Old Mrs. Chundle
In this assignment, I hope to successfully compare and analyse two short stories with seemingly similar themes but written under rather different circumstances. The first, Old Mrs. Chundle, is the story of a church curate who does his best to save an old lady’s soul, in convincing her to come to church. This results in rather tragic, yet comical consequences. Thomas Hardy, an Englishman wrote old Mrs. Chundle, in the nineteenth century. The second story, A Visit of Charity, is about a young campfire girl who calls in on a nursing home to visit an old woman, and is “assigned” to a couple of very strange, senile old ladies.
What ensues therein can only be described as a rather interesting experience for all the parties’ involved. Eudora Welty, who lived in America, wrote A Visit of Charity in the mid twentieth century. It is quite apparent from the contrast between the two short stories that the way old people were treated in the serene setting of 19th century rural England is very different from the treatment that the elderly receive in the rushed society of the big cities of 50’s America. The curate in Old Mrs Chundle goes out of his way to offer his advice and service to Mrs Chundle, though when she falls ill, Mrs.
Chundle’s neighbours take over from the church and look after her. This is preferable to the situation the elderly are in in A Visit of Charity, where the state has taken responsibility from the church, and simply gathered the aged into institutions and homes. It is because of her situation, that Mrs. Chundle clearly values and optimises her individuality. A good example of this is the fact that she feels no inhibitions in striking up a conversation with the curate after he has simply asked for a meal, even though he is one of her “betters”. I think that it is because of this that Mrs.
Chundle comes across as rather eccentric, and at the same time humourous. This is in quite high contrast to the sad situation the elderly are in in 20th century America, where they are simply herded like sheep into homes, and lose any confidence that they might have had. They are stripped of their names, and simply seen as an item to look after – “Here’s one”. The different ways that the young characters treat the old in both stories is also quite obvious. The curate has a very leisured and laid back lifestyle; he can afford to lie around in the mornings and paint “a sketch showing a distant view of the Corvsgate ruin”.
He is also quite educated, and of the upper classes whom are more particulars about having a “luncheon hour” as opposed to simply waiting until they are hungry, as Mrs. Chundle might do. For Mrs. Chundle and her friends, eating is simply an act of fuelling her body to last the day, not for the leisure that the curate experiences. He then addresses her in a rather patronising manor, as “my good woman”, and once he realises that she is a bit deaf – “she held her hand to her ear”, then continues to ask her for food, without saying please.
He is not being impolite, and may not even realise what he is doing, but there is an in-built social boundary between them. In A Visit of Charity, Marian is never disrespectful to the two old ladies, but never does anything to necessarily bond with them in any way. She is simply a spectator of their childish arguments and games. The moods in both stories could not be more different. Whereas Old Mrs. Chundle takes place on an “autumn morning proving fine” causing the vegetables to be “fresh from morning”, A Visit of Charity takes place on a “very cold” day.
Though, in both instances, the author does not just set the scene by giving the reader a weather forecast. There is a light-hearted humour that appears throughout Old Mrs. Chundle e. g. the curates flying handkerchief when he is giving his sermon. It is situations like this that contribute to the overall cheery and sunny atmosphere that is created by Thomas Hardy. In contrast to this, Eudora Welty paints a conventional picture of hell throughout the whole of A Visit of Charity – stressing words like “eternity,” “screamed”, “despair” and “forever” more than a few times.