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“A Worn Path” by Welty, Eudora

The article is a narration of a story by Eudora Welty of an elderly black woman that has to undertake a familiar journey every so often in a rural area for the purpose of acquiring medicine for her grandson. The title of the short story is ‘A Worn Path.’ She is the main character in the short story, and as such, she communicates to the surrounding through a monologue, and as result expresses the sharp pain that she feels while walking because of her weary bones (Welty 3). Conversely, the short story is a clear indication of how an undying love, as well as devotion, can push someone to achieve a particular goal in life. Notably, Phoenix, an antagonist is described as being “very old and small and she walked slowly. The short prose, “A Worn Path” is regarded as one of the most famous short fiction authored by Welty.  The prose is deceptively simple in its tone as well as the plot. Notably, the narrative story is set upon a journey motif, which incorporates a rich element of symbolic implication.  Welty makes use of plot structure, setting and symbolism put together to validate the theme of rebellion against social norms. The prose argues that as one steps closer to maturity, rebellion against authority and social expectations may be required to form an independent identity even in the face of negative consequences. Welty uses the journey of the elderly black woman to seek medication for her ailing grandson and the symbol of the scarecrow “ghost” to show self-sacrifice and love, and also to explore the weight of social oppression and the needs to give service to humanity.

“A Worn Path” narrates the journey made by an elderly woman known as Phoenix Jackson, who walks on foot to the city of Natchez to get medicine for her unwell grandson. The landscape and nature are regarded as a beautiful obstacle to Phoenix’s progress in getting medication for her grandson.  She struggles against intense fatigue as well as poor eyesight. Her old age, poor vision as well as her poetic perception of the world intensify the lyricism, and imagery of the story.  For instance, Phoenix faults a scarecrow for the dancing “ghost”, which she realized the truth after drawing close enough to touch its bare sleeve.  Another tense episode happened when Phoenix meets a white hunter who initially appeared friendly (Welty 5).  The hunter mistakenly dropped a nickel, Phoenix picks the item that made the white hunter point the gun at her. The old lad did not fear being shot until the white hunter drops the hunter down. She made it to Natchez, where she was able to get medication plus a gift for her grandson.  Phoenix lived “away back off the Old Natchez Trace”.

The primary theme in the story is that of the undying love of Phoenix Jackson to her grandson. It is clear that because of her advanced age, Phoenix is not comfortable walking around. Nonetheless, she willingly endures a long and painful journey every so often to the clinic in town to get medicine for her grandson’s illness. As such, this is an indication of how courage coupled with compassion and dedication defies reason because of the unconditional love the grandmother has towards her grandson. Naturally, her age and waning health are detriments that should prevent her from taking the journey, not to mention the dangers that lurk in the deserted, lonely path along the woods (Welty 7). However, her unwavering love gives her all the strength she needs to face her adversities.

Phoenix emerges in the short fiction, “A Worn Path” as one who endures and his undying love for her grandson. Indeed, she embodies the symbol of determination and enduring life in the face of adversity and death.  The reason being she has a sheer fortitude by making the decision to begin the long voyage on foot symbolically relates to the mythological connotation of her name, “Phoenix”, that is an Egyptian bird representing resurrection. Furthermore, a Christian imagery is also ostensibly within the story.  For instance, the story is set during Christmas, thus some critics argue associate the journey with a religious pilgrimage (Welty 6). Her selfless concern and undying love for her grandson can be interpreted as expressing the factual spirit of giving as well as self-sacrifice. Importantly, while a huge part of the story’s portrays the imagistic as well as the symbolic application of language. However, through the plot, Phoenix is seen to be in direct conflict with the outside world.  A society that does not care about the suffering of other people.

“A Worn Path” largely entails the narrative of race, mythology as well as Christian motifs.  The story focuses on Christian motifs, in which Phoenix’s Christmas journey is seen as a religious pilgrimage that has an ironic end, which suggests corruption, greed, and cynicism.  Another theme that comes out clearly is self-sacrifice. The worn path is believed to be worn due to the fact that the journey is symbolic that is made by those who are able to show self-sacrifice. The rising action in this short story results from the heating up of the elements of actions, or rather when things finally begin to happen. The start of which the old woman gets her dress stuck in pickers, forcing her to struggle and free herself. Furthermore, she also sees apparitions that do not exist in her struggle along the lonely path to get to town (Welty 12). The hot sun also adds to her worries, not to mention her weary legs that find walking a real struggle. The concept of exposition relates to the explanation of both settings as well as of character. In this particular case, the author introduces the protagonist as an elderly woman traveling by foot along a deserted path in the woods. She travels a long distance alone to the nearby town in Natchez, during December. The setting of the story is in Deep South.

Eudora Welty’s prose “A Worn Path” recaps a narrative of an elderly black woman, starts a tiresome voyage to get medication for her sick grandson.  The elderly woman’s behaviors embody the theme of love, sacrificing, and perseverance.  The protagonist, Phoenix encounters a lot of challenges on the ways in a quest to save the life of her grandson. Despite her poor vision, she struggles and efforts to get medication for her grandson who she loves. The implication of the story is that humans show compassion for the vulnerable and even those people who need help. Unfortunately, it has been hard for people like Phoenix to help the vulnerable person, they encounter numerous challenges. However, they should struggle and keep fighting to give their much needed assistance to the needy people. For instance, Phoenix is disrespected by the white hunter who even pointed the gun at her, nonetheless, she did not. Her courage enabled her to get a gift home for her sick grandson. This what the author is calling each and every individual to do as a human. Welty calls for the society to embrace love and self-sacrifice.

Welty’s “A Worn Path” is a narrative told to show self-sacrifice, love, and perseverance. Phoenix meets challenges on the way, for instance, white hunter points a gun at her, which she did not fear. The implication is that her boldness helps the readers get to know the kind of hypocrisy and hate that is in the society (Welty 3).   Indeed, human relationships with one another are preoccupied with hatred and contempt to the extent that one pretends to be a good friend yet in the broad sense they are not. These relations are not built on the full foundation of trust, love and ethical values. Instead, the relationships exist but on evidential content against each other.

Welty explored the ironical nature of events, “A Worn Path” is an example of the application of irony as a literary technique for making the story with its intended connotation. Indeed, irony works on various stages through the book. For instance, Welty to a great extent use of critical dialogue as well as dramatic irony which unfolds between the characters, Phoenix and the white hunter. Notably, the stylistic device of irony is used prominently to the names and behaviors of each character’s names and behaviors to present the contradictions between their expectations as well as their reality. Furthermore, Welty uses her characters to significantly explore common ideas concerning the good virtues such as love and perseverance and the vices.

Moreover, the story outlines the power of love and self-sacrifice.  Phoenix, the protagonist is battling dementia as well as other health problems such as poor vision.  She struggles to walk, and she encounters a number of obstacles to get medication.  Her jour is on “worn path” proposes that Phoenix has made the several trips previously that she later confirms. Due to her perseverance as well as self-sacrifice, Phoenix achieves her objective and acquires the medicine. On the characterization of the prose, the main character is Phoenix (Welty 3).  The name Phoenix is symbolic and helps in stressing the theme. Phoenix had to rise again out of hardship through her life in order to meet her desires and those of her family. The plot of the story is fairly simple. It recaps how Phoenix walks to get medication for her ailing grandson.  The story captures her struggles and obstacles she met on the way up to the moment she gets assistance and medication for her grandson. After succeeding in getting a gift plus medication for her grandson, she wonders, “He going to find it hard to believe there such a thing in the world. I’ll march myself back where he waiting, holding it straight up in this hand.”

In conclusion, A Worn Path’ discusses the encounters of Phoenix Jackson, an elderly black woman who takes on a long tiresome journey on foot to a nearby clinic in town. The purpose of her journey is to purchase medicine for her ailing grandson. Along the way, she encounters various obstacles which hinder her treks, such as barbed wires, thorny bushes, and even a large dog. She also meets various people including a hunter and the nurse. She chooses to make this tough journey because of her unconditional love for her grandson.

Works Cited

Welty, Eudora “A Worn Path,” The Atlantic Monthly (1940).



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