Delta Wedding


Show Synopsis

A vivid and charming portrait of a large southern family, the Fairchilds, who live on a plantation in the Mississippi delta. The story, set in 1923, is exquisitely woven from the ordinary events of family life, centered around the visit of a young relative, Laura McRaven, and the family's preparations for her cousin Dabney's wedding.

Filter Results
Item Condition
Seller Rating
Other Options
Change Currency

Customer Reviews

Write a Review


Sep 17, 2017


I have of late been reading some long, ambitiously sprawling novels that attempt, with questionable success, to capture a large historical era or place. I have also been reading novels which are radically different in style and scope. These novels take small scenes and discrete places, times, and characters, and attempt to develop them. In words of the poet George Oppen, such novels "write the great world small". Among the latter type of novels are those of Eudora Welty (1909 - 2001). Welty lived her entire life in Jackson, Mississippi. In her five novels and her many short stories, she wrote about places she knew intimately. Her novels develop slowly into works of significance. On the whole, I find this type of novel, of restricted scope, more successful than the larger type.

Welty's second novel "Delta Wedding" developed from a short story titled "The Delta Cousins" that three magazines initially rejected. She expanded the story into a novel with the working title, "Shellmound" after the Delta plantation in which most of the story takes place. "Delta Wedding" first appeared serialized in the Atlantic Monthly" and was published as a novel in 1946.

The book is a seemingly simple story of a large, close family, the Fairchilds, their plantation, Shellmound, near Fairchilds, Mississippi, and the wedding of young Dabney Fairchild, 17, to the overseer of the plantation, Troy Flavin, 34. The book takes place over about one week in September, 1923. It unfolds slowly and deliberately as Welty describes in painstaking detail the plantation, the Delta fields, the Yazoo River, the town of Fairchilds, the wedding between Dabney and Troy and its lengthy preparations, the Yellow Dog train, and the Fairchilds themselves, and their relationship to family members and others.

Much of the story is told through the eye of nine-year old Laura McRaven, whose recently deceased mother was a Fairchild. As the book begins, Laura travels on the Yellow Dog from Jackson to attend Dabney's wedding. She does not realize at the time that the Fairchilds are considering asking her to live with them at Shellmound. Laura, however, is not the sole focus of the novel. As the story develops, many members of the large Fairchild family are closely described, and many members speak in their own voices.

Although many stories and people are developed in the book, the most interesting member of the Fairchild family is George, the younger brother of Battle Fairchild. Battle lives on Shellmound with his wife Ellen, from Virginia, and their many children, including Dabney, the second-oldest daughter. Ellen is again pregnant as the wedding proceeds. Battle's brother George is a lawyer who lives in Memphis with his wife, Robbie. The Fairchilds tend to look down on Robbie due to her origins and have never fully accepted her. So too, the Fairchilds have some dissatisfaction with Troy due to his status as their overseer, his "slowness", and his origin in the Mississippi hills, outside the Delta. Thus, when George comes to Shellmound to participate in Dabney's wedding, Robbie has briefly left him. The incident that provoked Robbie to leave occurred two weeks earlier when, on a fishing outing, the family carelessly walked on a right of way trestle of the Yellow Dog. The train came while feeble-minded Maureen, the sole daughter of Dennis Fairchild, was caught on the trestle. The free-spirited Dennis was a family hero, killed in WW I. George rescued Maureen and, in any event, the Yellow Dog stopped just in time. Robbie was jealous of George's seeming devotion to the family at her expense. Yet, she knows of George's love and reminds the family that "he begged me" to marry.

Welty finds George differs from the other members of the Fairchild family and describes him through other family members. Thus, when George Fairchild is first introduced, we see him through the eyes of Dabney:

"She saw Uncle George lying on his arm on a picnic, smiling to hear what someone was telling, with a butterfly going across his gaze, a way to make her imagine all at once that in that moment he erected an entire, complicated house for that butterfly inside his sleepy body. It was very strange but she had felt it. She had then known something he knew all along, it seemed then -- that when you felt, touched, heard, looked at things in the world, and found their fragrances, they themselves made a sort of house within you, which filled with life to hold them, filled with knowledge all by itself, and all else, the other ways to know, seemed calculation and tyranny."

A few pages latter, Dabney expands her understanding of George:

"George loved the world, something told her suddenly. Not them! Not them in particular."

As the story develops, George, with his wisdom, warm-heartedness, impulsiveness, and ability to live with and respond to what is around him, becomes, for me, the dominant presence of this book. George's ability to see value in the commonplace world of the everyday mirrors Welty's writing, as she piles detail upon detail in telling her story. The details somehow manage to show how a mundane story of a wedding and a place has a human, and then almost metaphysical, significance.

"Delta Wedding" is a slow book which requires patience to read. It includes many characters in a short space. The Delta and its people are lovingly described. For all its simplicity this is a difficult book in Welty's presentation of her material from many points of view. Welty goes beyond small factual descriptions to invest the book with a sense that life is particular and precious in finding love and meaning in the everyday.

Robin Friedman

See All Customer Reviews

This item doesn't have extra editions