Critical Analysis of the Literary Works: “The Welcome Table” By Alice Walker

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Why the Literary Work Captured my Interest

The story captures my interest given that it unfolds under an ironical perspective. First, there is the irony that involves the church being perceived to be the enemy of comfort and care for the down-trodden in the society. The old woman beats all odds in order to attend the church to receive the comfort she needs from the surrounding hostile environment only to be neglected and discriminated by the very same people she thought would matter to her.

When she enters the big “white church” she is stopped by the reverend. “The reverend of the church stopped her pleasantly as she stepped into the vestibule” (Walker, 2003). However, she defies the request and finds her seat at the back of the church. Thinking that she had finally managed to enter and worship, the usher calls out for her to leave. She still insists on staying and this makes the other worshippers unsecure and uncomfortable. “The husbands were quick to answer and even quicker to do their duty” (walker, 2003).The worst happens when the men finds their way to her and throws her out of the “big white church” before the sermon commences. She is thrown back into the cold and harsh weather. She had opted to find solace and warmth inside the Church but that does not happen at all (walker, 2003).

Another instance of irony within this story is depicted when Jesus finally appears to her rescue. In respect to Christianity, the church is considered to be the dwelling place of the Lord; Christ. Christians flock the church in order to receive warmth and comfort from Christ who is believed to be residing inside. However, Jesus comes to the old woman and instead of leading her back into the church: where he is purported to be staying, and takes her for a journey. The woman and Jesus move along the highway together and from the perspective of the old woman, the journey is likely to be leading somewhere safe and comforting.

“All he said when he got up close was “follow me” and she bounded down to his side with all the bob and speed of one so old…… They walked along in silence for a long time. She was so happy walking along the highway with Jesus” (Walker, 2003).

Thus, this is a discerning element for Christians who believe that the Church is the only place where their savior resides. In addition to this, there is another element that is un-expected from Jesus. This is depicted by the manner in which He remains silent even after the old woman takes to reporting the suffering she had gone through. The old woman obviously expects Jesus to comfort her and tell-off the other Christians for conducting themselves in racial and discriminatory manner.

“Finally she started telling him about how many years she had cooked for them, cleaned for them, nursed them. He looked at her kindly but in silence. She told him indignantly about how they had grabbed her when she was singing in her head and not looking, and how they had tossed her out of his church”(Walker,2003).

This indifference behavior from Jesus is in-explicable given the fact that the woman notices that she might annoy Him and decides to keep up with silence. Thus, it is safe to indicate that irony, as an element of literary analysis, has been used effectively to provoke the mental picture of the reader into understanding the numerous Christian codes that have been, over a substantial period of time, neglected and misunderstood (Walker, 2003). 

Reader-Response Analytical Approach of the Literary Text

One matter that captured my imagination is the manner in which the old woman keeps on insisting on attending the church service despite the fact that she is not welcomed inside to worship. This is a state of curiosity I still try to understand. This curiosity allows me to disengage with my past-perception about all the stories Christians are made to believe blind-fondly. After analyzing this literary text, I am made to understand that one’s faith and hope towards Christ as the savior is personal and unique. It does not matter the thoughts of others but one’s level of passion in the course of undertaking matters. I am able to connect this piece of literature with another of Alice Walkers’ works: “A worn Path”.

In this piece the leading character, phoenix goes for a pilgrimage for which she mutters to inanimate objects as well as undergoes through numerous hallucinations in the course of her journey to finding solace from Christ. This can be compared to the old woman’s ‘walking with Jesus along the highway”. I believe that my connection with the piece added more insights into what I already understand about Christianity as a whole (Walker, 2003). I have leant to understand that Christ perceive people differently. He is also not quick to judge as depicted by the long silence in the course of the journey.

In conclusion, it is fair to postulate that the old woman and the Church have been depicted in a rather different and distinct manner. It is certain that despite the discrimination one undergoes in life especially those associated with racism it should not deter one from continuing with whatever they believe in. The old woman beats all odds to attend the Church service and no-one is able to separate her from clinging to the faith she dearly holds. She does not cite hostility on the part of the racists or the weather but ensures that she attends the service. This makes her receive salvation in a manner she least expects: by walking with Jesus to heaven.

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