A Visit of Charity

by Eudora Welty

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Why does Marian abruptly leave the women's room in "A Visit of Charity"?

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Marian flees the room of the two old women because she is not strong enough to heal the alienation that exists between the women and the separation from them that she herself feels.

With the ironic title of "A Visit of Charity," Eudora Welty depicts a slice-of-life story that demonstrates the alienation that prevails in the human experience. A young girl named Marian makes what she feels is a compulsory visit to a nursing home in order to earn points as a Campfire Girl. That she is not committed to a charitable act is indicated by her announcing to the nurse at the front desk, "I’m a Campfire Girl…I have to pay a visit to some old lady...any of them will do."

Having followed the nurse over "bulging linoleum" that to her feels "like waves," Marian is put into a room with one aged woman in a bed who "bleats like a sheep" and another who is extremely loquacious and has hands "like claws." She is not strong enough to overlook the pettiness of the old women or to try to bridge their alienation by offering them something, either in the way of food or kindness. Marian has hidden her apple outside in the bushes and refuses to give the talkative woman any money. Instead, she flees the room and, once outside, she retrieves her apple, taking a disobedient bite into it on her way home.

Welty's story thus illustrates the human divide from God's love with Marian's symbolic bite into the apple, as well as the refusal to follow the injunction of Jesus Christ in the New Testament to love one's neighbor as one loves oneself. She is, indeed, "a stranger" to both the roommate and to Addie.

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In Eudora Welty's story "A Visit of Charity," readers get a glimpse of a young girl witnessing what might be her own fate when she is older. When Marian goes to visit the Old Ladies' Home as an act of charity for her Campfire Girl requirement, she expects that it will be a quick and painless visit. During her visit, Marian sees women who remind her of sheep and who bicker constantly. As she watches the two old women, they become increasingly mean to each other, and Marian becomes increasingly disoriented. At one point, Marian can't even remember her own name.

When the old woman makes Addie cry, saying the reason she’s upset is because it’s her birthday, the spell over Marian is broken. Once Addie cries, Marian recognizes the cruelty of the women and is able to break free. Therefore Addie's crying is what causes her to abruptly leave the women’s room, but more importantly, the recognition of the ugliness and cruelty in that place and between women is what ultimately impels her to escape.

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