I can't understand what the sentence "You never came and you never went" is related to. Does it clarify the previous utterance or is it a new thought which says that the person has never been anywhere? The source is Eudora Welty's short story "A Visit of Charity".

Here is the context:

"Hush!” said the sick woman. “You never went to school. You never came and you never went. You never were anything—only here. You never were born! You don’t know anything. Your head is empty, your heart and hands and your old black purse are all empty—you showed it to me. And yet you talk, talk, talk, talk, talk all the time until I think I’m losing my mind! Who are you? You’re a stranger—a perfect stranger! Don’t you know you’re a stranger? Is it possible that they have actually done a thing like this to anyone—sent them in a stranger to talk, and rock, and tell away her whole long rigmarole? Do they seriously suppose that I’ll be able to keep it up, day in, day out, night in, night out, living in the same room with a terrible old woman forever?”

2 Answers 2


It would seem that the line spoken by Addie ("the sick woman.") is addressed not to the girl, Marian, who is he PoV character, but to Addie's roommate. In the previous paragraph the roommate says to Marian:

When I was a little girl like you, I went to school and all.

Addie wants to deny he reality of that her roommate has said, deny that the roommate has ever had a life outside the Home, has any money, has ever had any cause for joy. Indeed rally Addie wants to deny that her roommate even exists.

Anyway "You never came and you never went” is intended to deny the value and reality of he roommate's statement that she went to school, as part of Addie's broad denial of everything around her.

It is worth noting that at least some of Addie's statements prove accurate. She mentions her roommate's empty purse, and later the roommate tells Marion that she hasn't even a penny for candy, and begs for a small coin. And of course Marion is a total stranger to the old women, just as Addie says.

Only halfway through this speech, with "Who are you? You’re a stranger" does Addie start to address Marion. Addie is angry at her also, indeed she is angry and and frustrates with the world. She wants to deny the value of anyone and everyone else. Quie likely she has good reason for her frustration and anger, but we are not shown what it might be, beyond being old and having to live in a shared room in the Home.


“You never came and you never went” is not a thought, it is simply, as you put it, an “utterance.” Like “You never were born!” it has no rational meaning, but overflows with emotional content, emotions that spew forth (“talk, talk, talk, talk”) into a magnificent tirade of frustration and exasperation. Looking for subtle meanings, hidden connections, in the old woman’s words will only detract from the reader’s appreciation of the splendor of Welty’s portrait of an old woman, still sharp and sensitive, but in despair.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.