Marian also sees the old women at first, to have “bird claws”, and feels like she is “being caught in a robbers’ cave, just before one is murdered”. It is because of this, that Marian runs a mile from this ordeal, as if she is indeed running from hell on earth. She feels no remorse or guilt by doing this, whereas the curate feels he has betrayed Mrs. Chundle “like Peter at cockcrow” – a reference to St. Peter, when he realised that he had betrayed Jesus. The curate’s life will be slightly changed as a result of Mrs.
Chundle, but Marian will never look back. A profile of the curate is built wonderfully by the different adjectives that Thomas Hardy uses to describe him and his actions, even if they do sometimes contradict. It is clear to see, that he is “meek”; but when he is on a mission, he can “stride” purposefully, and be “the zealous young man” that he needs to be. Thomas Hardy also describes him as “a black shape” – traditionally associated with sin, “on the hot white” – conventionally associated with purity (in this case, of the rest of the world).
If this is not a beautiful example of how an author can use language to contribute to textual meanings, then please feel free to shoot me. * Though most of the ideas to be taken out of the stories cannot be seen at face value, the facts stated in both stories must not be ignored. Mrs. Chundle lives in a very close-knit community, where her neighbours will all come together to support her if she is unwell, or carry out her last wishes if she dies. She lives in an area of rural wealth; she has everything that she needs, from her food (vegetables) to her cottage.
In urban 20th century America, however, it is obvious that the state is not quite sure how to handle the old people “situation”. The elderly are simply locked away in institutions, where they are treated as objects. It is because of this difference that I believe that Old Mrs. Chundle achieves a lot more as a short story than A Visit of Charity does. A Visit of Charity is more of an outright criticism of old age homes, and the society that has created them. It generates a rather overdrawn and blatant picture of hell, and therefore lacks the humour and subtleness of criticism that Hardy achieves so well.
In my opinion, Old Mrs. Chundle leaves it to the reader to decide whether it is a criticism of the church, whether it is a drama, whether it is a dark comedy, or whether it is all three. The rather ironically titled “A Visit of Charity” tackles the issues that it presents quite well. I think that at some stage in our lives, we have all had to deal with the elderly, and wished we could simply shirk our responsibilities, and run off into the sunset – apple in hand, like Marian did. But when it comes down to it, the twist, as it where, at the end of Old Mrs.
Chundle, really teaches the reader about the relationship that the young should be having with the old. Old people deserve respect, as they do possess some skills; and should not be disregarded onto the scrap heap of life, as many lessons can be learnt from them. The elderly person may also have a deep respect for you, which if not mutual, can leave both parties with a bitter aftertaste, that can do no one any good. As Spike Milligan once put it, “When you get to be my age sunshine, you’ll wish you could remember something witty to say to people like yourself”.