a worn path is a short story by eudora welty

Table of Contents

“A Worn Path” is a short story by Eudora Welty, which depicts the journey of an old African American woman named Phoenix Jackson. The story revolves around the many challenges she faces during her trip to get her grandson’s medication in a town far away from their home named Natchez. The story demonstrates that the love Phoenix has for her only family member left is so strong and pure that it makes her go beyond her own limitations and capacities to make sure she is able to protect and provide what is necessary for her grandson. The essence of Phoenix and in fact the essence of the story is sacrifice, the sacrifices Phoenix does while walking the path so difficult, to get her only loved one better.

Welty describes the main character as an old woman with blue eyes, with graceful wrinkles on her skin and forehead that suggest she has become wise through the years and who still has black hair that dismisses a smell like copper (288). Which leads to the impression that our grandma Phoenix was sick, she has diabetes due to her coppery smell. Welty also describes hallucinations as part of Phoenix, indicating her mental health isn’t good, hallucinating a boy that would bring her a delicious marble-cake in the middle of the woods, to later find it was a tree (289) and just realizing her mind was playing games.

It can be inferred that such hallucination was caused by the diabetes along with her bad sight when she struggles to recognize a scarecrow no less than 10ft away from her. Welty describes Phoenix with the strength and the capacity to see for herself that her mental and physically health are being compromised when she says “My sense is gone. I too old, I the oldest people I ever know” (289). Despite this, she is determined to get to through the path, it isn’t the first time she has done the trip, Phoenix is aware of what is the next step to get closer to her goal.

Spiritually Phoenix is seemed as a good Christian woman who feels bad for stealing from a man but knows that she needs the money and decides to keep it “God watching me the whole time. I come to stealing” (Welty 291) it is evident that she feels partially ashamed for taking the nickel that she carefully picked as if she didn’t want the man to see her. The bird that flew over her head was a reminder that someone, in this case God, is always watching over her actions.

Phoenix name is the perfect name for a strong woman in this story, the word phoenix, as the bird in the Greek mythology, is a bird who lives a long life and it reborn and rises from the ashes from the one who died before him, it symbolizes resurrection. In a retrospective talking about resurrection, Phoenix is seen as a Christ Figure, an allusion to reference the resurrection of Jesus Christ in the Bible. The strength that she possesses and the sacrifices she makes for her grandson resembles to the sacrifice Jesus Christ made when He died in the cross. Three days later, He resurrects from the dead, and the phoenix as the majestic creature it is, it resurrects as well rising as a new born, from the ashes who were once an old phoenix.

Phoenix is a strong old woman that makes sacrifices and even compromise her physical and emotional health to make sure her only family is safe and healthy. Despite her own internal struggles, her blindness, fatigue and hallucinations, she is still able to overcome all obstacles that gets in her way in order to achieve her goal, she can be seen as a hero after all the trouble she was put through. The story gives a sense of symbolism that can be interpret in so many ways that there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to Phoenix.

One thing is clear, Phoenix is in essence a selfless woman who sacrifices and who goes beyond her capabilities to fulfill the wish of being with only person and reason that continues to drive her to live, her grandson.

Works Cited

  1. Welty, Eudora. “A Worn Path.” Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing, Edgar V. Roberts and Robert Zweig, Pearson. 2015, 288-292.

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