‘A Curtain Of Green’ by Eudora Welty

Welty, Eudora 1938a

A Curtain Of Green by Eudora Welty, 1938

The magic trick:

Building tension through the reader’s assumptions and values

I’m not sure an alien would enjoy this story. Why not? Well, the tension Welty builds during the remarkable scene in which Mrs. Larkin seems on the brink of killing her gardener is based primarily on what the reader brings to the story. She’s playing off our own assumptions about race and sex and small-town expectations in the South. The story never provides guidance about these things. It’s up to the reader to understand and project. Of course the scene’s release is fundamentally about grief, which even an alien would probably understand, so who knows? And that’s quite a trick on Welty’s part.

The selection:

She worked without stopping, almost invisibly, submerged all day among the thick, irregular, sloping beds of plants. The servant would call her at dinnertime, and she would obey; but it was not until it was completely dark that she would truthfully give up her labor and with a drooping, submissive walk appear at the house, slowly opening the small low door at the back. Even the rain would bring only a pause to her. She would move to the shelter of the pear tree, which in mid-April hung heavily almost to the ground in brilliant full leaf, in the center of the garden.

It might seem that the extreme fertility of her garden formed at once a preoccupation and a challenge to Mrs. Larkin.

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