When Ellen Douglas started writing, she drew inspiration from the way William Faulkner and other southern writers whom she admired, like Eudora Welty, depicted southern places. Douglas planted all of her fiction firmly in the region of Mississippi that she knew best; her Homochitto is modeled of Natchez, where she was born, and her Philippi on Greenville, where she lived with her husband and their children. But Douglas reacted against the gothic and mythic elements in Faulkner's work and used as her first literary models the great nineteenth-century realists: Dostoevsky, Flaubert, James, and Tolstoy. She admired Eudora Welty, but found her "too idiosyncratic a writer" to serve as a direct influence; instead she turned to Katherine Anne Porter to validate her own preoccupation with complex family relationships. However, in the intensity of her focus on race, Ellen Douglas pushed beyond both Welty and Porter and rivaled Faulkner in her ability to craft revealing stories about southern race relations.
Copyright © 2010 The University of Southern Mississippi. This article first appeared in The Southern Quarterly 47:2 (2010), 24-38.
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Jones, Suzanne W. "Writing Southern Race Relations: Stories Ellen Douglas Was Brave Enough to Tell." The Southern Quarterly 47, no. 2 (2010): 24-38.