The Language of Eudora Welty's Losing Battles

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The Language of Eudora Welty's Losing Battles

In his essay, "The Languages of Losing Battles", Mr. Bass contends that the form of language used by two major characters in Eudora Welty's Losing Battles, Julia Mortimer and Granny Vaughn, serves as a challenge to the "male-authored decrees" (Bass) found throughout the book. Julia's idioms are "teaching, writing, and books," (Bass)while Granny Vaughn, on the other hand, uses oral language to transmit family history. While Julia's province is one of ideas and abstraction in the written word, Granny Vaughn's stories are concrete, empirical, and rooted in actual events and real people. How these two methods of

questioning male authority are used by the two characters is discussed at length by Mr.

Bass, and this discussion comprises much of the bulk of this article.

The "male-authored decrees" challenged by the two women throughout the book

are numerous, and Mr. Bass makes use of only a few of these to make his point. In

truth, although his thesis is strong and well composed, most this article consists of a

rather opaque discussion of biblical symbolism, and how its various applications in the

novel relate to Granny Vaughn's "spoken folk myth." In Losing Battles,Julia has "written

her own apocrypha" (Bass) on leaves torn from her bible. This is used by Bass as a

prototype of written challenge to male authority. In some way, Bass contends, the

written word of Julia is a counterweight to Granny's dominance of the family, although

Julia's words must be taken for what they are, since she is not alive to interpret them.

While the written word "moves outward toward the abstract or conceptual and away

from the concrete center," the spoken language of Granny Vaughn and others "draws in

close to make the emblematic concrete, familial." (Bass) What exactly this balance does

for the furthering of the women's influence in the book is a question that seems to have

been left for the reader to answer.

Included in the piece is an interesting discussion of "banners and battles," and

the way that these images "mark the main conflict of the novel between local and

absolute."Bass uses the emblem of "Jack's 'torn sleeve that flowed free from his

shoulder like some old flag carried home from far-off battle.' " to represent a

convergence of a "banner" with a "battle".

Mr. Bass has taken a risk with his attempt to convince his readers that

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