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  • Triangulation and an Outsider's South in Eudora Welty's "No Place for You, My Love"
  • Laura Sloan Patterson

Critical attention to "No Place for You, My Love" has traditionally focused on the issue of the emotional connection, or lack thereof, between the story's two main characters. In her 2013 essay "Ordinary Genius in Eudora Welty's 'No Place for You, My Love,'" Carey Wall offers a useful overview of critics who have weighed in on the issue: Noel Polk, Michael Kreyling, Gail Mortimer, Ruth Weston, and Stephen Fuller find little or no connection, or at best, a flawed connection between the two, while Suzanne Marrs and Peggy Whitman Prenshaw find that the characters are able to "fulfill a positive relationship" (Wall 239). Marrs has also characterized "No Place for You, My Love" as a story about the "oppressive nature of loneliness," as well an attempt by Welty to let go of the past, particularly because Welty wrote it after realizing that a romantic relationship with John Robinson was not to be (533, 203–04). Wall herself finds a successful and active relationship between the two characters, but only when they are examined using cultural anthropologist Victor Turner's notion of communitas, a mode in which people privilege common humanity above their differences to access "deep knowledge" (Wall 239).

As many of these critics have noted, the unnamed male and female main characters spend a great deal of time looking outward—into the landscape, toward water, at the road, and at other people and material artifacts of human life—rather than at each other. Unlike conventional lovers' linear and reciprocal gaze, Welty's protagonists' gaze is triangular. The male and female characters are physically and emotionally separate, and their dual gaze rests on objects in the environment around them, creating a form of triangulation. This triangulation is similar to that practiced by geographical surveyors, with the characters gauging their distance from the landscape's features both physically and culturally. Taking a cue from their outward gazes, I explore here how the two characters work together, but with an aim other than building or concealing a relationship or connection. In "No Place for You, My Love," Welty imagines how a particular southern culture might affect non-natives. She allows her characters the same freedom that she had gained between 1949 and 1951 through extensive European trips and [End Page 75] time in New York: to see the South with new eyes and to survey both the landscape and the culture from this changed perspective (Marrs 174–203). In this way, Welty crafts her own psychological version of a Global South: rather than a Global South defined by an expansive physical territory or shared cultural traits, Welty's Global South is the South she grew up in, viewed through the international traveler's observant eye and re-envisioned via the traveler's changed perspective.

Welty shifts the perspective of "No Place for You, My Love" deliberately, revising the story's central female character from a southerner to a midwesterner after taking her own trip south of south, which provided setting and plot inspiration for the story. Welty's stated goal in this revision is to establish exteriority rather than interiority as the driving energy behind the story:

The primary step now was getting outside her mind…. I kept outside her by taking glimpses of her through the eyes of a total stranger: casting off the half-dozen familiars the first girl had around her, I invented a single new character, a man whom I brought into the story to be a stranger, and I was to keep out of his mind too. I had double-locked the doors behind me.

("Writing" 776)

The process of getting outside the minds of both characters emphasizes the idea of triangulation. Without the perspective of the characters' inner lives, Welty must train a camera on the eyes of each character and follow their gazes, relaying information to the reading audience from observing where the characters' gazes linger and which objects draw both pairs of eyes to form a man-woman-object triangle.

Welty's choice to double-lock the doors behind her is also a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2165-266x
Print ISSN
1947-3370
Pages
pp. 75-82
Launched on MUSE
2017-08-19
Open Access
No
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