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“A Visit of Charity” Written by Eudora Alice Welty: Critical Analysis

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“A Visit of Charity” was written by Eudora Alice Welty and was published in the year of 1941. This story is very intriguing and will catch the attention of those who read it. Through youthful diction and vivid imagery, the author describes the adventure of a Campfire girl who travels to a nursing home with the intent of her own personal interests. From the moment Marian entered the compound, she depicts that she did not want to be there. She only volunteered based on her incentive rather than genuine charity and intention of hoping to feel proud and accomplished. Welty emphasizes Marian’s intent by connecting her actions with the gratification she would earn, explaining that one gains extra points every time they brought a potted plant while visiting the elderly. Many people in this world partake in generous acts such as donating large sums of money clothes, sacrificing their time to help not because they are driven by benevolence but because they want a distinct image in the society. There actions don’t align with their intentions at heart. Ultimately, Welty narrates Marian’s story to highlight the differences between charity driven acts by self-interest versus sincerity, which is an essential lesson that the younger generations ought to learn.

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Throughout the short story, Welty utilizes rhetorical devices such as imagery to illustrate Marian’s thoughts and emotions while in the nursing home. One of the most interesting imagery was “being caught in a robbers cave” (Welty 3). As Marian commits to visiting the old ladies, she feels trapped in a tiny room. The symbolism of a cave—small, dark, and confining—conveys Marian’s lack of autonomy as her yearning only grounds her for achievement. Welty’s second imagery applies that of the nursing home itself, which was “whitewashed brick and reflected the winter sunlight like a block of ice” (Welty 2). This captures the gloominess and lethargy of the place, therefore justifying the distress Marian experienced. Since the nursing home emulated a lifeless and a pathetic atmosphere, the negative ambiance most likely drove her even farther away. To appeal to the readers’ sense of smell, Welty adds another imagery to represent the unpleasantness of the scenery, “there was a smell in the hall like the interior of a clock” (Welty 2). Welty employs rather weird imagery to describe the unsettling scent of the corridor, further expressing the dreadfulness young visitors such as Marian herself feel as they attempt to execute charitable acts for the elderly.

To a certain extent, the distressing imagery could excuse Marian’s halfhearted charity; however, the theme of the story that Welty highlights is the duality of charitable acts and the intent behind it—whether it be driven by sincerity or self-interest. From striving to get good grades to earn a pizza party to participate in after school activities for external rewards, society encourages young people to be extrinsically motivated to engage in benevolent acts. Reading about children like Marian who represents people who are primarily driven by introversion, readers find it amusing that one’s true character can be revealed in a simple situation. For instance, there were many occasions in the story where Marian’s negative commentary and attitude towards the nursing home and the elderly was very immature—further dictating her self-seeking motivation to earn her badge. Marian was impolite and did not show compassion towards the elderly.

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