Dispatches from the Homefront: Eudora Welty's Delta Wedding

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Title: Dispatches from the Homefront: Eudora Welty's Delta Wedding
Author: Powell, Lisa Lanier
Advisors: Barbara Bennett, Committee Member
Elaine Orr, Committee Member
Michael Grimwood, Committee Chair
Abstract: During an interview, Eudora Welty described her inability to write directly about World War II: "I couldn't write about it, not at the time, it was too personal. I could write or translate things into domestic or other dimensions in my writing, with the same things in mind" (qtd. in Ruas 66). The purpose of this paper is to examine Welty's 1946 novel Delta Wedding as a translation of, or response to, the war. Welty goes out of her way to avoid any association with the war; she conspicuously places the novel in the year 1923 because it was not a "war year." She retreats from the epic violence of war into the seemingly peaceful, pastoral delta country of Mississippi. Yet, by its avoidance of war, Delta Wedding paradoxically depicts the war by providing a negative image of the war. With the mobilization of men to the front lines during the masculine event of war, the feminized homefront left behind became another negative image of war. During World War II, traditional patriarchies were transformed into practical matriarchies. Women entered the workforce to help fill the labor shortage left by men, often taking jobs traditionally thought of as "men's only." This proved to be a turning point for women in American history. In Delta Wedding, Welty's portrayal of a matriarchal family on a patriarchal plantation mirrors the 1940s society. She depicts women in various stages of life, which reflect the stages in Susan Lichtman's cycle of the female hero. They include the virgin, mother and crone stages. Through such characters, Welty celebrates the female journey toward self-actualization, helping the reader to value such a journey as heroic. In doing so, she gives an alternate view of the hero: not typical war hero of the time, but instead the hero of the everyday, not limited by gender.
Date: 2007-04-25
Degree: MA
Discipline: English
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/707

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