A Visit of Charity
In the short story of "A Visit of Charity" by Eudora Welty, a fourteen-year-old girl visits two women in a home for the elderly to bring them a plant and to earn points for Campfire Girls. Welty implies through this story that neither the society that supports the home nor the girl, Marian, knows the meaning of the word "charity." Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines "charity" as "the love of man for his fellow men: an act of good will or affection." But instead of love, good will, and affection, self-interest, insensitivity, and dehumanization prevail in this story. Welty's description of the setting and her portrayal of Marian dramatize the theme that people's selfishness and insensitivity can blind them to the humanity and needs of others.
Many features of the setting, a winter's day at a home for elderly women, suggest coldness, neglect, and dehumanization. Instead of evergreens or other vegetation that might lend softness or beauty to the place, the city has landscaped it with "prickly dark shrubs." Behind the shrubs the whitewashed walls of the Old Ladies' Home reflect "the winter sunlight like a block of ice." Welty also implies that the cold appearance of the nurse is due to the coolness in the building as well as to the stark, impersonal, white uniform she is wearing. Perhaps the clearest evidence of dehumanization is the small, crowded rooms, each inhabited by two older women. The room that Marian visits is dark, with a drawn shade and too much furniture. The wet smell of everything and the wet appearance of the bare floor suggest that this cramped room is more like a stall in a barn, a place for animals, than that it might be a home fit for use by human beings.
Throughout her so-called visit of charity, Marian perceived the old women she meets sometimes as things and sometimes as animals. During her brief stay at the Home, Marian thinks of the first old woman as a bird and the second as a sheep. In her...
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