation 29
  • Notes 48
  • IV- "The Way Home through the Wilderness"- The Robber Bridegroom 51
  • Notes 69
  • V- A Truer Thing Than Thought- Delta Wedding 72
  • Notes 97
  • VI- In the Heart of Clay- The Ponder Heart 100
  • Notes 115
  • VII- The Tie That Binds- Losing Battles 117
  • Notes 133
  • VIII- Learning to See Bridges- The Optimist''s Daughter 135
  • Afterward 156
  • Notes 157
  • Works Cited 158
  • Index 170
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