Wednesday, April 13, 2011

"A Visit of Charity" by Eudora Welty

From today's Writer's Almanac:

It's the birthday of the woman who said: "My tendency is to believe that all experience is an enrichment instead of an impoverishment." That's fiction writer Eudora Welty (books by this author), born in Jackson, Mississippi (1909). Her short-story collections include A Curtain of Green (1941) and The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty (1982); and her novels include Delta Wedding (1946), The Ponder Heart (1954), and The Optimist's Daughter (1972).

Since I read one of Welty's stories over the weekend and never got around to a Short Story Monday post, this is a fortuitous coincidence. I could claim marking her birthday was my intention all along, but in reality it's hard to write a post on Monday and harder still to scheduled them ahead of time.

"A Visit of Charity" tells of a fourteen year old Campfire Girl's experience during a required visit to an old ladies' home.
"I'm a Campfire Girl... I have to pay a visit to some old lady," she told the nurse at the desk.. 
"Acquainted with any of our residents?" asked the nurse. She lifted one eyebrow and spoke like a man.  
"With any old ladies? No - but - that is, any of them will do," Marian stammered.
Welty describes Marian and the two old ladies selected for a visit with the acute awareness of character and setting I have come to expect.
There was loose, bulging linoleum on the floor. Marian felt as if she were walking on the waves, but the nurse paid no attention to it. There was a smell in the hall like the interior of a clock. Everything was silent until, behind one of the doors, an old lady of some kind cleared her throat like a sheep bleating. 
Marian's discomfort is keenly evident and the visit itself is tinged with hints of both sadness and humor.
"How old are you?" Marian breathed. Now she could see the old woman in bed very closely and plainly, and very abruptly, from all sides, as in dreams. She wondered about her - she wondered for a moment as though there was nothing else in the world to wonder about. It was the first time such a thing had happened to Marian.
The story reminded me of a nursing home visit during my early years in Girl Scouts. That's me in the middle of the back row.

Years later as a leader, I took our troop to a nearby senior center for Christmas caroling and, at Easter, to drop off handmade placemats and table decorations. Welty's quote in the Writer's Almanac seems particularly relevant to this story. A visit with a senior citizen is usually an enriching experience for both young and old.

"A Visit of Charity" can be read here.


  1. Well, Happy Birthday, Eudora, and thank you for all the many pages of pleasure you have given the world.

    And thank you, JoAnn, for reminding us and giving us the link to an online story.

  2. I worked in a nursing home during high school. The main reason was so I could visit my grandmother almost daily. But I ended up loving it and enjoying the elderly that I came into contact with. Great story!

  3. Well, I've just read the story - thanks for the link - and agree that the quote from Eudora Welty is so relevant to this story! It's sad what can happen to us in old age.

  4. Margot - You're welcome. I'm glad to have finally 'found' Welty. I recently purchased her collected short stories at our Borders closing sale and hope to read another of her novels in the near future, too.

    Staci - That's great that you got to visit your grandmother daily! Don't know of many high school kids today that would arrive at your solution. What a great experience!

    Margaret - I thought the coincidence of Welty's birthday, the quote, and that particular story was very serendipitous! Glad you got a chance to read the story. My favorite so far has been "Why I Love at the P.O."

  5. I keep meaning to read more Welty. She wrote and excellent essay on Jane Austen. Thank you for reminding us of this writer.

  6. Vintage Reading - Thank you for reminding me about Welty's Jane Austen Essay. It is included in the book A Truth Universally Acknowledged... and it's waiting on my shelf!

  7. thanks so much for this post and the link to the story-and for reminding us it was Ms Welty's birthday!

  8. Ha! I love that picture you posted from Girl Scouts!

    I really enjoy Welty's short stories (enjoyed them so much in a course that I bought a collection...huh, guess I do that a lot). In one class we listened to her reading Why I Live at the P.O. Cute story when read but very entertaining hearing her read the story. Not sure where you could find it, but if you can...

  9. Mel u - You're welcome :-)

    Trish - LOL, weren't we adorable! I tend to buy collections, too. Welty's stories were purchased at the Borders closing sale (Margaret bought Plath that day). I read Why I l Live at the P.O. last year and loved it. Will check around for the recording of Welty reading it... would love to hear her voice.

  10. Thanks to your provision of the link to the story I was able to read and post on this, of course, great story-I linked back to your post in mine


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