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Eng 125 Alice Walker’s the Welcome Table

By MarlenePatWalker Feb 25, 2013 933 Words
Alice Walker’s The Welcome Table is a short story that gives a historical and cultural look at how segregation in the south influenced people’s lives. The story portrays an old black woman as the main character. It has plot, setting, characters, symbolism, theme, tone and imagery that the author skillfully narrated in the third person omniscient point of view to create the story. The reader experiences an insight into behavior that was caused by segregation in the State of Georgia in the south. “The reverend of the church stopped her pleasantly as she stepped into the vestibule…..”Aunty, you know this is not your church?”….Inside the church she sat on the very first bench from the back.” (Clugston, 2010) Head of the congregation the reverend instigates the act of religious segregation and without further prompting; his congregants willingly follows. The story also portrays the church people’s mindset to maintain religious segregation even in the act of worship. “They looked with contempt ….at the old woman…could their husbands expect them to sit up in church with that? No, no…” (Clugston, 2010) The narrator uses strong descriptions to recreate the era and to pull the reader into the story. It really shows how segregation influences people in their everyday life. Black slaves were freed. However, black and white people remained segregated because segregation was the way of life for the people during that period in Georgia. The system of segregation demanded that black people had to sit in the back of public busses and the old woman in the story knew her place because she freely sat at the back of the church. “Inside the church she sat on the very first bench from the back,” (Clugston, 2010). Religious segregation is the main theme. The song at the beginning of the story sets the tone and pulls the reader into the south where ex-slaves sang Negro spirituals for comfort. “I’m going to sit at the Welcome table; Shout my troubles over; Walk and talk with Jesus; Tell God how you treat me; One of these days!”(Clugston, 2010) Religious segregation was a major part of the culture in Georgia and it is the theme of this story; in that the author details the harsh cold manner in which it affects people. The spiritual at the beginning points to hope to one day experience welcome (acceptance), to sit and talk with Jesus who both the blacks and whites are worshipping but cannot do so under the same roof. In other words, the song is an expression of hope that segregation will end. The black old woman braves freezing temperature, without warm enough clothing to go to the house of worship. Winter represents death, stagnation and sleep (Clugston, 2010) and the old black woman represents slavery. The black old woman, symbolizing slavery is almost blind and almost dead. Yet she is determined to struggle through the freezing cold to push past the reverend, and ignore the young usher to seat herself in the whites only church. “She brushed past him anyway, as if she had been brushing past him all her life, except this time she was in a hurry. Inside the church she sat…It was cold, even inside the church….” This act by the dying old black woman is symbolic of the ex-slaves’ struggle to conquer the final frontier of segregation more so religious segregation. The author uses symbolism in this case to represent the people’s behavior towards the old woman and her determination to have her way. The Author skillfully uses imagery to tell a powerful story The Welcome Table. The very beginning paints a picture of the main character. “In her Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes:….head rag stained with grease from the many oily pigtails underneath,” What seems like a simple description of her clothes contained words that contributed to the painting of the picture. Then on the other hand the ladies of the church required a different set of adjectives. “Leather bagged and shoed, with calfskin gloves to keep out the cold....This done, the wives folded their healthy arms across their trim middles…” This vivid contrast also represents the religious disparity between the black people and the white people even though they are both worshipping the same god. “The reverend of the church stopped her pleasantly as she stepped into the vestibule…..”Aunty, you know this is not your church?”….Inside the church she sat on the very first bench from the back.” (Clugston, 2010) The black old woman, symbolizing slavery is almost blind and almost dead. Yet she is determined to struggle through the freezing cold to push past the reverend, and ignore the young usher to seat herself in the whites only church. Alice Walker’s The Welcome Table gives a historical and cultural look at how segregation in the south influenced people’s lives. The author skillfully narrated in the third person omniscient point of view to create the story. The reader experiences an insight into behavior that was caused by segregation in the State of Georgia in the south. The spiritual at the beginning points to hope to one day experience welcome (acceptance), to sit and talk with Jesus who both the blacks and whites are worshipping but cannot do so under the same roof. In other words, the song is an expression of hope that segregation will end.

REFERENCE
Clugston, W. R., (2010). Journey Into Literature, San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education Inc.

Barnet, S., Berman, M., Burto, W., (1967) An Introduction to Literature 3rd Edition Toronto, CAN:Little, Brown and Company Inc.

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