Michael Kreyling essay called, "Comedy's Adjoining Terror: The Ponder Heart",
opens with the critic drawing a parallel between The Ponder Heartand Faulkner's
Intruder in the Dust. He warns us that if we look too hard into the serious side of The
Ponder Heart, we may lose the humor.
The Ponder Heart takes place in the Beulah Hotel in Clay, Mississippi and is told
with all the characteristics of a dramatic monologue. According to Kreyling, Edna Earle
is a troubled soul that is struggling for fulfillment and freedom while being trapped by the dictates of society and filling the role that society has prescribed for her. The source of comedy in The Ponder Heartis this struggle between laughter and outrage, and stability and chaos. The critic sees this struggle as life that collides with external restrictions.
This releases the vital energies that exist in Welty's writing, whether she chooses to use two persons or conflicting natures in one person. Another way Kreyling illustrates this point is through the mythological personas of Apollonian and Dionysis. Edna Earle represents the Apollonian ways of living which include order, knowledge and experience. Uncle Daniel represents the Dionysian side of life as he simply does what comes naturally. He listens to spontaneous impulses that rule his life.
Michael Kreyling states that there is no winner or victor in The Ponder Heart. It is
basically stagnant although time continues to move on. Time is the arch enemy of Edna
Earle. Through time, she must face the fact that things are changing and what was
important in her world is not always very important to the new social set. The critic tells us that the result of the trail, while...
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...re lady bike riders, the wrong element, speeding cars, and the Peacocks.
These things bring home to Edna Earle the fact that she must change to survive in life
and one is left with serious doubts as to whether she ever will.
I have to agree with Michael Kreylingthat if one looks too deeply into The Ponder
Heart, one loses the sense of comedy that it first inspires. I'm not sure this book should be delved into to a great extent. I prefer to see Edna Earle as a delightful, entertaining person, and although I agree with Kreyling's assessment of the characters, I prefer to concentrate on the humorous side of The Ponder Heartbecause I think that was Eudora Welty's main purpose.
Kreyling, Michael. "Comedy's Adjoining Terror" The Ponder Heart". Eudora Welty's
Achievement of Order. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. 1980.