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Eudora Welty And Jack London Essay, Research Paper
There is a silent shadow which seems to mirror a gaunt, dark, figure who prowls
the busy airports, silent streets, and even the cozy homes. There is no escaping this man,
the destroyer. No walls are thick enough to shut him out, no mountain high enough to
evade his wrath. He is death… he is predetermined… he is unpredictable…to some he is
simply fascinating. The wish to live, the inability to believe in one?s own menacing death,
the universal human faith in one?s own immunity to death- all these are factors which
contribute to the sweeping popularity of Jack London and Eudora Welty?s work. People
are intrigued by death because it can not be explained. Yet, London and Welty have
comforted these fears and intrigues by allowing them to enter the twisted mind of a crazed
murderer. These authors provide them with the answers they lack and furnish them with
the ability to fathom the unfathomable. They confront the horrors of death and emphasize
the reality of its looming presence. Consequently, satisfying the fascination their readers
crave. Jack London and Eudora Welty have planted a seed of fear in the hearts of many
people through their vivid description of death, however their motives techniques, and
lifestyles have allowed them to create a diversity of approaches to portraying bloodshed.
Eudora Welty and Jack London come from very different walks of life. Welty was
born on April 13, 1909 in a small town in Jackson, Mississippi. Her community and
childhood experiences greatly influenced her style of writing as an adult. The love and
support from her parents and her close knit community growing up inspired her life long
curiosity of people and acute attention to detail. The emphasis placed on education and
reading early in life enriched her life as she grew older, and influenced her decision to
become a writer. Growing up, she recalls memories of being read to which grew into a
passion for the written word at an early age. Influenced and supported by her parents,
Welty attended the Mississippi State College for Women in 1925. After two years of
education in Mississippi, she decided to transfer to the University of Wisconsin. In 1929
she graduated from the U of W with a BA in English. Under the guidance of her father,
she attended Columbia University Business School. Where she studied advertising as a
backup for her writing. Her father thought it was important to cultivate additional skills,
in the event her writing career failed.
In 1933 she began writing for newspapers. This allowed her to become a more
well-rounded writer. As well as, provide her with experiences she would later base her
literature on. During these years, she met little success and much frustration. However in
1941, her first collection of short stories, A Curtain of Green and Other Stories was
published. Before long, the public began regarding Eudora Welty as a notable author, and
the demand for her work began to swell. Her successful short stories had created a
hunger for longer works. In 1942 her friend John Woodburn encouraged her to write The
Robber Bridegroom,, her first novel. From that point on her career as a writer flourished,
and she began supplying the public with an array of fictional literature. She wrote many
essays, critical reviews, and she even wrote for theater. She has contributed to the
popularity of show business with such plays and musicals as: The Ponder Heart, and What
Year is This? Furthermore, her published autobiography One Writer?s Beginning, was
instantly embraced by America; and has become a best-seller. Welty?s writing is riddled
with culture and experience chiefly due to her home town of Jackson Mississippi. Other
cultures contribute to the variety of her work, but overall her Mississippi heritage and
pride will always be heard through the voice of her writing (?Eudora Welty? 939-40).
The small ?southern bell? town of Jackson is miles from the sunny shores of Jack
London?s birthplace in California. And his ability to write can not be attributed to large
universities or extensive education. Jack London was a self educated man who learned
from his surroundings. His education bloomed from his experience on the California
ranches and laboring with the working class communities of Oakland. His environment
was his mentor and nourished his genius to write literature. Unable to make a dent in the
magazine outlet, London decided to get rich fast by moving to the Yukon to search for
gold. London along with his flood of dreams fled to the Klondike Gold Rush. He
returned in 1897 a poor man, but his wealth came in a different form of currency. The
precious memories and the wholeness of his experience outweighed any amount of gold he
could have brought back. He had indeed struck gold while in Yukon, and these nuggets
of adventure became the foundation of his fame and glory in later years. London found
that the peoples interest lay in his experiences, observations, and brutal depiction of the
However, his adventurous days gradually faded away. In 1900 London settled
down in Oakland and married Elizabeth May Maddern. They started a family and had two
daughters. But in 1905 their marriage came to an end and they were divorced. Wasting
no time, he married Chairmain Kitteredge within that same year. With Charmain by his
side, London set out on a seven year voyage. However, London?s poor health was
mightier than his dream; and he was forced to abandon his expedition. London spent the
last years of his life building a scientifically run ranch complex in Glen Ellen, Sonoma
County, California. His death is still a mystery to this day. At age forty-five on November
22, 1916 Jack London died at his ranch in California. Leaving behind footprints that will
stamp America?s literary soil. He has entertained his readers for years and will continue to
do so for generations. His literature is cherished all over the world and has been translated
into over fifty languages. It will take a mighty blow to knock him off the high pedestal
which many inspired writers have placed him on. Many prominent literary figures look up
to him with admiration and respect. He will continue to influence literature as
contemporaries study his legendary footprints he has left behind. (?Jack London?
Eudora Welty and Jack London?s style of writing becomes a guide on a journey to
the unfathomable depths of one?s being. The distance between two words can span from
coast to coast, and their work becomes a bridge which joins fiction and reality. Eudora
Welty stages most of her stories in small towns centered around an innocent society blind
to the wrath which is about to strike them. She plucks the reader out of their daily
routine and places them in a barren community plagued by the ruthless havoc of death. In
?Clytie? Welty begins the saga by describing a normal urban village and a typical days
events. ?A little boy kicked his bare heels into the sides of his mule, which proceeded
slowly through the town toward the country? (Welty 144). However the ordinary is
quickly overcome by the devastation of death and the mental disorder of a crazed family
living in this town. In ?Flowers for Marjorie? she shows how the city is unaware of the
murder which has taken place, and to everybody else, it is just another day. ?He set his
hat on straight and walked through the crowd of children who surged about jumping rope,
chanting and jumping around him with their lips hanging apart? (Welty 179). Welty
describes the impact death and murder can cause as an entire town becomes involved
when Death visits their conventional community in ?The Hitch-Hickers?. ?They was tryin?
to take your car, and down the street one of ?em like to bust the other one?s head wide
op?m with a bottle. Everybody?s out there. Looks like they heard the commotion? (Welty
120). By creating a common setting, Welty emphasizes the notion that death has no
barriers, and he will strike anywhere.
Jack London uses a different atmosphere to convey his image of death. He has
chosen the immense landscape of Alaska to illustrate the path death travels. He emphasis
the rustic, savage murders which occur in Alaskan villages. Even out in the middle of
nowhere Death will find a victim to snare. In ?Which Make Men Remember?, London
invites death into a desolate cabin inhabited by two fugitives trying to escape the
consequences of murdering a man in a nearby town. ?He pulled the trigger. Fortune did
not whirl, but gay San Francisco dimmed and faded, and as the sunbright snow turned
black and blacker, he breathed his last malediction on the Chance he had misplayed?
(London 172). The communities of Alaskan Indian villages also come face to face with
death. As a blood-bath breaks out during a peace meeting. The mural of death covers the
city walls, as well as, the white snowcapped mountains of Alaska, there is no escaping
The description of characters adds variety to their diverse writing. Welty uses
weak, innocent victims, while London?s victims are fearless, powerful men. This causes
compassion to seep into the hearts of Welty?s readers, and pride to swell in those of
London?s listeners. Welty?s use of description has the ability to overpower the senses and,
force her reader to become one with the characters. London use of poetic orator
transforms the reader into a small child. He writes as if he were telling a bed time story,
and lulls the small child into a fantasy world of foreign customs and uncharted territory.
Having two very different stages naturally gives rise to different themes and plots
depicted by the authors. In most of Welty?s work, she illustrates death as an unnecessary
end to life. Death is an element to life which is tragic and improper. In ?Flowers for
Marjorie? there was no justifiable logic as to why Howard killed his wife. In ?The
Hitch-Hickers? the reasoning behind the murder is not explained, hence to the reader it
seems completely unnecessary. London?s theme which trickles throughout many of his
stories is the philosophy of survival of the fittest. The fight for life, and the competition
for life is essential to survival in the rugged mountains of Alaska. In ?The Death of a
Legion?, it is obvious that it was the duty of the chief warriors to kill one another in order
to maintain the pride of their tribe; and to show the power of a chief. In ?Which Makes
Men Remember?, death becomes a game to see who can kill first. It is inevitable that
someone must die in order to ratify his own life. London emphasizes the theme of honor
in death. The only honorable thing to do was to kill and be killed in ?The Death of a
Legion?. Had the blood bath not ended with Legion being dead, then he would have been
a disgrace to his tribe. In ?Clytie?, Welty depicts the mentally disturbed women?s death as
an ultimatum to the horrible life she was forced to partake of. There was no honor in her
death. However there was no honor in her life either.
Jack London and Eudora Welty have written these brilliant works to motivate
some emotion within their readers. Welty characteristically tries to induce pity and
compassion as her primary motivater. She makes her victims fragile and weak, which
causes one to taste the bitter death the pathetic victims are facing. In ?Clytie?, Welty
takes great care to describe the main characters miserable life which she detests. Clytie
longs for beauty, youth, and love to radiate her dark soul, however there seems to be no
forecast for sunshine. In a final state of complete hopelessness, she throws herself into a
trough of water upon meeting her wretched reflection. Likewise in ?Flowers For
Marjorie? the vision of Marjorie?s limb helpless body slumped over the window seal is
etched in one?s mind. One?s heart is marinated in the description of her horrible death.
Tenderness and compassion overflows at the thought of the powerless young mother,
which evades one?s emotions. Jack London is aiming for a much different emotion to leap
out at his readers. He injects them with the excitement, honor, and adventure which leads
up to the moments before death. As he describes the blood-bath of chiefs in ?The Death
of a Legion?, he causes adrenaline to overcome any moral obligation to the character
being killed. He forms an image in one?s mind that glorifies the honor in death, and brings
out the primitive adventurer in one?s inner being. In ?Which Makes Men Remember?,
London emphasize the thrill and sport in slaughtering another man; leaving no thought to
the actual event.
The colorblind world had never seen color until Jack London?s colorful writing
opened their eyes to a new world. He describes the gold rush using a panoramic depiction
of the brutality and cruel amusement of death. His picture proved the sole importance to a
man during this time was survival and money. Little thought or care was given to the
sanity of a man as long as he could survive, and he had money to throw in on a poker
game. He describes the northern gambler, and his awareness that the life of a gambler,
especially a dishonest one, would be short lived. ?Life?s a skin-game…I never had half a
chance…I was faked in my birth and flimflammed with my mother?s milk. The dice were
loaded when she tossed the box, and I was born to prove the loss.? Chance is a gamblers
best friend or worst enemy. In addition to survival, London emphasizes a theme of
dominance and sovereignty in ?The God of His Fathers?. Sovereignty over man by nature
is London?s predominate philosophy. His theory of mastery was the idea that man will
never be able to overcome the power of nature. In the end, law and harmony will prevail
connect the ?white-man? and nature. In his earlier writing he struggled to portray
individual identity, so he turned his attention to ?blood brotherhood?(Geismar 264)
London?s does not create his characters from factual people from his past: they are
demigods, nameless heroes who lived during a fearless time in American history. Years
later theses brave men are being honored through epic stories. (Pattee 258)
Race supremacy becomes a critical issue in many of London?s short stories. The
first story in which race became a dominant theme was ?The God of His Fathers.? Jack
London writes, ?Race is the true God…? But, his philosophy is reconstructed in his later
works. Children of the Frost is the beginning of a new wave of ideas for London. It is
the death of racial identity. Mastery is murdered as London recants his belief that order
and harmony have the ability to conquer death.
?My task which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to
make you hear, to make you feel-it is, before all, to make you see.? (Pattee 258)
London?s ability of description created his self-proclaimed reputation of a realist. It was a
quality and style of writing that was meaningful to him. However, many critics believe
that London?s vivid description created an unrealistic picture of how things really were
during that time. They argue that he exaggerated the beauty, and disguised much of the
truth. (Pattee 258) London incorporated the literary technique of realism into the
storyboard of tragedies. These stories inspire both fear and pity. The events are sudden
and portray roles being reversed to humble the hero and show him his ignorance. (Pattee
Eudora Welty manipulates scenes, experiences and characters in her short stories
in order to arouse the readers awareness of the terror which shadows evil. In ?Clytie? she
vividly describes the scene where the old maid drowns herself in a barrel of rain water.
She paints a realistic episode which will lurk in the subconscience of every reader, and
strike fear in the hearts of every one who witnesses the incident. (Glenn 471) She creates
lifelike scenes and characters in order to provide a connection to her readers. Her
characters, settings, and experiences are so ordinary the reader can not discern reality from
fiction. She will fabricate events which run parallel to the lives of her reader. (Glenn 471)
Welty?s profound tenderness is a focal point in many of her short stories.
Particularly in ?Clytie? where she portrays a wretched old maid who dwells in a life whom
no one understands or cares to understand. She is taunted by the beauty of the world, and
is tortured by the cruelty which this wonderful world thrust upon her. Welty?s writing
always grants pity and mercy for those who are seeking love, yet are never able to attain
this emotion which is essential to life. (Jones 481) Many of Welty?s stories involve
characters who are deprived of something and are living on the edge of life. They view
this lifestyle not as a social issue, but as product of humanity. They have no desire for
standing within the community, riches or power, however they merely aspire for love and
companionship. Her character?s stand at many different places on the latter of success,
however they share a common hunger for love.(Jones 482) Welty has mastered the art of
walking the tightrope. She performs the amazing balancing act of accenting the tenderness
and brutality which can live in the hearts of humanity. (Harris 464)
In ?Flowers for Marjorie?, Welty mystifies the reader and leads them on a journey
which is indistinguishable from reality or fantasy. She brilliantly entangles Howard?s
violent dream of killing his wife into a precession of ironic events. The reader is led on a
journey, unsure if it is really happening or if it is Howard?s mind running wild. However,
in the end reality prevails and his wife?s dead body is the only reliable truth. (Hardy 487)
The descriptive details are not especially grisly; she understates, as always. But, the
blood-terror is unmistakably evoked and the terror of the inexplicable permeates the
pages. (Hardy 487) Some critics argue that Welty?s tactical scheme in ?Flowers for
Marjorie? results in a irritating parody. The sequence of ironic events and disarray of
symbols in the story produces confusion. Placing the reader in an unrealistic fantasy world.
(Hardy 487) ?The Hitch-Hikers?, unlike ?Flowers for Marjorie?, is not impaired by irony
and illusion. Welty furnishes the reader with a simple bizarre plot which leads up to a
mysterious conclusion. (Hardy 487) Welty surpasses the imagination of most authors
through her perseverance of hope which embodies the characters. This hope leads to the
ability of concrete matter to overcome and endure through the death of their users.
(Hardy 488). In ?Flowers for Marjorie?, a bouquet of dying flowers instantly become
alive again as the small girls run to put them in their hair. (Hardy 488)
Welty?s writing embody many racial undertones, however she masks this motif by
emphasizing the presence of African American humanity. She has mastered the art of
delicately capitalizing the concept that African American?s are the source of many spiritual
barricades. Nevertheless, she fails to recognize that these burdens are collateral to the
history and culture of the white man. (Hardy 488).
The works of these two great authors have presented people of present and past
with different outlooks on death through style, themes, and motive. Although their views
are distinctly personal, they both tackle the essence of mans greatest fear and fascination.
Their views represent a certain era of history which deserves to be passed down from
generation to generation through their words. Jack London and Eudora Welty engage in a
battle to help people fathom the unfathomable mystery of death. They have become the
trailblazer?s in the journey to explore the winding backroads ?Death? has traveled.
Geismar, Maxwell. ?Jack London: The Short Cut.? Rebels and Ancestors: The American Novel
1890-1915 1953: Rpt. in Short Story Criticism Ed. Thomas Votteler. vol.4. Detroit:
Gale Research Company, 1990. 264-7.
Glenn, Eunice. ?Fantasy in the Fiction of Eudora Welty.? Critics and Essays on Modern Fiction:
Representing the Achievment of Modern American and British Critics 1920-1951 1952:
506-17. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism Eds. Laurie Lanzen Harris and Sheila Fitzgerald.
vol.1. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1988. 470-3.
Hardy, John Edward. ?The Achievement of Eudora Welty.? Southern Humanities Review vol. 2.
No. 3 Summer; 1968: 269-78. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism Eds. Laurie Lanzen Harris
and Sheila Fitzgerald. vol.1. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1988. 487-8.
Harris, Laurie Lanzen and Sheila Fitzgerald. ?Eudora Welty.? Short Story Criticism vol.1.
Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1988. 464-5.
Jones, Alun R. ?The World of Love: The Fiction of Eudora Welty.? The Creative Present: Notes
on Contemporary American Fiction 1963: Rpt. in Short Story Criticism Eds. Laurie Lanzen
Harris and Sheila Fitzgerald. vol.1. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1988.
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