From Listening

English 1001

February 16, 2004

In the essay, “From Listening,” by Eudora Welty, the theme of commitment is apparent in each teacher’s attitude toward her profession. Although the author speaks of Miss Duling in the greatest detail, her brief depictions of the other instructors also reveal their own loyalties toward teaching.

Through the mention of small events, Welty portrays teachers such as Miss Eyrich, the stern Physical Education instructor; Ms. McWillie, the grammatically correct 4th grade teacher; and, of course, Miss Duling, the principal whose life revolved around her schoool, as dedicated and no-nonsense teachers.

Welty begins her depiction of Miss Eyrich stating, “Thursday was Miss Eyrich and Miss Eyrich was Thursday ” (Welty 734). This opening hints to us that Miss Eyrich meant business. While most children usually enjoy this period of instruction, Miss Eyrich’s stern approach to Physical Education helps us to understand that she took her activities seriously and attempted to the teach her students to do the same. And by the author’s nervous depiction of her feelings towards Physical Education class, it seemed to have worked, “Dread rose in my throat. My head swam. Here was my turn, nearly upon me” (Welty 734). But I believe that Miss Eyrich also taught the author, and maybe the rest of her students, an additional lesson. In the statement, “I lost the relay race . . . before I started, through living ahead of myself, dreading to make my start, and standing transfixed by emergency, . . .” (Welty 734-735) the author is relating the relay race to some of life’s obstacles, and is realizing that Miss Eyrich taught her, maybe inadvertently or maybe intentionally, to deal with them.

Another example of a dedicated teacher was Ms. McWillie, “who taught the other fourth grade across the hall from ours” (Welty 735). Welty’s recollection of the incident in the bathroom is an example of Ms. McWillie’s commitment to her teachings. Elizabeth’s reply to McWelty of, “I might could” (Welty 735) struck Ms. McWillie’s attention, even though she was not their teacher, nor even in a classroom. She felt a need, as a teacher, to correct this grammatical error even in the girl’s restroom, and would not leave until she identified the culprit and scolded her, “If I ever catch you down here one more time saying ‘MIGHT-COULD,’ I’m going to carry it to Miss Duling . . . I hope you are both sufficiently ashamed of yourselves?” (Welty 735). I feel that this attitude towards the importance of speaking correctly portrays Ms. McWillie’s devotion to her students’ educations.

Another example of a dedicated educator was, of course, Miss Duling. The author’s entire depiction of Miss Duling showed us how committed she was to the profession of teaching. The author states, “I believe that she came from well-off people, well educated, in Kentucky, and certainly old photographs show she was a beautiful, high-spirited-looking young lady . . .” (Welty 731). The author also describes the state of Mississippi as a poor state with an even poorer school system, “She (Miss Duling) must have earned next to nothing; Mississippi then as now was the nation’s lowest-ranking state economically, and our legislature has always shown a painfully loud reluctance go give money to public education” (Welty 731). The author then adds, “That challenge brought her,” (Welty 731), meaning that Miss Duling came to Mississippi because of her love for teaching and the challenge to make learning better for the children of the state. The fact that she’s still a “Miss” tells the reader that she was never married and has dedicated her entire life to Jefferson Davis Grammer School. The old photographs of that high-spirited, beautiful young lady make no difference to the students, but reveal the potential that Miss Duling had for a family of her own. The fact that she gave up this opportunity for the children of Jefferson Davis Grammer School further influences my opinion that she was an extremely faithful educator. The author even states, herself, “She was a dedicated schoolteacher who denied herself all she might have done or whatever way she might have lived,” (Welty 731) of Miss Duling. These illustrations, and many others in the essay, are all examples of Miss Duling’s commitment to teaching.

The author’s portrayal