A Visit Of Charity and Old Mrs Chundle
- Pages: 12
- Word count: 2927
- Category: Charity
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Both ‘A Visit Of Charity’ and ‘Old Mrs Chundle’ have seemingly similar themes written in a different way. Old Mrs Chundle was written during the 1880’s and is about an old woman who lives on her own in a country parish. However, the rather ironically titled A Visit Of Charity is set in 20th century America and concerns the visit of Marian, a campfire girl, to two old ladies living in an old people’s home. Despite being set in different times and countries both stories have the same theme: the way we mistreat old people.
Both the curate in Old Mrs Chundle and Marian in the Visit of Charity only pay attention to the elderly people in order to gain a reward for their gifts of charity. In Old Mrs Chundle the curate meets Mrs Chundle by chance when he was looking for somewhere to have lunch during a painting expedition. She lives a simple life growing her own food and copes alone despite her age. After the Industrial Revolution many old people found themselves alone in the countryside because the younger people had moved to the cities to find work.
People in Mrs Chundle’s time were more conscious of their status, as is obvious in the relationship between Mrs Chundle and the curate. At the start I become aware of this, ‘Oh, faith, I don’t want to eat with my betters- not I’. Mrs Chundle is conscious of the curate’s social class and the built in social boundary that is between them. Mrs Chundle clearly values and optimises her individuality. With the curate the people will be respectful and do what they are told.
The curate meets Mrs Chundle and is thrown off balance with the way she reacts with him But I suppose ’tis the wrong sort, and that ye would sooner have bread and cheese’. Mrs Chundle doesn’t fear of striking up a conversation with the curate after he has simply asked for a meal. This shows she speaks her own mind, and allows herself to voice an opinion of the curate. It is ironic that Mrs Chundle does not look for any reward for her kindness in preparing a meal for the curate ‘Oh, I don’t want to be paid for that bit of snack ‘a b’lieve! ‘ When the curate insists, she refuses any more than she thinks the meal is really worth.
In contrast the curate has an ulterior motive for wanting to get Mrs Chundle to church. He is new in the job and wants to impress both the rector and the other parishioners. ‘On reflection the curate felt that this was decidedly a case for his ministration’. In Old Mrs Chundle we also see how younger people find old people dull for example the curate is shocked that she has only travelled three miles in her life. The curate also shows how people easily decide to ignore old people once they become troublesome, or when helping them becomes inconvenient.
This happens when the curate is unable to bear the smell of Mrs Chundle’s onion stew and blocks up the hole of the hearing tube with her handkerchief. ‘He did not call on Mrs Chundle the next week, a slight cooling of his zeal for her spiritual welfare being manifest’. This shows his interest wasn’t purely in Mrs Chundle’s spiritual wellbeing and that the curate wasn’t prepared to put up with any problems on her behalf. Mrs Chundle really appreciates the curate’s efforts and tries to build up a friendship with him, ‘And will you come to my house once in a while and read to me’.
The curate has made her feel that her soul is important and that she is a valued member of his congregation. However, the curate is not as selfless as Mrs Chundle believes because he is more concerned about his own comfort in the pulpit than Mrs Chundle’s spiritual good. ‘Hoped he might hit on some new modus vivendi, even if at any inconvenience to Mrs Chundle, in a situation that had become intolerable’. When Mrs Chundle dies, the curate feels genuinely guilty. This is made worse when a woman tells him that Mrs Chundle had said, ‘She new twas not by your own wish you didn’t arrive’.
This is ironic because the curate had in fact deliberately avoided Mrs Chundle. So Mrs Chundle, who is less selfish than the curate, consoled herself by thinking that the other people needed him more than her. She had thought that he was different from other people and valued older people. ‘He’s not ashamed of an old woman’. This shows that Mrs Chundle thought that he was different from some people who don’t care about old people. Mrs Chundle is interesting as the characters develop and form relationships. Mrs Chundle dies believing her soul was worth saving and someone had done something for her for which Mrs Chundle was appreciative.
Mrs Chundle shows how appreciative she was by leaving all of her possessions to him. She felt she had gained a true friend. The curate has changed for the better through the story. From being an arrogant, nai?? ve young man, the death of Mrs Chundle has changed the curate into a better person. The curate appreciates how he has gone about things and the way he has caused Mrs Chundle grief. The story wasn’t a complete waste of time for the curate. The ending of Mrs Chundle is melodramatic and over the top. This part of the story had a sensational concluding event.
Mrs Chundle’s death was purely unexpected because I wasn’t aware of any medical condition in the text, ‘She’s dead, and sir’. The curate is genuinely upset because at that point no one is watching him, ‘Kneel down in the dust of the road rested his elbow in one hand and covered his face with another’. I feel the young curate has learnt a lesson, and the chances of him repeating it again aren’t likely. For the first time since his arrival to the parish this act isn’t in front of an audience. Mrs Chundle raised the expectation but he was unable to follow it through.
In contrast A Visit Of Charity, is a more depressing story. A Visit Of Charity was written in a different social context during the 1970’s some 90 years latter than Old Mrs Chundle. Nevertheless, it is similar to Hardy’s story because the central character Marian, is only visiting an old lady for her own benefit. She says, ‘I have to pay a visit to some old lady’. This implies that she is compelled to make a visit and would not do it out of choice, but she is too ashamed to admit her true motive to the nurse, ‘The little girl did not tell her that the visit would give her a minimum of three points to her score’.
This shows that Marian needs to be bribed to visit old people. She doesn’t intend to build up a relationship with them and doesn’t see them as individuals. She is simply a spectator of their childish arguments and games. She tells the nurse ‘Any of them will do’. This implies that she is treating them like objects. Marian is reluctant to enter an old person’s room and has to be pushed inside by the nurse. Marian doesn’t think that any of the old people has any personality because she thinks of them as ‘Sheep bleating’. This implies old people are dull and not fun to be with.
Marian sees the old ladies at first to have “Bird claws”, and seems afraid of the old ladies; ‘It was like being caught in a robbers cave, just before one was murdered’. This simile shows that the visit felt like torture for Marian. Eudora Welty also stresses words like ‘Screamed’, ‘Eternity’, ‘forever’ and ‘Despair’ more than once to paint a picture of hell throughout the whole of A Visit Of Charity. Eudora Welty does not portray the old ladies sympathetically. They argue with each other and one of the old ladies seemed ungrateful to their last visitor who had read to them from the bible. ‘Who enjoyed it said the women in bed! Perhaps the women wanted someone to talk to her as an individual instead of just reading to them from the bible.
Marian, is aware of why the previous visitor had been keen on bible reading, ‘If they took a bible with them on the bus and read it to the old ladies, it counted double’. This shows that Marian’s selfish attitude is typical of young people. Marian soon makes an excuse to leave, ‘I can’t stay but a minute’. She wants to spend the minimum time to earn her campfire points. We learn of the horror of being abandoned in old peoples homes, ‘Your heart and hands and your old black purse are empty ‘.
Not only do they not have any money left they also have no love to fill their hearts’. One woman feels that it is the ultimate insult to be visited by total strangers with doubtful motives. ‘Is it possible that they actually done a think like this to anyone- sent them in a stranger to talk’. This woman has no friends or relatives who visit her and she feels rejected. Society is not doing enough to comfort her by sending a succession of strangers who fail to develop a relationship with her. The old people are totally dependant on others, ‘When the worst comes to the worst, I ring the bell, and the nurse comes’.
They would rather be independent but they are in a desperate situation. Even Marian’s attitude briefly softens as she thinks of the woman as, ‘A little lamb’. The woman appears helpless and we feel sympathy for her at this moment. Being cooped up in a room with another old person has brought out the worst in the old ladies, ‘That’s Addie for you, the women said spitefully’. They have got on each other’s nerves and almost hate each other. As Marian leaves, the nurse shows how people who work in old peoples homes do not seem to have any genuine feeling for the old people. ‘The nurse….
Asked automatically the question put to the visitors in all institutions’. She probably doesn’t expect people to want to stay very long with the old people, but it is her duty to ask. Marian’s behaviour at the end of the story is infuriating; ‘Under the prickly shrub she stopped and quickly, without being seen, retrieved a red apple she has hidden’. This shows how selfish Marian is because she was afraid one of the old ladies would want her apple. A Visit Of Charity is much more depressing than Old Mrs Chundle. None of the characters are attractive and they lack any emotion.
Nursing homes are depressing and the other peopling who live there aren’t nice. The author is making a point but it seems her approach is very heavy handed. One bad thing after another makes the story very depressing for example the old ladies argue with one another and one old lady ends up begging Marian for money. This story is the complete opposite to Old Mrs Chundle. I find this story very dull but maybe this matter should be addressed this way so we become aware of the problem regarding mistreating old people. Hardy’s story is more entertaining.
The use of dialect makes the characters realistic and sometimes amusing for example ‘I’m as deaf as a plock’. The word plock is unusual and sounds rather humorous. By making Mrs Chundle amusing the reader becomes more sympathetic towards her because she sounds like she is someone who is easy to get along with. This gives the reader the impression that old people can be fun to be with. Hardy also uses dialect to create humour while at the same time illustrating a difference in outlook between Mrs Chundle and the curate, ‘Ay, I’ve seen ye drawing them old stones baint ye’.
Mrs Chundle shows no interest in the historical ruin and finds painting a waste of time and money. This difference in attitude could be partly due to social class because the curate has a very leisured and laid back lifestyle; he can allow himself to lie around in the mornings and paint ‘A sketch showing a distant view of the Corvsgate ruin’ whereas Mrs Chundle is preoccupied with day-to-day survival. Hardy is involved and wants us to understand how the characters feel, for example the rector found the situation amusing as the curate’s youthful enthusiasm became clear.
The old lady had made the curate look so foolish. Another amusing incident is when the curate is preaching and Hardy includes in brackets the curate’s analysis of the smells coming from Mrs Chundle hearing tube. Hardy also includes light-hearted visual humour during the sermon. When Mrs Chundle blows his handkerchief out of the pipe, ‘He beheld his handkerchief rising from the bell of the tube and floating to the pulpit floor’. The reader can imagine how comical the scene must have been but it also shows how determined Mrs Chundle is to make the most of the help he offers her.
It is situations like this that contribute to the overall cheery and sunny mood that is created by Hardy. However, Hardy does use the sermon to convey a serious message about the right and the wrong ways to behave. At one point the curate says, ‘Our discernment of actions as morally good or in different’. Hardy wants us to be morally good especially in dealing with old people. Hardy’s story is more interesting because he creates tension, ‘On coming near he saw to his surprise that the calico curtains of the cottage window were all drawn’. The curtains were drawn to allow the mourners to give their last respect to Mrs Chundle alone.
Hardy ends the story on a sad note with the death of Mrs Chundle, which comes as a shock to both the curate and the reader. The message here is that you never know what is going to happen so you must never put it off helping people because the next day may be to late. ‘Dead?…. Mrs Chundle dead? ‘ When the curate finds out Mrs Chundle is dead he becomes genuinely shocked and disgusted with the way he has behaved towards her. Hardy uses a simile to convey the curates feeling of guilt, “The curate went out, like Peter at the cock crow”. This image is appropriate because it is taken from the Bible – a reference to St.
Peter, when he first betrayed Jesus. Hardy is conveying the message that we should feel guilty if we don’t take some responsibility for older people. Hardy also describes him as a “Black shape on the hot white of the sunned track way”. A “black shape” is often associated with sin while the “hot white” is conventionally associated with purity represented in the rest of the world. In A Visit Of Charity, Welty doesn’t comment on what is happening. It makes us feel as it is for Marian, who never behaves disrespectfully but doesn’t attempt to build a relationship with them. “With any old ladies?
No – but – that is, any of them will do”. Marian depersonalises the situation by the way she addresses the nurse at the reception. As well as this, the nurses also depersonalise their relationship with the old ladies by not calling them by their own names, “Here’s one”. It seems she sees them all as the same. In a Visit Of Charity Marian hasn’t learnt anything from the visit to the old ladies. She is still the selfish girl we had become aware of from the start. Marian leaves the home with even more dislike for old people in general and her prejudices have been strengthened.
The ending again is depressing as no one has benefited in any way from the visit. Marian makes a swift exit from the old people and will never look back at the visit showing no remorse for the old ladies, “Her hands got colder and colder … How dark it was… ” who live in a cold, dark and bleak room in a nursing home where the nurses do not provide necessary treatment and care to the old ladies who live in unacceptable conditions. Welty keeps her distance from the old characters to make this point about lack of compassion and sympathy.
Welty doesn’t want us to like the characters as the feelings for the two old ladies would be taken into consideration. In a way Welty presents the a stereotypical view of the old ladies. These views expressed in ‘A Visit of Charity’ see old woman as cantankerous, thin, lonely, jaded and totally dependant on nurses for assistance, “The old woman in bed cleared her throat and spoke” emphasised by the phrase, “Women in bed”. Looking after old people and treating them with respect and care is important because they do have a use, lessons can be learnt from them and one day we will be old.
I ask the question, would you like it if you were treated this way when you become old? I presume not. The issue has been addressed in different ways so we see the many sides to the problem. Should we completely forget about old people and run out of the nursing home without saying goodbye just as Marian did? Or else should we accept the teachings in Old Mrs Chundle about the relationship that the young should be having with the old? Ultimately we shouldn’t have to seek for rewards when visiting old people.