The Welcome Table
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As people make their way through life, they come to many realizations and learn things about themselves as well as others. “The Welcome Table” by Alice Walker is a beautifully written literary piece about an elderly African American woman and her desire for acceptance and equality. This story contains a number of literary elements that contribute to the story in a way that supports the themes in the story. The purpose of this paper is to discuss how the point of view and symbolism contribute to the theme of “The Welcome Table” by Alice Walker. After reading Alice Walker’s “The Welcome Table”, it is apparent that the story is told from a third person omniscient point of view. The narrator seems to have access to the thoughts and feelings of the main character and the church goers throughout the story, but doesn’t speak from anyone’s personal point of view.
The point of view throughout the story stays the same, the narrator had switched a bit from what the elderly lady was thinking to the church people, but remained omniscient. I believe the point of view in this story helps the readers to be more involved into the story and able to grasp the moments that occur. In the beginning as a reader I did not know what the elderly lady was thinking or doing until the church scene, once the lady arrived in the church the narrator moved to the point of view of the people at the church. At that moment we were able to feel bad for the elderly lady and what those people put her through. After the church scene the point of view changed to the elderly lady as she became excited to see Jesus and thought to herself. The entire time the narrator remained omniscient, but let us know how the characters were feeling.
I think the point of view relates to the story’s content by the way the narrator has the church goers view the old lady. The narrator wanted the reader to connect with the lady and what she was going through before they understand why she is doing what she is doing. The point of view draws the readers in and keeps them in the story feeling connected and even wondering what is going on throughout to keep the readers guessing why certain things are happening. The racial tension of the time is a central theme that can be seen throughout “The Welcome Table” by Alice Walker. This story is about an elderly African American woman that walks a considerable distance to try and praise Jesus in an all-white church. The theme of racism is immediately apparent when the woman enters the church.
The woman is instantly shunned by the church members despite the fact that the church is supposed to be a place of worship regardless of color. The white church members stared at her with contempt and the pastor and an usher asked her to leave and ultimately physically removed her from the church. Although some of the church members felt pity for the old woman, they all wanted her removed from their church. In this story, the church is a symbol of racism because the white church members felt as though it was the last place where they could be away from African Americans (Clugston, 2014). The absorbent amount of symbolism that Alice Walker uses in her writing helps the reader to feel the pain and the joy of the old woman as though they are themselves are experiencing the prejudices and racist actions of the church members.
Another central theme of “The Welcome Table” is religion. One can conclude that religion is a central theme of this story because the theme of a story tells the reader the primary focus of the story (Clugston, 2014). Although the woman has experienced many hardships throughout her lifetime, she has remained a faithful Christian and has never given up the hope that she will one day meet the man that she has seen in her visions. “A symbol is something that has a literal identity but also stands for something else—something abstract—like an idea, a belief, or an emotion” (Clugston, 2014, 6.2). Examples of religious symbolism can be seen throughout the story and help the reader to identify religion as a central theme of the story.
The Welcome Table is in itself a religious symbol because the old woman tells that she wants to “sit at the Welcome table, shout her troubles over, walk and talk with Jesus, and tell God how you treat me” (Clugston, 2014). The Welcome Table symbolizes the end to her journey and the place where she will meet her maker who will accept her as she comes. In summary, the powerful words of Alice Walker are a clear display of her dedication to African Americans and bringing knowledge to the discrimination that they have experienced. Her beautiful use of symbolism and point of view contribute to the definition of the theme throughout the story.
Clugston, R. W. (2014). Journey into literature (2nd ed.). San Diego, California: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.