Type: Literary Analysis
Pages: 5 | Words: 1264
Reading Time: 6 Minutes

The short stories, “A Mistaken Charity” by Mary E. Wilkins, “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner, “A Worn Path” by Eudora Welty, and “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall” by Katherine Anne Porter, all have a common theme that is symbolic of the lives of the characters. These stories include great characterisation, account of events in the stories and the viewpoints. The four stories have a common theme. Based on these stories, this essay aims to discuss how even the best-intentioned works of charity can be misplaced or unappreciated.

First, we ought to understand the definitions of charity prior to analysing and substantiating the acts of charity that were misplaced or unappreciated in the stories. According to Webster dictionary, charity is the “benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity”. It is also the act of “generosity and helpfulness especially toward the needy or suffering; also: “aid given to those in need” as well as a “lenient judgment of others”.

In “A Worn Path” by Eudora Welty, Phoenix is described as an old, poor ragged woman who, typical of the elderly, talks to herself and to imaginary images as she walks along a filthy path on her way to the hospital. Her grandson is ailing, and that is the reason she makes this difficult journey to get him medicine. When she finally arrives at her destination, she appears at a loss to express herself. She also cannot recall the reason that made her come in the first place. This indicates that she is indeed very old because she momentarily forgets the purpose of her mission by the moment she gets there. After being asked about the condition of her grandson, she, at last, remembers that the purpose of her visit was to get some medication for him. She has clearly been at the hospital as she convinces the physician that her grandson was still unwell because of swallowing lye a few of years earlier. She is also too familiar with the worn path indicating that she had made several trips to the hospital (Kirszner 71-72).

Phoenix is certainly caring and admirable for the great sacrifices that she undergoes for her grandson. She leaves him by himself, not because she had abandoned him but rather because she was making a sacrifice to get him medication. Though she is poor and old, she travels a great distance to seek charity and good will of the physician, and remedy which would probably sustain him. This is evidenced when the attendant taking in her arrival states, “A charity case, I suppose.” The doctor portrays an act of charity by giving Phoenix the medicine for her grandson free of charge. They understand that she is poor and needs some assistance. Phoenix, on the other hand, shows devotion to her grandson. By walking great lengths and considering her age to get him medicine, she displays an act of charity, which was also not likely to be appreciated (Kirszner 72-78).

Granny Weatherall is depicted as a very old woman who is extremely stubborn and bedridden. She is a sickly old woman in denial. Though lying on her deathbed, she still cannot accept that she is ill. It is in this condition that she reviews her life by recollecting important events, accomplishments, disillusionments, crises, and feelings. Her personality is portrayed wholly with clear and rich details. She demonstrates many laudable traits such as survival, stamina, astuteness, and the capacity to work relentlessly hard. During her past life, she worked as a medical practitioner, veterinary and farmer, and she has brought up her children bravely. Many are the nights that she stayed up to care for ailing children and animals. She is proud of the fact that she has never lost a baby with the exception for Hapsy, her last-born. She regrets that John, her departed spouse, could not see their children then and that she could not see Hapsy. In addition, she wishes that the olden times could be reversed even if she had a difficult time raising their kids on her own. Then her jilting sixty years before when George, her then fiancé, had deserted her at the altar preoccupies her mind. She had concealed the memory in her mind for several years now, but it overwhelmed her then (Porter 39-43).

Granny’s recollection serves to show how kind-hearted she was in the past. She cared for other people’s sick children, but she suffers a loss when her own child dies. She has also worked so hard to raise her children but, unfortunately, her husband was not there to appreciate her industriousness and kind-heartedness. Even more, her act of charity was never rewarded when George abandoned her at the altar. He deserted her during an important period in her life not bearing in mind the pain he would cause her (Porter 43).

The short story, “A Rose for Emily” written by William Faulkner is an account concerning an aged woman named Emily who lived in Jefferson Town. By introducing Emily to the readers, the author makes it clear what kind of person she is and why she acted the way she did. Emily was a result of too much of love and protection, consequently making her a commanding, proud and lonesome woman. The post-Civil War South was a world very different from the present time. Expectations of how to behave and how to stand for one’s people were held in much higher respect (Faulkner 17-21). One of the major characters of a southerner that Emily was in no way lacking is pride. Her arrogance would have gotten the best of her if her fellow townsfolk had not picked out her needs. After her father died in the war, she was left with nothing except for the house. She had no money to pay for her taxes, and the townspeople were quick to notice this. Emily would have declined to have her taxes excused out of charity, so Colonel Sartoris formed a story that led to her exemption (Faulkner 19).

Emily is exempted from paying taxes, which in a way is an act of charity, but she does not appreciate this act citing that his father told her not to pay taxes even when she knew that he was long dead. Again, Emily had the privilege of being loved by a young man by the name Homer, but instead of reciprocating this love, she ends up killing him. Bearing in mind that Emily was a loner, she should have appreciated having someone who cared about her. Homer’s charity ends up being unappreciated (Faulkner 16-20).

The heading of “A Mistaken Charity” in itself represents the well-meaning but misplaced purposes of social humanitarians in a New England society, who think that two aging sisters who live by themselves would be at an advantage in the “old ladies home” and who make such placements. One of the two sisters is blind, but they both have developed interdependency with one another while living in their ramshackle house. Their efforts to stay alone and on their own conditions violate the beliefs of their neighbours that dependence is deteriorating and as such, they are institutionalised against their will. Charlotte and Harriet, the two sisters under consideration, differ, and so they escape and go back to their ramshackle but perfectly appropriate bungalow. This indicates how the movement’s act of helping was misplaced. They actually thought that the two sisters could not live by themselves, but their offer to assist them proves futile when they escape, a perfect instance of misplaced charity (Bremner 148-149). Clearly, the four stories share a common theme of charity that was either misplaced of unappreciated.

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