The Quilting of Narrative: Playful Subversion in "The Robber Bridegroom"


From The Quilt Journal - An International Review, Vol. 2, No. 2.


By: Ingall, Marjorie

Editor Notes: The patchwork quilt has been for more than a century an icon of American life, emblematic of a "golden age" in which domestic virtue created orderly, tranquil, thrifty and happyhomes across the land. Long before the 19th century had ended,quilts and quilting were accepted symbols of those qualities inart and literature, here and abroad. The women's movement, roughly coinciding temporally with the quilt revival of the later twentieth century, has brought new sensibilities to the investigation of the symbolic values of quiltsand quilting. Women artists and writers find in the subject apt metaphors for their, and their sisters' lives, for their interaction with American culture. Generally the use has been positive, as metaphor for creativity and a perceived feminine way of approaching and organizing life, though some have argued it carries still connotations of the once-inescapable tyranny ofsewing and the rigid, sexually-determined roles of which it wasa manifestation. In the article which follows Marjorie Ingall discusses symbolic parallels between the quiltmaking process and women's writing, using as her central example American writer Eudora Welty's 1942 novel The Robber Bridegroom. Ms. Welty, as she points out, was familiar with quilting, and quilts appear in other ofher novels.

Author Notes: Marjorie Ingall, a staff writer for Sassy magazine, has also written for Fodor's Travel Guides and McCall's magazine. Ms. Ingall adapted "The Quilting of Narrative" for The Quilt Journal from her magna cum laude senior thesis in English and American Literature and Folklore and Mythology at Harvard University in 1989. She lives in New York City.