In the Jim Crow South as depicted by Richard Wright and Eudora Welty, race is a matter of visibility. For black southerners, forever under the looming threat of white surveillance, to be seen is to be to be in danger. While Welty and Wright existed on opposite sides of the white gaze, the authors make contact as they explore and critique the barrier it created between white and black southerners, and the violence that resulted from this divide. In Welty’s “A Curtain of Green” and Wright’s “Down by the Riverside,” the surveyors become the surveyed, and a new perspective is born that resists the dominance of the white point of view.
Welty introduces the problem of white blindness in “A Curtain of Green” by placing the white women of Larkin’s Hill “in the windows of their houses, fanning and sighing, waiting for the rain” (107). These southern ladies, who “occasionally, looked down from their bedroom windows as they studiously brushed their hair,” epitomize the ideals of white southern womanhood that the Jim Crow laws were supposedly erected to preserve (108). “Gazing down from their upstairs windows” into Mrs. Larkin’s “slanting, tangled garden,” these women assume a position of privilege--of surveillance (107, 108). Yet what is significant to the relationship between Mrs. Larkin and her neighbors is not what “might be observed” from their elevated vistas, such as her unkempt hair and soil-stained overalls, but rather what “her neighbors could not see”: the threat of racial