Eudora Welty is not merely a brilliant writer, she is a brilliant and gifted storyteller. A product of the South’s rich oral tradition, Welty considers the richness of local speech to be one of the greatest gifts that her heritage has to offer (Vande Kieft 9). Southern speech is characterized by talking, listening, and remembering. Welty, a great listener, based many of her stories on bits of dialogue overheard in her everyday life. However, Welty makes the most of the southern propensity for talking. Her stories are rich in dialect and often take the form of dramatic monologues, as in “Why I live at the P.O.” and “The Petrified Man.”
Southern speech is primarily narrative and frequently takes the form of tall tales, folk tales, and local legends. This holds true in Welty’s writing, in which one will not find mere conversation, but the telling of a story. Often with Welty, the story is not told through the narrator, but rather by the characters (53). It is through this structure that the dramatic monologue appears. In Welty’s “Why I Live at the P.O.,” the postmistress of China Grove, referred to only as “Sister,” is systematically alienated from her family following a fight with her sister, Stella-Rondo, whom she accuses of stealing and running off with her boyfriend, Mr. Whitaker. As the two sisters compete for the support of the family, one by one the family members take up sides with Stella-Rondo, and Sister states her case to the reader. “Stella-Rondo hadn’t done a thing but turn her against me from upstairs while I stood there helpless over the hot stove,” rants Sister. “So that made Mama, Papa-Daddy, and the baby all on Stella-Rondo’s side (Welty 102).
Welty, a true master of language, never received any form of formal education in the field of writing. She was educated through her surroundings, through listening and remembering. Welty’s use of the Southern vernacular is an important element in every story she writes. One also might notice that it is nearly impossible to read one of Eudora Welty’s stories without hearing it as well. Welty’s written Southern speech is highly characteristic of how the language is actually spoken. It is the qualities of the spoken word that show through in Welty’s writing and give it its poetic richness. Although Welty makes frequent use of dialectical spelling and pronunciation, it is through rhythm, idioms, and specified vocabulary that she is able to bring southern speech alive (Brooks 416).
Essay on the Defense of Walls in Mending Wall
Opposing the Unthinking Defense of Walls in Mending Wall
The speaker in “Mending Wall” questions his neighbor’s stolid assumption that “good fences make good neighbors.” Perhaps, what he objects to is not so much the sentiment itself as the unwillingness or inability of the other to think for himself, to “go beyond his father’s saying.” Just so; we must try to get beyond the apophthegm-like opening line of “Mending Wall,” testing carefully for gradations of tone as we proceed. Is it the proverb-like authority of “something there is . . . ” that makes it so natural to equate “something” with the speaker? Once this equation has been made, the reader joins the speaker in sympathizing with this mysterious “something” and hence in opposing the neighbor’s unthinking defense of walls.
Frost rings subtly drastic changes on the sound of a phrase like “good fences make good neighbors.” By the time the poem ends, this line has acquired some of the pat stupidity of a slogan. Similar turns of the screw affect the opening line, when to it is added the darker phrase “that wants it down” and again when the speaker refuses to name the antiwall “something.” “Elves” is the closest he gets, yet “It’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather / He said it for himself.” Elves may mean not willowy things out of Tolkien but darker forces of the wood, for the next image is one of darkness. The neighbor is viewed as subtly menacing, “an old-stone savage armed.” Yet this man has been the one to defend boundaries. The apparently relaxed and leisurely pace of the poem has made us lower our own boundaries and forget who is on what side.
At any rate, although the speaker’s ironic evasiveness undermines any confident interpretation, Poirier is surely right when he makes the following point:
. . . .it is not the neighbor . . . a man who can only dully repeat “good fences make good neighbors”– . . .it is not he who initiates the fence-making. Rather it is the far more spirited, lively, and “mischievous” speaker of the poem. While admitting that they do not need the wall, it is he who each year “lets my neighbor know beyond the hill” that it is time to do the job anyway, and who will go out alone to fill the gaps made in the wall by hunters.