Welty On Wednesday: “A Curtain Of Green”

I love the story behind Eudora Welty’s short story “A Curtain of Green.”…

Eudora Welty A Curtain of Green

Trained in the garden by her mother,  Welty recalls that she (much like the yard boys employed by Chestina) “learned by doing, rising at dawn, moving along behind her in the borders.”  She tells the story about working alongside Chestina and one of the yard boys who was called by his initials, J.W.   The task of the day was to trim the big Silver Moon climbing rose that rambled across the arbor in the upper garden.  A storm was brewing and J.W. was sweating as he took Chestina’s instructions about what to do and what not to do.  The rose was particularly thorny and after a bit Eudora recalled his mournful comment, “I wish there wasn’t a rose in the world.”

She says that this “might have been the first time I knew the compulsion to step back and place myself at a story-teller’s remove.  It seemed to me an archetypal moment of some kind.  When the storm broke, it was like a story falling all over the garden.  I turned it into one I called ‘A Curtain of Green,’ at a considerable remove from our real lives then.  It was the first time I had consciously placed myself at a story-teller’s remove, right there on the spot.”

A silver moon rose covers this quaint building…

Silver Moon Rose

(Paul Zimmerman Roses)


and how pretty it is growing along a fence…

Silver Moon Rose

 (Hartwood Roses)

Silver Moon grows still across the arbor in the Welty garden…

Welty garden

The story is about a widow, Mrs. Larkin, who in her grief, “worked without stopping, almost invisibly, submerged all day among the thick, irregular, sloping beds of plants.”  While “A Curtain of Green” is strictly fictional there are some correlations with events taking place in the Welty’s lives at the time of its writing.  Mr. Welty had died and Chestina took refuge in the garden, working most of the days among the flowers she planted behind the house.

I frequently am asked which story I would recommend for someone just beginning to read Welty’s work.  “A Curtain of Green” would be a good story to put on a beginner’s list I think.

 Especially when one knows the story behind the “curtain”…

dog behind curtain

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  1. Just saw online that our library has the complete works of Eudora Welty. As soon as I finish the book I am working on now, I think I’ll check it out. Plus, I saw she wrote a book on writing. Definitely something I want to look into!

    • mnestorc@aol.com says:

      Oh good for you and i hope you will enjoy reading them. I would start with one of the short stories like “A Curtain of Green”. It would also be good to read “One Writer’s Beginnings” as an introduction. Happy reading!