“The Welcome Table” by Alice Walker

Categories: Alice Walker

Electing the short story “The Welcome Story”, by Alice Walker (1970) for me was an easy choice for me to write a critiqued essay about. I am using a reader response approach in my critical essay. I like this approach because of the initial dedication to her sister Clara Ward, “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! ” This statement indicates that the old woman in the story is a spiritual woman and is looking forward to her day of meeting with the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Welcome Table story was intriguing to me because the author describes the old woman as one who does not have emotional ties with the people around her, is alone, and does not have the luxuries of life that one would expect for a woman of her era in today’s time. The one luxury and seemingly the most important one anyone could ever have is her closeness with Jesus and the luxury of knowing that her time is here for her to join him for eternity.

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It is apparent the pain the woman has endured through her life just by the description of the condition of her body “beaten by king cotton and the extreme weather”, the condition of her clothing items “a long rusty dress adorned with an old corsage, long withered, and the remnants of an elegant silk scarf as head rag stained with grease from many oily pigtails underneath”, and the emptiness conveyed by her to the outsiders “a dazed and sleepy look in her aged blue brown eyes.

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” The old woman has closed herself off to the people of the church, as she enters the church and the reverend addresses her as “Auntie” yet attempts to discourage her from entering the church. How can one be a family member possibly biologically and a relative of the reverend of a church and still be turned away by the reverend himself? That seems to be hypocritical, pompous, and self-righteous. As an old saying goes, “God does not like ugly. ” Meaning people of an evil nature and doing harm to others. Yet the old woman just brushes past the reverend as if he had not even spoken to her and enters the church and takes a seat and starts singing in her head. All the while the congregants of the church are whispering their lewd and more self righteous comments believing that it is okay to be so crude to another human just because she is an old black woman. It seems as though the old woman has allowed herself to escape the living reality and focus on her future with Jesus. Maybe everything in her life has been so painful that she can no longer bare the living life and hard memories of everything she has endured. It is obvious the people in her community do not wish her well rather just the opposite wishing her ill will. Reading this story has been somewhat enlightening to the fact that it is easier to comprehend why some African Americans seem so hard and closed to opening up to the society around them even in today’s era. Why would one want to open themselves up for ridicule and abuse if that is all they know to have been done to people of an African American heritage and being female on top of it only seems to make it worse as she was also alone and had no one to defend her. The old woman still has pride by dressing in her best clothes even though they seemed raggedy to others and walking into the church despite all the negativity around her. How brave and strong willed she is. My connection to this story and this old woman is strong. I felt her determination and will to go on and reach for the happiness that is so deserved. The Welcome Table to me refers to the table that she met with Jesus and she could say anything to him without being judged or ridiculed. Reading this story has enlightened my perception of what others may be going through or have gone through that makes them seem difficult to get along with or be personable with. People should attempt to keep an open mind and not judge a book by its cover as I have so many times done throughout my life. If it could only be true and tied to all that with age comes wisdom. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I personally wanted to enter this story and stand and sit by this woman while holding her hand. Only to show her that not all the people around her have a mean spirit in them and there is kindness though often hard to find amid all the rude individuals in her presence. She seemed to have been ready to meet her maker and be free of all of the hardships in the physical earth life and ready to be a happy and joyous person in the heaven above.

Alice Walker: The Welcome Table

Through literature we have the ability to learn about various significances and other human experiences. "Literature influences each private in a different way" (Clugston, 2010). In Alice Walker's narrative The Welcome Table, it enabled the readers to read and learn more about how, and what life was like for a senior black girl during the 1960s. Throughout these times blacks were discriminated versus and the harsh treatment that they sustained as human beings was unnatural and unusual to us in this day and time. In this narrative by Ms. Walker, it depicts to the readers how throughout this time duration the African Americans were dealt with. The reason that this story captured my attention was because of the fact that the elderly woman that is represented in the story was so cruelly victimized for entering a white church.

As you read this story, one can not assist however be intrigued by how the story discusses the elderly woman and how she has lived her life and had been treated her entire life. Alice Walker starts the story off with the lady preparing yourself to attend church and the clothing that she is dressed in, you knew she had no cash. "The old female stood with eyes uplifted in her Sunday ~ GO ~ TO ~ conference clothing: high shoes polished about the tops and toes, a long rusty dress decorated with an old corsage, long corsage, long withered, and the residues of a sophisticated silk scarf as headrag stained with grease from the any oily ponytails underneath." (Walker,1967) This bad lady had actually lived a tough life and it revealed on her face and body, so you could tell she knew suffering. The story informs us that this old girl stumbles into an all white church from the freezing cold. The bad white people simply looked at her in pure shock as though she had devoted a criminal offense for entering their church.

In the reading it specified "And so they gazed nakedly upon their own fear moved; a worry of the black and the old, a terror of the unidentified along with of the deeply known." (Clugston, 2010) This reveals from the sentence, the method the congregation looked at the senior woman, they were scared of African-Americans at this time period for no reason that they might even totally comprehend. They suggesting the white neighborhood did not like blacks and they were dealt with unjustly at all times and any expense.

The way that the black people were treated back in the 1960s and even before the 1960s, the African-American people were not treated or respected like the white people. To read a story like this, helps me to understand the struggle and pain that the woman endured, as it was told by the narrator or persona of the reading. Some of the people felt as if the beginning of the end of worshipping of the Holy Church and as an invasion of their privacy. Many felt also as if they had lost their privacy now that she had entered their place of Holy Worship.

As, I bring this to a close we have to remember that no matter whom or where we are in the world today, we should not pass judgment on another person just because of how they dress, their ethnic background, or where they may live. The story portrayed an elderly black lady who was forgetful and showed her struggle through her eyes and body still walked down the road about a half mile to this church to worship the lord. Even though she was thrown from the church, she did not stop singing and talking to her God. To me, this shows us that no matter our struggle we should never stop believing in what we believe just because someone else does not want us to.


Clugston, R.W. (2010). Journey in literature. Retrieved from https://content.ashford.edu Walker, Alice, (1967). The Welcome Table. Retrieved from http://web.ebscohost.com.proxy-library.ashford.edu/ehost/delivery?isd=72e76da8-5292-49 Retrieved 1/16/2013 Walker, Alice, (1967). The Welcome Table. Literary Cavalcade; Feb 2003;55-5; Proquest Central, Retrieved 1/16/2013

Updated: Nov 01, 2022
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“The Welcome Table” by Alice Walker. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/the-welcome-table-new-essay

“The Welcome Table” by Alice Walker essay
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