The Critical Response to Eudora Welty's Fiction

By Laurie Champion | Go to book overview

Fiction in Review

Diana Trilling

I find it difficult to determine how much of my distaste for Eudora Welty's new book, Delta Wedding," is dislike of its literary manner and how much is resistance to the culture out of which it grows and which it describes so fondly. But actually, I think, Miss Welty's style and her cultural attitude are not to be separated. It is impossible for me to conceive of a Northern or Western or, for that matter, a European or an Australian or an African scene that could provoke an exacerbation of poeticism to equal Miss Welty's in this novel. Compared to Miss Welty's sensibility, the sensibility of a Katherine Mansfield, a Sylvia Townsend Warner, a Christina Stead, or an Edita Morris -- to name some of the writers, all of them women, notable in our time for the delicacy of their intensities -- presents itself as a crude, corporeal thing indeed. Dolls' houses, birds, moonlight, snow, the minutiae of vulnerable young life and the sudden revelations of nature way have their distressingly persistent way of agitating the modern female literary psyche in whatever climate or social context; but it seems tome that only on a Southern plantation could the chance remark of a gardener to the effect that he wished there "wouldn't be a rose in de world" set the lady of the house to "trembling . . . as at some impudence."

It is out of tremulousnesses like this, as a matter of fact, that the whole of Miss Welty's novel is built. Dramatically speaking, nothing happens in Delta Wedding." Miss Welty is telling the story of seven days in the life of the Fairchild family of Mississippi: it is the week in which Dabney, the seventeen-year-old daughter of the house, is being married to her father's overseer. Relatives pay calls and are called upon; meals are eaten; gifts arrive; people dance; servants rally in the established plantation fashion. Domestic bustle and a spattering of family reminiscences are all the narrative structure Miss Welty needs to house her treasures of sensibility.

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