The Critical Response to Eudora Welty's Fiction

By Laurie Champion | Go to book overview

Full-Length Portrait

Kay Boyle

In her introduction to Eudora Welty's collection of short stories, Katherine Anne Porter has said a number of profoundly true and sensitive things. She has said them of Miss Welty, whom she describes as "a quiet, tranquillooking, modest girl" who was brought to visit her one hot midsummer evening in Louisiana; and she says them of Miss Welty as a writer with a writer's responsibility and problem to consider; and lastly, she says them of the actual writing Miss Welty has done. I speak of these remarks of Miss Porter's here because they seem to me to offer as good a set of standards to bring to the evaluation of writers and writing as any I have seen.

Miss Porter tells us that Miss Welty spends "an immense amount of time" writing, although the fact that she does write is either not known or, if known, dismissed as of little importance in the Mississippi town where Miss Welty has spent the relatively few years of her life. We learn that she listens to music, cultivates flowers and leads the "normal social life" which exists in any medium-sized town; we learn, too, that she was never in any hurry either to be published or acclaimed, and that she possessed that happy and "instinctive knowledge that writing cannot be taught, but only learned, and learned by the individual in his own way, at his own pace, and in his own time." To complete this gravely and brilliantly executed portrait, Miss Porter adds that Miss Welty has been spared a "militant social consciousness," which Miss Porter believes can only serve to narrow, not to widen, the creative artist's way. When the artist "disassociates himself from the human world in favor of a set of political, which is to say, inhuman rules," Miss Porter writes, "he cuts himself away from his proper society -- living men."

Here then is Miss Welty's equipment, and it is a singularly uncorrupt equipment in much the same way that Emily Dickinson's was. Add to it what Miss Porter defines as "an active and disciplined imagination," and we

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