Eudora Welty: The Hitch-Hikers

Deal Me In 2019 – Week 18

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Of course it was by the guitar that he had known at once they were not mere hitch-hikers, they were tramps. They were full-blown, abandoned to this. Both of them were – but when he touched it he knew obscurely that it was the yellow guitar, that bold and gay burden in the tramp’s arms, that had caused him to stop his car and pick them up.

There’s something interesting about Eudora Welty’s short story “The Hitch-Hikers” that I can’t really put my finger on.

Tom Harris is a traveling salesman of office supplies who picks up a couple of men on his way to Memphis. Prior to his destination, he and his traveling companions stop at a small town in which many of the residents are at least familiar with Tom.

Parties and murder ensue.

Perhaps what is interesting is that in one sense, Tom and the hitch-hikers are drastically different – Tom has a job. On the other hand, they have more in common than one might think. In their own ways, they are all transient – physically, socially, mentally, spiritually.

The interactions between the three main characters and the townspeople and even Mike, the collie dog, all display a community of sorts, but one that doesn’t have all the connections we might like to think a community should have.

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I read this story when I selected the King of Spades for Week 18 of my Deal Me In 2019 short story project. It’s included in The Best American Short Stories of the Century edited by John Updike. My Deal Me In list can be seen here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

 

Eudora Welty: Where Is the Voice Coming From? (Deal Me In 2018 – Week 48)

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The Branch Bank sign tells you in lights, all night long even, what time it is and how hot. When it was quarter to four, and 92, that was me going by in my brother-in-law’s truck. He don’t deliver nothing at that hour of the morning.

The title of Eudora Welty’s short story “Where Is the Voice Coming From?” could be the question most readers might ask themselves while reading the story. Welty puts herself in the mind of a white man who assassinates a black civil rights activist. It takes a little reading before one completely gets that.

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Whenever an author attempts to tell their point of view by using the opposite point of view, I get nervous that they will end up inadvertently being sympathetic to the person they are wanting to show as wrong or in this case just plain evil.

There’s no need to worry with this story or with this author. Welty shows the mind of racism as nothing but horrific:

Something darker than him, like the wings of a bird, spread on his back and pulled him down. He climbed up once, like a man under bad claws, and like just blood could weigh a ton he walked with it on his back to better light. Didn’t get no further than his door. And fell to stay.

I read this story when I selected the Four of Spades for Week 48 of my Deal Me In short story project. It’s included in The Oxford Book of American Short Stories edited by Joyce Carol Oates. My Deal Me In list can be found here. Deal Me In is sponsored by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

Eudora Welty: The Worn Path

DEAL ME IN – WEEK 26

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Her name was Phoenix Jackson.  She was very old and small and she walked slowly in the dark pine shadows, moving a little from side to side in her steps, with the balanced heaviness and lightness of a pendulum in a grandfather clock.

It’s already the halfway point of Deal Me In 2015.  For Week 26, I drew the Ace of Hearts and read “The Worn Path”, the first story I’ve read by Eudora Welty.  My Deal Me In 2015 list can be seen here. Deal Me In 2015 is sponsored by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

Phoenix Jackson, an elderly African-American woman, makes her way through the woods on a path that she obviously has walked before.  She runs into a hunter, keeps a stray dog at bay with her walking stick, crosses over a creek via a log and keeps an overall pleasant disposition.  The reader can almost see the twinkle in her eye and the smile on her face.

The reader isn’t given the reason for her walk or her destination until the end.  While this revelation does not make for a plot twist and knowing the ending or not knowing doesn’t necessarily make the story any different or less enjoyable; however, I won’t give away this part of the story and let readers find out for themselves.

Welty does not overtly tackle the topic of racism in this story but in every step Phoenix makes, the author puts strength and dignity to Phoenix’s character.  A strength and dignity that has come from the wearing down of this path, from a journey that is not always easy.

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