Eudora Welty’s “Circe”

The topic for this month’s Eudora Welty discussion group was the short story “Circe”.  First written in 1949 as “Put Me In The Sky!” and published in Accent magazine, Miss Welty rewrote the story six years later after traveling in Europe.  “Circe” is Miss Welty’s retelling of the myth in which Odysseus visits Circe on his return journey to Ithaca.  In her version, Miss Welty gives voice to Circe as the narrator…

painting of Circe by Edmund Dulac

Circe the Enchantress by Edmund Dulac 1915

Throughout the story, Miss Welty’s Circe strives to understand the mystery of mortals and that, I think, is the crux of the story.

Her observation of the sleeping Odysseus brings about the realization that “they keep something from me, asleep and awake.  There exists a mortal mystery, that, if I knew where it was, I could crush like an island grape.  Only frailty, it seems, can divine it – and I was not endowed with that property.  They live by frailty!  By the moment!  I tell myself that it is only a mystery, and mystery is only uncertainty.  (There is no mystery in magic!  Men are swine:  let it be said, and no sooner said than done).”  So while dismissing the mortals as swine she longs to understand the mystery of being mortal.

Thankfully our group benefitted from the vast knowledge of the ancient Greek myths possessed by one member.  I sadly admit a true lack of understanding and education with regard to these intriguing myths and so was pleased to benefit from her knowledge.

I love the way that the reading of this short story opens a door of wonder – wonder about the ancient Greek myths or wonder about ones’ striving to understand others,  simply the feeling of wonder that a well told story brings to life.

“But how much better, in any case, to wonder than not to wonder, to dance with astonishment and go spinning in praise, than not to know enough to dance or praise at all; to be blessed with more imagination than you might know at the given moment what to do with than to be cursed with too little to give you — and other people — any trouble.”
― Eudora Welty

and it is always nice to benefit from the knowledge of those around you…

dogs reading

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  1. Jeanne Luckett says:

    What a splendid “Circe” discussion summary, Marsha. Catherine Freis, Millsaps classics professor emerita, WAS a wonderful addition to the group with her depth of knowledge.

    • says:

      You are so kind Jeanne and indeed what a pleasure it is to have Catherine involved in the discussion. She is my hero!

  2. Wonderful quote from Miss Welty, Marcia!