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“Clytie” makes me want to break my self-imposed rule of not reading any criticism before I blog these stories.   I want to save the criticism for later after I’ve thoroughly immersed myself in Welty and formed my own opinions.  I do find myself wondering what others have said, though.

 

This is a suicide story, but it’s not so much suicide as it is a twist on the Narcissus myth.  Clytie kills herself staring into her own reflection in the water.  She does more than that in actually plunging her head into the barrel of rainwater, but it starts out as feeling mesmerized with her reflection.  Unlike Narcissus, she isn’t in love with herself.  She’s equally repulsed and fascinated.  She’s fascinated with her own face the same way she’s fascinated with everyone else’s, the difference being simply in degrees.  Her face is “the face she had been looking for, and from which she had been separated.”

 

This is Clytie’s mental illness, her obsessive fascination for faces.   I find it fascinating that Welty, who spend so much time focused on photographing the faces of the Depression, would have written this story.  There is a thin line between art and madness sometimes.

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