A Visit of Charity

by Eudora Welty
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At the conclusion of "A Visit of Charity," what does Marian do after leaving the nursing home?

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As Marian leaves the Old Ladies' Home, she reclaims a red apple that she hid in a prickly shrub when she arrived. She then stops a departing bus, jumps on when it stops, and takes a big bite out of the apple as she does so.

The author's description of Marian's attire and her actions at this point brings the story full circle because the same representation is used at the beginning. By linking the end and the beginning of the story in this way, the author emphasizes the insignificance of whatever happened in between.

Marian's visit is not one of generosity or kindness. The purpose of her visit is to gain points. Even the potted plant that she brings as a gift is to gain an extra point. She finds the entire experience with the old women unpleasant, and she cannot wait to get out of there. Once she has done what she needs to gain points, she rewards herself with a big bite from the apple that she has purposely hidden. The apple is a personal belonging, and she is not prepared to share any of it, especially not with two old ladies who remind her of witches.      

The descriptions of the apple and Marian's clothing are significant because it focuses attention on their symbolic value. In Christian culture, the apple is seen as the forbidden fruit ingested by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It is symbolic of the sin they have committed. Marian's sin is that she is self-absorbed and uncaring. The two old women are mere tools to serve her purpose. Furthermore, she has been tempted by reward (points).     

Her clothing alludes to Little Red Riding Hood (although Marian's cap is white) who went into the forest to visit her grandma. Ironically, though, their purpose is contrasted. Red Riding Hood acted out of love while Marian's purpose is entirely selfish. Also, the color red signifies passion and youth and juxtaposes Marian's girlhood with the two old women's senescence. The image also accentuates betrayal. Marian betrayed her society's intention of encouraging their members to do community service by visiting homes for the aged and other welfare groups or institutions as a kindness. Marian, however, does the opposite.       

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At the end of Welty's story "A Visit of Charity," Marian retrieves a red apple she has hidden in the bushes. She then jumps on the bus and takes a big bite out of the apple. This is an interesting moment in the story. At the start, she stops by the bush, but Welty never reveals what she does there. After stopping, she goes into the nursing home. However, when she leaves, she gets the apple out, so the reader knows then that she hid it there upon her arrival.

The apple is red and the girl's coat is also red, so this is a significant color. As she spends time in the nursing home with the objectified, animal-like old women, Marian just wants to escape and to thrive. Red, then, symbolizes life in this story. By running out of the nursing home and taking a big bite out of the apple, Marian shows that she rejects old age and death, and chooses youth and life. She will not think of the old women anymore and will go on living a vibrant life.

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