Comedy's Adjoining Terror: The Ponder Heart
Michael Kreyling essay called, "Comedy's Adjoining Terror: The Ponder Heart",
opens with the critic drawing a parallel between The Ponder Heartand Faulkner's
Intruder in the Dust. He warns us that if we look too hard into the serious side of The
Ponder Heart, we may lose the humor.
The Ponder Heart takes place in the Beulah Hotel in Clay, Mississippi and is told
with all the characteristics of a dramatic monologue. According to Kreyling, Edna Earle
is a troubled soul that is struggling for fulfillment and freedom while being trapped by the dictates of society and filling the role that society has prescribed for her. The source of comedy in The Ponder Heartis this struggle between laughter and outrage, and stability and chaos. The critic sees this struggle as life that collides with external restrictions.
This releases the vital energies that exist in Welty's writing, whether she chooses to use two persons or conflicting natures in one person. Another way Kreyling illustrates this point is through the mythological personas of Apollonian and Dionysis. Edna Earle represents the Apollonian ways of living which include order, knowledge and experience. Uncle Daniel represents the Dionysian side of life as he simply does what comes naturally. He listens to spontaneous impulses that rule his life.
Michael Kreyling states that there is no winner or victor in The Ponder Heart. It is
basically stagnant although time continues to move on. Time is the arch enemy of Edna
Earle. Through time, she must face the fact that things are changing and what was
important in her world is not always very important to the new social set. The critic tells us that the result of the trail, while entertaining and slightly ironical, has little to do with the resolution or absence of resolution in the story. The real story is the failure of Edna Earle to control her surroundings. However, she is still talking at the end of the book, so perhaps she never accepts a defeat.
Kreyling gives credit to Ruth Vande Keift for calling attention to Uncle Daniel's
kin. It is pointed out that Uncle Daniel bares a remarkable resemblance to King
MacLain of The Golden Applesand Don McInnis of "Aspholdel."They share white hair,
blue eyes, and all sport hats. Most importantly the protagonists share the
characteristics of the Dionysian types. All of these characters seem to just exist rather
than develop. Uncle Daniel's fascination to women like Elsie Fleming seems to
enhance the basic innocent spontaneous nature of Uncle Daniel.
According to Kreyling, the women Uncle Daniel is attracted to are the women that
Edna Earle fears. The set of values of women like Else Fleming and Bonnie Dee are
threatening to Edna Earle. They do not respect the old order of things. In other words
they just do not respect the Ponder...