Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“A Visit of Charity” is typical of Welty’s early short fiction, both in its use of a tight metaphoric structure and in its focus on the problem of love and separateness, which Welty has made her most predominant fictional theme. Symbol, metaphor, and biblical allusion are the primary devices that Welty uses to give depth and resonance to this seemingly simple story. The story is not merely a social criticism of institutional charity; it is about the difficulty, in any context, of following the biblical injunction to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” Marian’s final act—retrieving the apple she hid before entering the home and taking a big bite out of it—is the final symbolic gesture that unifies all the other metaphors and allusions in the story. Her biting the apple, recalling the biblical story of Adam and Eve, suggests both the sense of separation that follows the Fall and the difficulty of healing that separation through love, as mandated by the New Testament. In the Gospel of John, Jesus three times asks Peter if he loves Him. When Peter replies that he does, Jesus says, “Feed my sheep.”

When one recalls that Addie, the old woman who desperately needs love, is constantly referred to as a sheep or a little lamb, the implication of Marian’s bite into the apple is clear. She has refused to feed the sheep—literally by refusing to give the apple to Addie and symbolically by refusing to give her love. Thus, by means of the central metaphors and the biblical allusions, the story illustrates both the Old Testament loss of union as depicted in the Genesis story and the difficulty of following the New Testament injunction to regain that union through loving the neighbor as the self. Marian takes the bite of the apple and the story is over; the reader is left with the echo of old Addie’s despairing cry, “Who are you? You’re a stranger—a perfect stranger. Don’t you know you’re a stranger.”

A Visit of Charity Bibliography

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Champion, Laurie. The Critical Response to Eudora Welty’s Fiction. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994.

Gygax, Franziska. Serious Daring from Within: Female Narrative Strategies in Eudora Welty’s Novels. New York: Greenwood Press, 1990.

Gretlund, Jan Nordby. Eudora Welty’s Aesthetics of Place. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1994.

Gretlund, Jan Nordby, and Karl-Heinz Westarp, eds. The Late Novels of Eudora Welty. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1998.

Johnston, Carol Ann. Eudora Welty: A Study of the Short Fiction. New York: Twayne, 1997.

Kreyling, Michael. Understanding Eudora Welty. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1999.

McHaney, Pearl Amelia, ed. Eudora Welty: Writers’ Reflections upon First Reading Welty. Athens, Ga.: Hill Street Press, 1999.

Montgomery, Marion. Eudora Welty and Walker Percy: The Concept of Home in Their Lives and Literature. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2004.

Waldron, Ann. Eudora: A Writer’s Life. New York: Doubleday, 1998.

Weston, Ruth D. Gothic Traditions and Narrative Techniques in the Fiction of Eudora Welty. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1994.