A Visit of Charity

by Eudora Welty
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Describe the character of the nurse

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In the story, the nurse is cold, detached, and apathetic. She is not especially friendly to visitors. It is clear that her indifference allows her to maintain her emotional equilibrium in her line of work.

The nurse is unnamed in the story, perhaps because she represents the quintessential no-nonsense health worker, one who must effect a certain detachment in order to maintain her professional efficacy. Essentially, the nurse is a sterile, institutional figure. She exists to keep order, nothing more. Throughout her interaction with Marian, the nurse demonstrates little warmth or friendliness. She is matter-of-fact, to the point that the author describes her as speaking like a man.

In fact, her one-liners are equally uninspiring: “You have a nice multiflora cineraria there,” “There are two in each room,” and “Won’t you stay and have dinner with us?

In the story, the nurse is not shown to interact with any of the residents in the Old Ladies' Home. She makes a seemingly arbitrary choice in pairing Marian with the two old ladies and then disappears from sight. We later learn that she is at her desk, reading the Field & Stream. Her choice of reading material indicates her desire to transcend her circumstances. So, the nurse is a symbol of the sterile, cold environment she works in. She is neither friendly nor welcoming. Her emotional detachment is both disturbing and heartbreaking.

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