From the heartbroken protagonist she depicted in her first published story, “Death of a Traveling Salesman,” to the reflective widow she described in her last novel, The Optimist’s Daughter, Eudora Welty wrote realistically about the shadows and radiance of love. In a meticulous exploration of this theme, Sally Wolff combines new readings of Welty’s fiction with biography and contextual information drawn from Wolff’s nineteen-year friendship with the author.
A signature image in most of Welty’s fiction, the rose imparts symbolic power as it places Welty in the age-old tradition of love literature. Wolff argues that the dark rose—from the height of its brilliance to the end of its life—serves as a deft metaphor for the dichotomies Welty presents, equally suggestive of beauty and sadness, and the comic, tragic, and mysterious qualities of love. While some of Welty’s characters are clearly autobiographical renderings—a daughter remembering her parents’ marriage, or a broodingly hopeful member of a large family wedding—at other times, Welty analyzes from afar the dynamics of successful and troubled loving relationships. Although Welty fell in love more than once during her life, she never married, and Wolff argues that writing from the vantage point of the unattached gave Welty an objective perspective from which to examine in her fiction the varied dimensions of love.
A Dark Rose navigates effortlessly among texts and examines Welty’s portrayal of love in all its nuance and intricacy. Though love in Welty’s fiction may fail, wear thin, or quietly take the hand of that grimmest of bridegrooms—death—it nonetheless remains a vital force, alive in the heart.
Sally Wolff is senior editor at the Emory Clinic and teaches "Literature and Medicine" in the Emory University School of Medicine. She also served as assistant vice president and associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences at Emory University, where she taught for over thirty years in the Department of English. She is the author of Ledgers of History: William Faulkner, an Almost Forgotten Friendship, and an Antebellum Plantation Diary and Talking about William Faulkner, and co-editor of Southern Mothers: Fact and Fiction in Southern Women’s Writing, and Where Courageous Inquiry Leads: The Emerging Life of Emory University.
Praise for A Dark Rose
"A valuable resource. . . . Recommended."--CHOICE
“Throughout the book, Wolff’s reminiscences enrich her analysis as her knowledge of Welty the person enables her to make interesting observations about Welty’s work. . . . By tracing the single but complicated issue of love in Welty’s work and marking its associations with the ‘dark rose,’ Wolff offers readers a coherent, accessible, and helpful vision of Welty’s work.”—Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature
“Close textual analysis and accounts of Wolff’s nineteen-year friendship with Welty provide biographical insight into the ‘dichotomies and contradictions’ of (sometimes autobiographical) love in Welty’s fiction.”—American Literature