Eudora Welty

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Making reality real is art's responsibility.

Eudora Welty (April 13, 1909July 23, 2001) was American short story writer and novelist who wrote about the American South. She was born in Jackson, Mississippi, United States. During the 1930s, Welty worked as a photographer for the Works Progress Administration.


  • If you're so smart, why ain't you rich?
    • "Petrified Man", 1941

On Writing (2002)

  • The story and its analyses are not mirror-opposites of each other. They are not reflections, either one. Criticism indeed is an art, as a story is, but only the story is to some degree a vision; there is no explanation outside fiction for what the writer is learning to do.
  • I am a writer who came from a sheltered life. A sheltered life can be a daring life as well. For all serious daring starts from within.
  • Since we must and do write each our own way, we may during actual writing get more lasting instruction not from another's work, whatever its blessings, however better it is than ours, but from our own poor scratched-over pages. For these we can hold up to life. That is, we are born with a mind and heart to hold each page up to, and to ask: is it valid?
  • The first act of insight is throw away the labels. In fiction, while we do not necessarily write about ourselves, we write out of ourselves, using ourselves; what we learn from, what we are sensitive to, what we feel strongly about--these become our characters and go to make our plots. Characters in fiction are conceived from within, and they have, accordingly, their own interior life; they are individuals every time.
  • The novelist works neither to correct nor to condone, not at all to comfort, but to make what's told alive.
  • Great fiction shows us not how to conduct our behavior but how to feel. Eventually, it may show us how to face our feelings and face our actions and to have new inklings about what they mean. A good novel of any year can initiate us into our own new experience.
  • Every writer, like everybody else, thinks he's living through the crisis of the ages. To write honestly and with all our powers is the least we can do, and the most.
  • Making reality real is art's responsibility. It is a practical assignment, then, a self-assignment: to achieve, by a cultivated sensitivity for observing life, a capacity for receiving impressions, a lonely, unremitting, unaided, unaidable vision, and transferring this vision without distortion to it onto the pages of a novel, where, if the reader is so persuaded, it will turn into the reader's illusion.
  • Human life is fiction's only theme.

One Writer's Beginnings(1984)


One Writer's Beginnings, by Eudora Welty

  • Long before I wrote stories, I listened for stories. Listening for them is something more acute than listening to them. I suppose it’s an early form of participation in what goes on. Listening children know stories are there. When their elders sit and begin, children are just waiting and hoping for one to come out, like a mouse from its hole.
  • All experience is an enrichment rather than an impoverishment.
  • It had been startling and disappointing to me to find out that story books had been written by people, that books were not natural wonders, coming up of themselves like grass. Yet regardless of where they came from, I cannot remember a time when I was not in love with them -- with the books themselves, cover and binding and the paper they were printed on, with their smell and their weight and with their possession in my arms, captured and carried off to myself.

The Optimist's Daughter(1972)


The Optimist's Daughter, by Eudora Welty

  • Laurel could not see her face but only the back of her neck, the most vulnerable part of anybody, and she thought: Is there any sleeping person you can be entirely sure you have not misjudged?

Quotes about Eudora Welty

  • I was very influenced by American, Southern, short-story writers. Eudora Welty was a great influence on me. Years later, when I met Eudora, visited her in Jackson, there were such parallels between the way she was living, even then, and my life: a black man was mowing the lawn! There was a kind of understanding. Of course, this really had nothing to do with the fact that I thought she was a superb short-story writer.
    • 1979 and 1980 interview in Conversations with Nadine Gordimer edited by Nancy Topping Bazin and Marilyn Dallman Seymour (1990)
  • Nadine Gordimer writes about black people with such astounding sensibilities and sensitivity-not patronizing, not romantic, just real. And Eudora Welty does the same thing. Lillian Hellman has done it. Now, we might categorize these women as geniuses of a certain sort, but if they can write about it, it means that it is possible. They didn't say, "Oh, my God, I can't write about black people"; it didn't stop them. There are white people who do respond that way though, assuming there's some huge barrier. But if you can relate to Beowolf and Jesus Christ when you read about them, it shouldn't be so difficult to relate to black literature.
    • 1980 interview in Conversations with Toni Morrison edited by Danille K. Taylor-Guthrie (1994)
  • There are lots of women writers in the South, like Flannery O'Connor and Eudora Welty, who wrap you up in a story. They come from a tradition of storytellers which is amazingly similar to the Puerto Rican cuento. "Te voy a echar un cuento," eso era eso era lo que Mamá decía.
    • Judith Ortiz Cofer Puerto Rican Voices in English: Interviews with Writers Carmen Dolores Hernandez 1997
  • Building community is both a legacy and a responsibility. As a storyteller, listener, recorder, and amateur theorist, I am reminded of a passage in Eudora Welty's Becoming a Writer: "Each of us is moving, changing, and with respect to others. As we discover, we remember; remembering, we discover; and most intensely do we experience this when our separate journeys converge."
    • Vicki L. Ruiz From Out of the Shadows: Mexican Women in Twentieth-Century America (1998)