Summarize the story  "A Visit to Grandmother" by William Melvin Kelley.

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Charles left home when he was fifteen. Through his own resources, he became a lawyer.  His son Chig thought of his father as a kind, gentle man. When Chig accompanies his father on a visit to his home, Chig discovers a change in his father’s behavior as he steps into his mother’s house.

In “A Visit to Grandmother” by William Melvin Kelley, it is easy to recognize that Charles’s mother has a big heart for everyone. Chig is surprised at how his father behaves with his mother and all of the other relatives.  Everyone seems so happy to see him and his father. However, Charles grimaces when his mother tries to hug and kiss him. 

Finally, GL, Charles’ older brother, is mentioned.  The grandmother begins to tell stories about her misbehaving son. Chig remembers his dad talking about GL as though he were a five years old child.

Charles has always felt that his mother did not discipline GL enough.  When they got in trouble, she always spanked Charles first and then was too tired to discipline GL. Charles was not aware that his mother could tell that Charles was more mature than his older brother and definitely knew right from wrong. 

Charles’s mother believed that if she did not let GL do things without getting punishments as severe as Charles, that GL would rebel and start breaking the law. She always kept a looser leash on GL for that reason. 

To add to his misery, Charles, who was very black, felt that his mother favored GL because he had lighter skin.  He also believed that his mother thought that GL was going to be more successful than Charles because of his looks.

His mother tells the story of going to town with GL who was driving a horse-drawn carriage. The horse went out of control and the mother had to grab the reign and slow the horse down.  When she tells the group that she had to save her baby, Charles is incensed.

Charles indicts his mother by telling her that if he had wanted her to go to town with him, she would have said “no.” Because of lack of communication, Charles always thought that his mother did not love him as much as his brother.  He spent his entire adult life with hard feelings and bitterness toward his mother and brother.

To the reader, it is apparent that the old lady does not understand why Charles feels that way.

Tears came to the old woman’s eyes. She tried to explain that she had intended to give each of her ten children what they needed. GL got more attention because he could have so easily gotten into trouble. She told Charles that he was smarter and more grown up than GL.

Even after she tries to explain to him, Charles does not accept her explanation and runs upstairs.  GL comes in and is anxious to see his long lost brother.