Analysis of "A Worn Path" by Eudora Welty

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A Sense of Accomplishment

Sometimes our life is like an obstacle course, consisting of obstacles in which we have to overcome. Eudora Welty's short story "A Worn Path" takes place on a "bright, frozen day" in December. The figure of an old Negro woman?Phoenix Jackson?emerges. She represents struggle, but most of all she represents determination. As she makes her way toward town in a path she seems to have taken many times before, she has to overcome many obstacles. Every move she makes seems to be a slow, gradual move towards her goal. The story gives insight to the persistence and boldness of Phoenix Jackson to emphasize the conviction of people in similar lives of constant struggle.

The mood of the story is very slow, just like Phoenix, it moves as she does. The "lagged plot and movement of the story accentuates to the character's harsh surroundings" and emphasizes toward her endeavor (Heller 2713).

As Phoenix Jackson walks carefully through the woods and fields on her way to town, she speaks slowly and boldly to herself. This highlights her assurance to herself and her persistence as she moves toward her goal. The gradual movement in the story stresses the woman's perseverance and incredible effort towards an intent she sees fit for such a journey.

Throughout the story, harsh weather and distance represent obstacles. However, some of the obstacles are in the form of people. Although the hunter shows her somewhat kindness; he represents a barrier within the story. The hunter tries to make Phoenix Jackson rethink her journey. In spite of the fact that she is worn out, she does not subdue; "I bound to go to town, mister. . . the time come around" (Welty 440). Also, the nurse represents oppression and prejudice as she presumably labels Phoenix Jackson a "charity case." (Butterworth 230-231)

Phoenix Jackson's strenuous journey does not go uncompensated. The entire purpose of her trip is to get "soothing medicine" for her grandson's throat. As she does just what she has set out to do, one of the nurses offers her a penny, "five pennies is a nickel" she replies (Welty 443). The nurse willingly gives her a nickel. Phoenix Jackson seems no stranger to charity. By this example, the character shows conviction and knowledge of life as well as the satisfaction one is given by one's hard work. (Butterworth 231-232)

Through these obstacles, Welty brings forth her theme: with enough persistence and boldness we can overcome any obstacle that we face and reach our goal. Bound by time and age, she works her way towards a goal so important to her heart; she does not let any hurdle get in her way. The main character of "A Worn Path" is an obvious example of many Americans. Each and every person has their own paths to follow with their own hurdles to overcome.

Works Cited

Butterworth, Nancy K. "The Critics." Eudora Welty: A Study of the Short Fiction. Ed. Gordon Weaver, et al. New York: Twayne, 1997: 225-234.

Heller, Terry. "A WORN PATH." Masterplots II: Short Story Series. Vol. 6. Ed. Frank N. Magill. Pasadena: Salem, 1986: 2713-2715.

Welty, Eudora. "A Worn Path." Perrine's Literature: Structure, Sound, and Sense. 7th ed. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace, 1998: 437-443.