Eudora Welty

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Encyclopedia Entry

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The Literary Encyclopedia


At the center of Eudora Welty's first published story, “Death of a Traveling Salesman”, Bowman, the bachelor businessman, suddenly understands both his years of loneliness and the relationship between the older man and the girl who have rescued him from his wrecked car. He sees there: “A marriage, a fruitful marriage. That simple thing. Anyone could have had that.” This crucial moment augurs the “fruitful” subject that permeates Welty's fiction: the intimate and often strange relationships within families. Welty is the twentieth-century master of her subject, and the century's most gifted and radical practitioner of the short story. She won most of the major literary prizes during her career, including the Pulitzer Prize and the French Légion d'Honneur. Only the Nobel Prize eluded her, and many believe this to be one of that committee's great oversights. Even a generic description of Welty's oeuvre – four collections of stories, five novels, two collections of photographs, three works of non-fiction (essay, memoir, book review), and one children's book – shows Welty's wide scope as an artist, and reading through her work reveals an astonishing tonal range in subject and style, the most expansive of any twentieth-century American writer.


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