The Critical Response to Eudora Welty's Fiction

By Laurie Champion | Go to book overview

Name and Symbol in the Prose of Eudora Welty

William M. Jones

Although most critics tend to classify Eudora Welty as only a good regional writer, a careful look at her yet unexplained symbols will, perhaps, make it clear that she has something more in mind than regional atmosphere. The tortuous path she sets for her reader leads through a forest of symbol, but there is a path and there is a reward at its end. From her earliest published work to her latest collection of stories Miss Welty has drawn heavily upon the worlds of myth and folklore1 and, while handling many of the same motifs again and again, has consistently absorbed them more and more fully into her own meaning, so that in her most successful work it is impossible to say that here is Cassiopeia and here Andromeda. The reader can only be aware that these legendary figures, along with similar ones from Germanic, Celtic, Sanskrit, and numerous other folk sources, are suggested by the characters that Miss Welty is drawing.

Miss Welty, although never alluding directly to her own method of writing, has occasionally made statements that would seem to justify her use of folk material as source: "And of course the great stories of the world are the ones that seem new to their readers on and on, always new because they keep their power of revealing something."2 According to this quotation, she might feel justified in presenting a story firmly based in antiquity in terms familiar to her own generation. Thus, her seemingly new stories might draw upon the great stories of all time for their "power of revealing something."

____________________
1
Although I agree with the distinction between myth, legend and fairytale made by Susanne K. Langer , Philosophy in a New Key ( New York, 1955), p. 144, such careful differentiation is not necessary for the purpose of this paper.
2
" The Reading and Writing of Short Stories," Atlantic Monthly, CLXXXIII ( February, 1949), p. 54.

-173-

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