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“A visit of Charity” by Eudora Welty Essay

In the short story, “A visit of Charity” by Eudora Welty, a fourteen -year old Campfire girl whose name is Marian, visits an elderly home to earn points. The way Marian slowly makes her way from the bus stop to the nursing home shows reluctance. The author’s purpose was to describe a young child’s experience with the elderly through emotions and descriptions of her actions. The author encloses several lurid details to help the readers understand how awful this experience was for the child. The title contradicts the meaning of the story, charity means generosity or kindness towards others, and no one in this story carries that out. People’s selfishness and insensitivity can blind them from humanity and the needs of others.

The setting is a winter’s day at a home for elderly women. Outside of the home, there are “prickly dark shrubs with which the city had beautified the home”. These surroundings imply coldness, and abandonment. The ambiance points to the feeling of fear. The floors inside the building illustrate the awkwardness. The room that Marian ends up visiting is dark, the shade is drawn, and excess amounts of furniture. The wet smell of everything and the wet appearance of the bare floor imply that the cramped room is a more suitable for barn animals rather than humans. Marian compares the room to a robbers cave and the two women as the robbers. The setting of a story assists in painting a mental picture, which draws the reader into the story. (42)

Characters bring a story to life; they help the reader connect with the story and its surroundings. The story begins with the young girl who is fearful of the home. The story leads the reader to believe that Marian is the protagonist, and the elderly home is the antagonist. Marian is a self-conscious, submissive, and harsh. She refers to one of the elderly women as an object to be used and discarded when she announces the purpose of her visit. “I’m a Campfire Girl…I have to pay a visit to some old lady”. These words and her frequent thoughts about the points she will get for the visit reveal her real reason for coming, self-gain. An old woman “Any will do” is an impersonal thing with no identity or personality. She also refers to them as animals in their motions and appearances. When the girl runs out, she notices that the nurse is reading a Field & Stream magazine. All of these descriptions help the reader to understand what the home is like, and how she sees the world. (42)

Welty uses description, symbolism, irony to get across the theme. The theme of the story is selfishness, although it is portrayed through fear. Marian is apprehensive about going into the home, but maintains her state of mind and goes in. In the beginning, the story leads the reader to believe that she truly has compassion. Although, it is a lie, she is there only for points. The author is expressing self-interest. Fear is a part in life and to concur those fears is contentment, but running away is not concurring.

Marian does not portray the best image of a kind, cheerful Campfire Girl. Welty further suggests in this story that fake charity can destroy the very humanity it pretends to acknowledge and uphold. People like Marian acting either out of duty or for personal advantages have created the Home and the conditions that have made the inhabitants irritable and unlovable. Marian left the women more lonely and distraught than she found them. This kind of charity is uncharitable indeed.


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