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“...these people never knew where the very roads they lived on went to...”

In Eudora Welty's "Death of a Traveling Salesman" (from A Curtain of Green), the protagonist R.J. Bowman is lost in the boonies of Mississippi.

He had made the Beulah trip before. But he had never seen this hill or this petering-out path before - or that cloud, he thought slyly, looking up and then down quickly - any more than he had seen this day before. Why did he not admit he was simply lost and had been for miles? ... He was not in the habit of asking the way of strangers, and these people never knew where the very roads they lived on went to; but then he had not even been close enough to anyone to call out. People standing in the fields now and then, or on top of the haystacks, had been too far away, looking like leaning sticks or weeds, turning a little at the solitary rattle of his car across their countryside, watching the pale sobering winter dust where it clunked out behind like big squashes down the road. The stares of those distant people had followed him solidly like a wall, impenetrable, behind which they turned back after he had passed.

With my given name, I have an issue with the term "petering-out", but otherwise I admire this passage. Welty telegraphs Bowman's fate with that title, but the means of his demise wasn't what I expected. I guess this is one way (of many) that she diverged from Flannery O'Connor.

June 26, 2018 in Books | Permalink

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