Electing the short story “The Welcome Story”, by Alice Walker (1970) for me was an easy choice for me to write a critiqued essay about. I am using a reader response approach in my critical essay. I like this approach because of the initial dedication to her sister Clara Ward, “I’m going to sit at the welcome table, shout my troubles over, walk and talk with Jesus, tell God how you treat me, one of these days! ” This statement indicates that the old woman in the story is a spiritual woman and is looking forward to her day of meeting with the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Welcome Table story was intriguing to me because the author describes the old woman as one who does not have emotional ties with the people around her, is alone, and does not have the luxuries of life that one would expect for a woman of her era in today’s time. The one luxury and seemingly the most important one anyone could ever have is her closeness with Jesus and the luxury of knowing that her time is here for her to join him for eternity.
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It is apparent the pain the woman has endured through her life just by the description of the condition of her body “beaten by king cotton and the extreme weather”, the condition of her clothing items “a long rusty dress adorned with an old corsage, long withered, and the remnants of an elegant silk scarf as head rag stained with grease from many oily pigtails underneath”, and the emptiness conveyed by her to the outsiders “a dazed and sleepy look in her aged blue brown eyes. ”
The old woman has closed herself off to the people of the church, as she enters the church and the reverend addresses her as “Auntie” yet attempts to discourage her from entering the church. How can one be a family member possibly biologically and a relative of the reverend of a church and still be turned away by the reverend himself? That seems to be hypocritical, pompous, and self-righteous. As an old saying goes, “God does not like ugly. ” Meaning people of an evil nature and doing harm to others.
Yet the old woman just brushes past the reverend as if he had not even spoken to her and enters the church and takes a seat and starts singing in her head. All the while the congregants of the church are whispering their lewd and more self righteous comments believing that it is okay to be so crude to another human just because she is an old black woman. It seems as though the old woman has allowed herself to escape the living reality and focus on her future with Jesus.
Maybe everything in her life has been so painful that she can no longer bare the living life and hard memories of everything she has endured. It is obvious the people in her community do not wish her well rather just the opposite wishing her ill will. Reading this story has been somewhat enlightening to the fact that it is easier to comprehend why some African Americans seem so hard and closed to opening up to the society around them even in today’s era.
Why would one want to open themselves up for ridicule and abuse if that is all they know to have been done to people of an African American heritage and being female on top of it only seems to make it worse as she was also alone and had no one to defend her. The old woman still has pride by dressing in her best clothes even though they seemed raggedy to others and walking into the church despite all the negativity around her. How brave and strong willed she is. My connection to this story and this old woman is strong.
I felt her determination and will to go on and reach for the happiness that is so deserved. The Welcome Table to me refers to the table that she met with Jesus and she could say anything to him without being judged or ridiculed. Reading this story has enlightened my perception of what others may be going through or have gone through that makes them seem difficult to get along with or be personable with. People should attempt to keep an open mind and not judge a book by its cover as I have so many times done throughout my life.
If it could only be true and tied to all that with age comes wisdom. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I personally wanted to enter this story and stand and sit by this woman while holding her hand. Only to show her that not all the people around her have a mean spirit in them and there is kindness though often hard to find amid all the rude individuals in her presence. She seemed to have been ready to meet her maker and be free of all of the hardships in the physical earth life and ready to be a happy and joyous person in the heaven above.
We as humans have learned to be considerate of people and their differences, we have also encouraged the development of all human beings. But many years ago people were not considerate of people of other ethnicities. The possibilities for everyone have become more equal during modern times. I have been intrigued by the racial and ethical dilemmas that most of our ancestors had to endure. The short story that I have chosen to discuss is “The Welcome Table” By Alice Walker. The human race has come so far since we have had such severe racial discrimination, although it has not disappeared completely.
The Welcome Table”, along with many other new age stories really have shown the importance of acceptance of many ethnicities. Point of View The theme of a story is a representation of the idea behind the story. (Clugston 2010). “The Welcome Table” written by Alice Walker, is about an old African American woman who attends a white community church. This story is told in omniscient third person point of view. Third person point of view occurs when the speaker is not the participant in the story. (Clugston 2010). On her way to church, she received looks of horrible disgust.
People felt sorry for her, and they feared her. She walked into the church, and she was immediately the center of attention by the congregation. It was made clear to this elderly lady that she was not welcome to worship with this church. She wanted to be in the house of God, she also needed her time with a higher power, and those rights were stripped from her for being from an African American background. She left without a fight; God immediately approached the old lady as she left this church and they walked off together.
Walker shows us how important skin color was to people back in this time in history. Not only were they segregated, it was not considered wrong to decline services to those of a different ethnic background. Walker uses a third person point of view in telling the story. She switches points of view throughout the story and really emphasizing the theme of the story. As she walks into to the church Walker is speaking from the congregations point of view, then to the ushers, then to the white congregation.
Character She was angular and lean and the color of poor gray. Walker 2003). She was dressed in her Sunday meeting clothes. She wore a long mildewed rusted black dress with missing buttons and a grease-stained scarf covering her pigtails. She has blue-brown eyes, is ashen in appearance and very wrinkled. She is sweating from her walk and is shivering from the cold. She enters the white church and sits, singing in her head. She is physically thrown out of the church. She sees Jesus walking down the highway and is giddy with joy. Jesus tells her to follow him and she does, walking alongside him.
He looks just like she thought he would, and he listens to her sing and talk to him. He was wearing immaculate white, long dress trimmed in gold around the neck and hem, and a red, a bright red cape. (Walker 2003) Over his left arm he carried a brilliant blue blanket. He is wearing sandals and a beard and long hair parted on the side. (Walker 2003). She feels great beside him and can walk as long as he wants. She tells him about her hardship works for whites and the injustices that have taken place . She feels his kindness and instantly feels better.
The old elderly woman saw Jesus wave to her. He told her to follow him. She broke her silence to tell Jesus how glad she was that he had come, how she had often looked at his picture. They continue to walk together. The ground began to look like clouds. They continued to walk looking straight ahead, she had a smile on her face. Conclusion “The Welcome Table “is told in omniscient third person and shifts the point of view from which the story is told. The beginning of the story is told from the point of view of the white congregation. They view the elderly black woman as being beneath them.
She receives evil stares as she enters the church to seek Jesus. She feels her time on earth is coming to an end. She is treated badly because of her ethnic background. The usher then asks the elderly woman to leave the church. The women in church feel threatened by the aging woman because of the color of her skin view switches to the usher who tells the elderly African American woman to leave. The men in the church carry the elderly woman out of the church. The woman then sees Jesus walking down the highway. She walks along with him and she is never seen again.