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CRITICISM ART AND ARTISTRY IN MORGANA, MISSISSIPPI / Louis D. Rubin, Jr. ON AN AFTERNOON in June in the small town of Morgana, Mississippi, not too long after theFirstWorldWar, ateen-aged girl is in her room dyeing a scarf to wear on a hayride that evening, when she hears some notes of music being played on a piano: Poco moto 4 lacet PP ??^ ss er She looks up from what she is doing and responds at once, "Virgie Rainey, danke schoen." The girl's name is Cassie Morrison, and the tune she hears is the opening of "Für Elise," by Ludwig van Beethoven. Virgie Rainey, like her, was formerly a pupil of a German music teacher, Miss Lotte Elizabeth Eckhart, who had lived and given piano lessons in the MacLain house next door. Virgie had been Miss Eckhart's star pupil, progressing from piece to more difficult piece. By the age of thirteen she had played Liszt's "Fantasia on Beethoven's Ruins of Athens," and gone on beyond that. The "Für Elise" was Virgie's theme-song, her leitmotif perhaps, which she played on all occasions, even adapting it to the children's gymnastics at school. When Miss Eckhart listened as Virgie performed, she would would respond with "danke schoen"; it was an expression of thanks, from teacher to pupil, or more than that, from master to apprentice, for having properly discharged her responsibility to the music she was playing. Virgie Rainey, Miss Eckhart insisted, would be heard from in the world some day. She had a gift: "she must go away from Morgana. From them all. From her studio. In the world, she must study and practice for the rest of her life."1 But now, on the day when Cassie hears the notes from "Für Elise," Virgie Rainey no longer studies music. She has a job playing the piano at the local movie house, while Miss Eckhart's present whereabouts are unknown; she is rumored to be living out at the county poor farm. Her days as music teacher are done, while her star pupil, no longer apprenticed to the Beethoven, "could do things with 'You've Got to See Mama Every Night' and 'Avalon' " (52). The Missouri Review ¦ 202 Virgie Rainey, the German music teacher Miss Eckhart, Cassie Morrison and her brother Loch, and others of the citizenry of Morgana, Mississippi, are characters in Eudora Welty's The Golden Apples. In one sense almost nothing "happens" to any ofthese people; they merely grow up, grow older, leave town, come back, love and are loved, die, do the ordinary things that most humans do. But in another sense, Morgana, Mississippi, is the cockpit of the world. The brilliant surfaces of Eudora Welty's fiction are such that, as in life, the meanings are always, if not hidden, then so thoroughly imaged in the texture of the fiction that they do not readily yield themselves up to thematic paraphrase. Add to that the fact that the people she normally writes about are persons whom one might encounter in the day-to-day routines of one's experience and not think twice about, and we have an art which, unlike that of that other great Mississippi author, William Faulkner, does not customarily exhibit the ferocity and angularity of the tragic mode. Yet the implications of the ultimate human condition are very much present; andjust asbotha Yeats and aJoyce could emerge from the cultural milieu of Dublin, so Eudora Welty's fiction is grounded as deeply in a Southern time and place, and the necessities her characters confront are as starkly universal, as those ofthe sole owner andproprietor of Yoknapatawpha County. "October rain on Mississippi fields," Virgie Rainey thinks at the conclusion of the story entitled "The Wanderers": "The rain of fall, maybe on the whole South, for all she knew on the everywhere. She stared into its magnitude" (244). As indeed she might, for the human tragicomedy of which she has been part, however drenched in the particularities of a locale, has involved matters having to do with basic problems of life and art. It is with a single, rather lengthy story in The Golden Apples, entitled...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 99-116
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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