Places: The Golden Apples

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1949

Type of work: Short fiction

Time of work: Early to mid-twentieth century

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places DiscussedMorgana

Morgana. Golden Apples, TheMississippi town about nineteen miles from Vicksburg, by way of a gravel road that crosses thirteen little bridges and the bridge over the Big Black River, Morgana is little more than a wide place in the road. From the MacLain house at one end of the road to the Starks’ at the other, each story is set in Morgana or draws on the emotional ties that Morgana exerts on its sons and daughters. As one story after another unfolds, the reader pieces together the whole cloth that is the communal life of Morgana’s inexorably linked inhabitants.

MacLain house

MacLain house. In its outlying position at the end of the road that runs through Morgana, the MacLain house was built for two outsiders, King MacLain of nearby MacLain Courthouse and his albino wife Snowdie Hudson, daughter of the storekeeper at Crossroads. From the beginning, the life of the house seems doomed: “Shower of Gold” tells of the unfaithful King, a rambler who leaves his wife and twin sons to struggle on alone, and the always hopeful Snowdie, who finally moves back to her own people when she can no longer keep the house up. In “June Recital,” the children of the Morrison house next door watch in fascination as the MacLain house is set afire by the old spinster boarder who once gave piano lessons there. By the last story, “The Wanderers,” the house too is gone, although the townspeople still refer to the lot as the old MacLain place.

Morgan’s Woods

Morgan’s Woods. Old-growth southern forest of magnolia, oak, and cedar functions metaphorically as the dark place of danger in several of the collection’s stories. Here Snowdie MacLain goes to meet the returning King in “Shower of Gold.” Here the simple-minded Mattie Will Holifield has sexual encounters with both King and his twin sons in “Sir Rabbit.” Here Eugene MacLain, exiled in far-off San Francisco, feels the call of home as he pictures his twin Ran still hunting the familiar hills and gullies of the Woods in “Music from Spain.”

Moon Lake

Moon Lake. In the story of the same name, Moon Lake refers both to the lake itself and the girls’ camp on its shore. The camp was modeled on an actual camp Eudora Welty attended as a child, Camp McLaurin in Rankin County, Mississippi, near Welty’s hometown of Jackson. The overhanging willows, the mud bottom and dark mud-stirred waters, the threat of cottonmouth moccasins in the water, the adjacent swamp all evoke a primordial quality in this intense story where life hangs in the balance.

*Vicksburg

*Vicksburg. Mississippi city. When Ran MacLain wants to get even with his unfaithful wife Ginny Love Stark in “The Whole World Knows,” it is Vicksburg where he goes to seduce the innocent country girl Maideen Sumrall. Nineteen miles and another world away, Vicksburg offers Prohibition liquor on a river barge, a midnight drive through the eerie Confederate and Union monuments of the Vickburg National Military Park, and an illicit night at the decrepit Sunset Oaks Cabins.

*San Francisco

*San Francisco. Fifteen hundred miles from Morgana lies the anonymity of San Francisco, where “Music from Spain” explores the world of Morgana’s diaspora. From his apartment near Sacramento Street to California Street to Market Street and eventually all the way to Land’s End on the ocean shore, Eugene Hudson MacLain wanders as a lost soul before he returns home to an early death in MacLain Courthouse. San Francisco is where husband and wife experience the death of a child and still remain strangers, where native son and foreigner spend an intensely personal (though unspeaking) day together and yet remain strangers, where a man from the close-knit southern community that is Morgana loses himself.

Rainey house

Rainey house. The Golden Apples ends where it begins, with the relationship between Snowdie MacLain and her cross-road neighbor Katie Rainey. From “Shower of Gold” where two young mothers first share sewing days and shy companionship, to “The Wanderers” where forty years later Snowdie lays out Katie’s corpse, from the new-built but ill-fated MacLain house to the rundown old Rainey place forty years later, Welty’s stories come full circle in theme, character, and setting. Katie’s daughter Virgie, herself destined to become one of Morgana’s dispersed, and the other mourners who gather to wake the newly dead Katie look across the road to the burned-out MacLain house and on past cotton fields to the Big Black River beyond, the moving road that flows from Morgana to bear away its sons and daughters.

BibliographyDevlin, Albert J., ed. Welty: A Life in Literature. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1987. Includes Yaeger’s essay, “Because a Fire Was in My Head: Eudora Welty and the Dialogic Imagination,” which analyzes the importance of gender and sexuality in The Golden Apples and explores the work’s dialogue with Yeats’s poetry. Also includes general articles on Welty and an annotated checklist of Welty criticism.Kreyling, Michael. Eudora Welty’s Achievement of Order. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1980. One of the best book-length studies of Welty’s fiction. Focuses on the development of Welty’s fictional technique and the growth of her aesthetic sensibility and unique voice.Prenshaw, Peggy W., ed. Eudora Welty: Thirteen Essays. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1983. Includes two excellent essays on Greek and Celtic mythology in The Golden Apples: “Golden Apples and Silver Apples” and “Technique as Myth: The Structure of The Golden Apples.” Also includes general essays on Welty’s fiction.Schmidt, Peter. The Heart of the Story: Eudora Welty’s Short Fiction. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1991. A clearly written and accessible feminist and historicist study of Welty’s stories. Explores the mixture of comedy and tragedy and the patterns of gender difference in The Golden Apples. An excellent starting point for serious study.Vande Kieft, Ruth M. Eudora Welty. Rev. ed. Boston, Mass.: Twayne, 1987. The best beginner’s source on Welty, despite more recent scholarship. Analyzes the structure, themes, and characters with a focus on the mystery and duality at the heart of Welty’s fiction.
Categories: Places