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figure in some parade, she began to march across. Then she opened her eyes and she was safe on the other side. "I wasn't as old as I thought," she said. It was December a bright frozen day in the early morning. Far out But she sat down to rest. She spread her skirts on the bank around her and folded her hands over her knees. Up above her was a tree in the country there was an old Negro woman with her head tied in a pearly cloud of mistletoe. She did not dare to close her eyes, red rag, coming along a path through the pinewoods. Her name and when a little boy brought her a plate with a slice of marblewas Phoenix Jackson. She was very old and small and she walked slowly in the dark pine shadows, moving a little from side to side in cake on it she spoke to him. "That would be acceptable," she said. her steps, with the balanced heaviness and lightness of a pendulum But when she went to take it there was just her own hand in the in a grand-father clock. She carried a thin, small cane made from an air. So she left that tree, and had to go through a barbed-wire fence. umbrella, and with this she kept tapping the frozen earth in front There she had to creep and crawl, spreading her knees and of her. This made a grave and persistent noise in the still air, that stretching her fingers like a baby trying to climb the steps. But she seemed meditative like the chirping of a solitary little bird. She wore a dark striped dress reaching down to her shoe tops, and talked loudly to herself: she could not let her dress be torn now, so late in the day, and she could not pay for having her arm or her leg an equally long apron of bleached sugar sacks, with a full pocket: sawed off if she got caught fast where she was. all neat and tidy, but every time she took a step she might have At last she was safe through the fence and risen up out in the fallen over her shoelaces, which dragged from her unlaced shoes. clearing. Big dead trees, like black men with one arm, were She looked straight ahead. Her eyes were blue with age. Her skin standing in the purple stalks of the withered cotton field. There sat had a pattern all its own of numberless branching wrinkles and as though a whole little tree stood in the middle of her forehead, but a buzzard. "Who you watching?" a golden color ran underneath, and the two knobs of her cheeks In the furrow she made her way along. were illumined by a yellow burning under the dark. Under the red "Glad this not the season for bulls," she said, looking sideways, rag her hair came down on her neck in the frailest of ringlets, still "and the good Lord made his snakes to curl up and sleep in the black, and with an odor like copper. winter. A pleasure I don't see no two-headed snake coming around Now and then there was a quivering in the thicket. Old Phoenix that tree, where it come once. It took a while to get by him, back in said, "Out of my way, all you foxes, owls, beetles, jack rabbits, the summer." coons and wild animals!. . . Keep out from under these feet, little She passed through the old cotton and went into a field of dead bob-whites.... Keep the big wild hogs out of my path. Don't let none of those come running my direction. I got a long way." Under corn. It whispered and shook and was taller than her head. "Through the maze now," she said, for there was no path. her small black-freckled hand her cane, limber as a buggy whip, Then there was something tall, black, and skinny there, moving would switch at the brush as if to rouse up any hiding things. before her. On she went. The woods were deep and still. The sun made the At first she took it for a man. It could have been a man dancing in pine needles almost too bright to look at, up where the wind rocked. The cones dropped as light as feathers. Down in the hollow the field. But she stood still and listened, and it did not make a sound. It was as silent as a ghost. was the mourning dove it was not too late for him. "Ghost," she said sharply, "who be you the ghost of? For I have The path ran up a hill. "Seem like there is chains about my feet, heard of nary death close by." time I get this far," she said, in the voice of argument old people keep to use with themselves. "Something always take a hold of me But there was no answer--only the ragged dancing in the wind. She shut her eyes, reached out her hand, and touched a sleeve. on this hill pleads I should stay." She found a coat and inside that an emptiness, cold as ice. After she got to the top she turned and gave a full, severe look "You scarecrow," she said. Her face lighted. "I ought to be shut up behind her where she had come. "Up through pines," she said at for good," she said with laughter. "My senses is gone. I too old. I length. "Now down through oaks." the oldest people I ever know. Dance, old scarecrow," she said, Her eyes opened their widest, and she started down gently. But "while I dancing with you." before she got to the bottom of the hill a bush caught her dress. Her fingers were busy and intent, but her skirts were full and long, She kicked her foot over the furrow, and with mouth drawn down, shook her head once or twice in a little strutting way. Some husks so that before she could pull them free in one place they were blew down and whirled in streamers about her skirts. caught in another. It was not possible to allow the dress to tear. "I Then she went on, parting her way from side to side with the cane, in the thorny bush," she said. "Thorns, you doing your appointed through the whispering field. At last she came to the end, to a work. Never want to let folks pass, no sir. Old eyes thought you wagon track where the silver grass blew between the red ruts. The was a pretty little green bush." quail were walking around like pullets, seeming all dainty and Finally, trembling all over, she stood free, and after a moment unseen. dared to stoop for her cane. "Walk pretty," she said. "This the easy place. This the easy going." "Sun so high!" she cried, leaning back and looking, while the thick She followed the track, swaying through the quiet bare fields, tears went over her eyes. "The time getting all gone here." through the little strings of trees silver in their dead leaves, past At the foot of this hill was a place where a log was laid across the cabins silver from weather, with the doors and windows boarded creek. shut, all like old women under a spell sitting there. "I walking in "Now comes the trial," said Phoenix. their sleep," she said, nodding her head vigorously. Putting her right foot out, she mounted the log and shut her eyes. Lifting her skirt, leveling her cane fiercely before her, like a festival In a ravine she went where a spring was silently flowing through a hollow log. Old Phoenix bent and drank. "Sweet-gum makes the
water sweet," she said, and drank more. "Nobody know who made this well, for it was here when I was born." The track crossed a swampy part where the moss hung as white as lace from every limb. "Sleep on, alligators, and blow your bubbles." Then the track went into the road. Deep, deep the road went down between the high green-colored banks. Overhead the live-oaks met, and it was as dark as a cave. A black dog with a lolling tongue came up out of the weeds by the ditch. She was meditating, and not ready, and when he came at her she only hit him a little with her cane. Over she went in the ditch, like a little puff of milkweed. Down there, her senses drifted away. A dream visited her, and she reached her hand up, but nothing reached down and gave her a pull. So she lay there and presently went to talking. "Old woman," she said to herself, "that black dog come up out of the weeds to stall you off, and now there he sitting on his fine tail, smiling at you." A white man finally came along and found her a hunter, a young man, with his dog on a chain. "Well, Granny!" he laughed. "What are you doing there?" "Lying on my back like a June-bug waiting to be fumed over, mister," she said, reaching up her hand. He lifted her up, gave her a swing in the air, and set her down. "Anything broken, Granny?" "No sir, them old dead weeds is springy enough," said Phoenix, when she had got her breath. "I thank you for your trouble." "Where do you live, Granny?" he asked, while the two dogs were growling at each other. "Away back yonder, sir, behind the ridge. You can't even see it from here." "On your way home?" "No sir, I going to town." "Why, that's too far! That's as far as I walk when I come out myself, and I get something for my trouble." He patted the stuffed bag he carried, and there hung down a little closed claw. It was one of the bob-whites, with its beak hooked bitterly to show it was dead. "Now you go on home, Granny!" "I bound to go to town, mister," said Phoenix. "The time come around." He gave another laugh, filling the whole landscape. "I know you old colored people! Wouldn't miss going to town to see Santa Claus!" But something held old Phoenix very still. The deep lines in her face went into a fierce and different radiation. Without warning, she had seen with her own eyes a flashing nickel fall out of the man's pocket onto the ground. "How old are you, Granny?" he was saying. "There is no telling, mister," she said, "no telling." Then she gave a little cry and clapped her hands and said, "Git on away from here, dog! Look! Look at that dog!" She laughed as if in admiration. "He ain't scared of nobody. He a big black dog." She whispered, "Sic him!" "Watch me get rid of that cur," said the man. "Sic him, Pete! Sic him!" Phoenix heard the dogs fighting, and heard the man running and throwing sticks. She even heard a gunshot. But she was slowly bending forward by that time, further and further forward, the lids stretched down over her eyes, as if she were doing this in her sleep. Her chin was lowered almost to her knees. The yellow palm of her hand came out from the fold of her apron. Her fingers slid down and along the ground under the piece of money with the
grace and care they would have in lifting an egg from under a setting hen. Then she slowly straightened up, she stood erect, and the nickel was in her apron pocket. A bird flew by. Her lips moved. "God watching me the whole time. I come to stealing." The man came back, and his own dog panted about them. "Well, I scared him off that time," he said, and then he laughed and lifted his gun and pointed it at Phoenix. She stood straight and faced him. "Doesn't the gun scare you?" he said, still pointing it. "No, sir, I seen plenty go off closer by, in my day, and for less than what I done," she said, holding utterly still. He smiled, and shouldered the gun. "Well, Granny," he said, "you must be a hundred years old, and scared of nothing. I'd give you a dime if I had any money with me. But you take my advice and stay home, and nothing will happen to you." "I bound to go on my way, mister," said Phoenix. She inclined her head in the red rag. Then they went in different directions, but she could hear the gun shooting again and again over the hill. She walked on. The shadows hung from the oak trees to the road like curtains. Then she smelled wood-smoke, and smelled the river, and she saw a steeple and the cabins on their steep steps. Dozens of little black children whirled around her. There ahead was Natchez shining. Bells were ringing. She walked on. In the paved city it was Christmas time. There were red and green electric lights strung and crisscrossed everywhere, and all turned on in the daytime. Old Phoenix would have been lost if she had not distrusted her eyesight and depended on her feet to know where to take her. She paused quietly on the sidewalk where people were passing by. A lady came along in the crowd, carrying an armful of red-, greenand silver-wrapped presents; she gave off perfume like the red roses in hot summer, and Phoenix stopped her. "Please, missy, will you lace up my shoe?" She held up her foot. "What do you want, Grandma?" "See my shoe," said Phoenix. "Do all right for out in the country, but wouldn't look right to go in a big building." "Stand still then, Grandma," said the lady. She put her packages down on the sidewalk beside her and laced and tied both shoes tightly. "Can't lace 'em with a cane," said Phoenix. "Thank you, missy. I doesn't mind asking a nice lady to tie up my shoe, when I gets out on the street." Moving slowly and from side to side, she went into the big building, and into a tower of steps, where she walked up and around and around until her feet knew to stop. She entered a door, and there she saw nailed up on the wall the document that had been stamped with the gold seal and framed in the gold frame, which matched the dream that was hung up in her head. "Here I be," she said. There was a fixed and ceremonial stiffness over her body. "A charity case, I suppose," said an attendant who sat at the desk before her. But Phoenix only looked above her head. There was sweat on her face, the wrinkles in her skin shone like a bright net. "Speak up, Grandma," the woman said. "What's your name? We must have your history, you know. Have you been here before? What seems to be the trouble with you?" Old Phoenix only gave a twitch to her face as if a fly were bothering her. "Are you deaf?" cried the attendant.
But then the nurse came in. "Oh, that's just old Aunt Phoenix," she said. "She doesn't come for herself she has a little grandson. She makes these trips just as regular as clockwork. She lives away back off the Old Natchez Trace." She bent down. "Well, Aunt Phoenix, why don't you just take a seat? We won't keep you standing after your long trip." She pointed. The old woman sat down, bolt upright in the chair. "Now, how is the boy?" asked the nurse. Old Phoenix did not speak. "I said, how is the boy?" But Phoenix only waited and stared straight ahead, her face very solemn and withdrawn into rigidity. "Is his throat any better?" asked the nurse. "Aunt Phoenix, don't you hear me? Is your grandson's throat any better since the last time you came for the medicine?" With her hands on her knees, the old woman waited, silent, erect and motionless, just as if she were in armor. "You mustn't take up our time this way, Aunt Phoenix," the nurse said. "Tell us quickly about your grandson, and get it over. He isn't dead, is he?' At last there came a flicker and then a flame of comprehension across her face, and she spoke. "My grandson. It was my memory had left me. There I sat and forgot why I made my long trip." "Forgot?" The nurse frowned. "After you came so far?" Then Phoenix was like an old woman begging a dignified forgiveness for waking up frightened in the night. "I never did go to school, I was too old at the Surrender," she said in a soft voice. "I'm an old woman without an education. It was my memory fail me. My little grandson, he is just the same, and I forgot it in the coming." "Throat never heals, does it?" said the nurse, speaking in a loud, sure voice to old Phoenix. By now she had a card with something written on it, a little list. "Yes. Swallowed lye. When was it? January two, three years ago " Phoenix spoke unasked now. "No, missy, he not dead, he just the same. Every little while his throat begin to close up again, and he not able to swallow. He not get his breath. He not able to help himself. So the time come around, and I go on another trip for the soothing medicine." "All right. The doctor said as long as you came to get it, you could have it," said the nurse. "But it's an obstinate case." "My little grandson, he sit up there in the house all wrapped up, waiting by himself," Phoenix went on. "We is the only two left in the world. He suffer and it don't seem to put him back at all. He got a sweet look. He going to last. He wear a little patch quilt and peep out holding his mouth open like a little bird. I remembers so plain now. I not going to forget him again, no, the whole enduring time. I could tell him from all the others in creation." "All right." The nurse was trying to hush her now. She brought her a bottle of medicine. "Charity," she said, making a check mark in a book. Old Phoenix held the bottle close to her eyes, and then carefully put it into her pocket. "I thank you," she said. "It's Christmas time, Grandma," said the attendant. "Could I give you a few pennies out of my purse?" "Five pennies is a nickel," said Phoenix stiffly. "Here's a nickel," said the attendant.
Phoenix rose carefully and held out her hand. She received the nickel and then fished the other nickel out of her pocket and laid it beside the new one. She stared at her palm closely, with her head on one side. Then she gave a tap with her cane on the floor. "This is what come to me to do," she said. "I going to the store and buy my child a little windmill they sells, made out of paper. 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." She lifted her free hand, gave a little nod, turned around, and walked out of the doctor's office. Then her slow step began on the stairs, going down. Plot Summary The story opens on a chilly December morning. An elderly AfricanAmerican woman named Phoenix Jackson is making her way, slowly but surely, through the woods, tapping an umbrella on the ground in front of her as she walks. Her shoes are untied. While she taps along, she talks to the animals in the woods, telling them to keep out of her way. As the path goes up a hill, she complains about how difficult walking becomes. It becomes evident that she has made this journey many times before; she is familiar with all the twists and turns in the trail. She talks aimlessly to herself. Her eyesight is poor, and she catches her skirt in the thorns on a bush. After walking across a log to traverse a stream, she rests. She imagines a boy bringing her a slice of cake but opens her eyes to find her hand in the air, grasping nothing. The terrain becomes more difficult, and at a certain point she thinks she sees a ghost, but it is only a scarecrow. Blaming the confusion on her age and the fact that her senses is gone, she moves on. She meets a black dog with a lolling tongue. She hits the dog lightly with her cane, and the effort knocks her off balance and she falls into a ditch. The dog s owner, a white hunter, happens by and helps her out of the ditch. When he hears that she is attempting to make it into town, he says it is too far and tells her to go home. But Phoenix is determined, and the hunter laughs, saying I know you old colored people! Wouldn t miss going to town to see Santa Claus. While he is laughing, a nickel falls out of his pocket. While he momentarily turns his attention to his dogs, she snatches the nickel from the ground. When he returns, he points the gun at her and asks if it scares her. After she tells him that it does not, he leaves her and she continues walking. Finally she reaches Natchez, where the Christmas bells are ringing and the town is festooned with decorations. She asks a white woman to tie her shoe, and the woman obliges. Arriving at her destination, the woman climbs a set of stairs and enters a doctor s office. The attendant assumes Phoenix is a charity case. The nurse replies that it is just old Aunt Phoenix who has come to get medicine for her grandson. Phoenix remains silent as the nurse asks her questions. The nurse eventually loses patience and urges the old woman to tell us quickly about your grandson, and get it over. Phoenix snaps out of her daze when a flame of comprehension comes to her. She explains what the nurse already knows, that her grandson swallowed lye and now needs medicine periodically to soothe his throat. The nurse offers Phoenix a few pennies, to which she responds Five pennies is a nickel. After the nurse gives her the nickel, she lays her two nickels side by side in her hand and then leaves the office to buy her grandson a paper windmill. An Amazing Portrait of Race in the American South
A short list of Southern writers, have long ruled the literary landscape with their passionate, detailed and often heartbreaking views of the American South. Welty s short story A Worn Path , has become one of the most popular examples of the ability of an author to cross both class and color lines while still remaining true to her subject and clearly resonating to the reader the extraordinary power that is the human spirit. In Welty's A Worn Path , Phoenix Jackson's thoughts and perceptions, as well as her encounters with other characters, illustrate the theme of impending black equality in Southern America after the Civil War. The heroine of the story is Phoenix Jackson an old black woman who journeys through the obstacle filled Mississippi woods on her way to town. Why she s going to town, we are not told just yet; instead the reader s attention is directed elsewhere. The story opens with Phoenix Jackson walking along the path through the pinewoods. She is carrying a thin, small cane made of an umbrella. She is wearing a red rag, a "dark striped dress reaching down to her shoe tops, and an equally long apron of bleached sugar sacks, with a full pocket: all neat and tidy, but every time she took a step she might have fallen .... This description of her clothing gives the reader a chance to visualize this woman we are walking side by side with. She is obviously poor, black and old. The last detail is realized when her face is illuminated; Her eyes are blue with age. Her skin had a pattern all its own of numberless branching wrinkles ... In fact it brings up the notion that Phoenix may have a worn path on her face. The long sweeping, deep, branching wrinkles that shows her age, her wisdom and her apparent struggles in life that surprisingly enough, as we can see by her journey, have not ended but continue and will probably continue until her dying day. The worn path that Phoenix follows is central to the time and circumstance that bubbles just below the surface within the story. The fact that she s walking alone, as an elderly woman, in the woods gives the reader a sense of the era in which this is taking place; a time before paved roads, buses, and mass transportation and also a time before racial equality. Her circumstances are even more evident as a black woman, where the color of her skin is the first element she is judged upon and her sex the second. Both work against her and all others like her. It is safe to say that the story A Worn Path is one that describes a physical journey. We know this almost from the start of the story, when we are introduced to the main character and watch her struggle through obstacles that are not only caused by the woodlands she s traveling through but also because of her age and physical condition. However, upon closer inspection we see that the story also brings to light the deeper meaning of the journey of our heroine, Phoenix Jackson. Her struggle signifies the pain of all Negroes to find an equal place in society. While we watch her walk through the woods, we are also privy to her inner thoughts about her physical restraints while making her way up a hill, Seem like there is chains about my feet, time I get this far, she said, in the voice of argument old people keep to use with themselves. This reference can be unsettling, as it brings to mind bound slaves being held and held back and in connection to Phoenix we know that this experience was most likely real and clear, yet she continues. Something always take a hold of me on this hill pleads I should stay. We listen to her speak to the animals that inhabit the surrounding woods and who threaten her
with the not so silent presence among the thicket, "Out of my way, all you foxes, owls, beetles, jack rabbits, coons and wild animals!. . . Keep out from under these feet, little bob-whites I got a long way. The fact that the journey will be long doesn t deter this strong spirit. She is willing to endure all it takes to reach her goal. She speaks with the thorns in the bushes that have captured her with their small arms, I in the thorny bush, she said. Thorns, you doing your appointed work. Never want to let folks pass, no sir. Old eyes thought you was a pretty little green bush. One of the most powerful scenes in the story and one that gives us not only a glimpse into Phoenix s thoughts but into her dreams, happens when she stops to take a rest under a tree and has a hallucinatory vision: She envisions a boy offering her a piece of cake, a proposition, Phoenix says, that would be acceptable, . The little boy is offering her a slice of cake and not just any type of cake, but marble cake which is a reference to the idea of integration in the South. But when she went to take it there was just her own hand in the air . The thought of integration seems a fantasy, an unattainable dream. Yet Phoenix continues to struggle through the barbed wire and rough terrain. It is with this small moment in the story that we are being invited into the personal thoughts of a woman who has obviously seen slavery and segregation and has experienced first hand the effects of racism, but who still yearns for equality even in the twilight of her life. The quest of Phoenix Jackson that is described in A Worn Path takes on many forms of representing the society that held the plight of African Americans, especially in the South where one could view first hand the uphill battle blacks faced even after being freed by The Thirteenth Amendment. This battle is evident from the reaction to people around her, the first being her encounter with a white hunter on her voyage to town. The man helps her up after she had fallen and chases a black dog away and questions her decision to walk through the woods alone. The man prejudiced and unsympathetic to Phoenix s plight offers yet another obstacle in her path. Her age doesn t even offer an incentive for the man to respect her instead he begins laughing and chastising her stating, I know you old colored people! Wouldn't miss going to town to see Santa Claus! Not knowing or really caring to know that her reasons for going to town are much more significant than just going to see Santa Claus. Then almost suddenly the encounter takes an ominous turn and we see the man pointing a gun at Phoenix! Why he does this is not explained, and doesn t need to be as his intentions are clear. The man believes himself to be superior to this elderly woman and uses the opportunity to flex his superiority. But Phoenix, being the strong woman she is, stands up to the man not by cowering in his presence and becoming a whimpering victim when he levels his gun at her and asks, Doesn't the gun scare you? , instead remains calm. The hunter s attempt to instill fear in Phoenix, a fear that has diminished with time as she has had to come to terms with her plight in society, fails. This encounter though small is the key to discovering how Phoenix is perceived in the world around her. Prior to this meeting with the stranger, Phoenix had been walking through the woods all alone, with nothing more than the animals and the trees acting as her companions. Now we see that in the eyes of a white hunter, Phoenix is thought of as a person beneath him, not adequate or worthy enough for his respect. The condescending and hostile attitude of the stranger makes clear that Phoenix s journey has not and will not only be made difficult by the natural environment that
is life there and you can see it her in her gait. She carries with her a cane that was originally an umbrella. She taps the ground in front of her as she walks, tapping and tapping as she goes. There is persistence to her tapping and to the steps she retreads on her journey. There is movement in front of her from time to time, a quivering, and a shaking of the bushes. She is bold as she addresses the animals in the thicket, telling the foxes and beetles and rabbits to get out of her way. She doesn't care or expect human beings to be listening. She tells the wild hogs to keep away from her because Phoenix s quest for integration seems more hopeful when she she has a long way to go. She switches at the brush with her cane reaches the brightly lit city that is her destination. Upon entering the medical building, Phoenix has an epiphany, while gazing at the as she walks- as though she is walking with a machete in the jungle. wall, she notices the document that hand been stamped with the She marches alone the pinewoods, amidst their dark shadows. gold seal and framed in the gold frame, which matched the dream Sometimes, looking up, she sees the pine needles glistening brightly; sometimes, she hears the pinecones dropping lightly on that was hung up in her head . A beautiful statement that the forest floor. She is part of the tableau she is traversing. It is Phoenix s dreams extend beyond her, possibly to that of her quiet. It is often dark. This is a well-worn path. She hears the sound grandson, when on a wall in his home his own degree is proudly of a mourning dove. He is there in the winter, still awake, still displayed, signifying the extraordinary achievement of blacks pitching out his mournful song. attending college. This clear moment becomes shadowed by another hostile reaction to Phoenix, this time that of the attendant Now, she has to proceed up a hill. It is a difficult going. She seems, at this point, to have chains around her feet. She contemplates the who upon seeing Phoenix, dismisses her with, Charity case, I difficulty of her situation. Soon this point will be over and she will suppose . A nurse coming into the waiting room sees her and find her forest legs again. Now, she has to go through oak trees remarks, Oh, that's just old Aunt Phoenix. She doesn't come for instead of pines. Along the way, she gets all tangled up in a thorny herself she has a little grandson . And with that we finally find bush. It looked just like a nice little green bush, but it took a lot of out what the whole journey was for. When asked by the nurse about her grandson, Phoenix replies, We is the only two left in the care to extricate herself. She has to be very careful. As she untangles one skirt, she has to contend with another. Finally, she is world. He suffer and it don t seem to put him back at all. He got a done, completely untangled- but then she looked at the sun and it sweet look. He going to last. These final words, ringing of was getting late. She has a quality of persistence and she will take adoration for her grandson, also act as a parting premonition that each step on journey but will not stop. the struggle is going to last and the worn path she has walked for Now, she has to cross a creek. This is challenging for her, but she her grandson will provide him guidance on his way, not only as does, carefully lifting her skirt that she has salvaged from the green serving as a reminder of where he came from but as a beacon to bush, marching across the creek, stepping proudly on the log. the future. Finally, across the creek, she allows herself to rest. She spreads her The endurance of the human spirit, brought to life in Phoenix skirts around her. She folds her hands. She tries to keep her eyes Jackson, is the central theme in Welty s A Worn Path . A parallel exists between the arduous journey described and the plight of the open, but she is very tired. She sits underneath a tree laced with mistletoe. For a moment, she thinks she sees a boy offer a piece of Southern blacks after the Civil War. The Thirteenth Amendment cake, but then it was just a thought, a temporary illusion. She gets made black people legally free, but their place in a society in which they were up to continue her journey. Now, she must deal with a barbed wire fence. Struggling a bit, she previously considered three-fifths of a person was certainly in has to crawl under it, talking to herself. She had to, above all else, question and unstable. Like Phoenix, they endured an endless struggle, if not against scurrying hogs, then against the thorny bush protect her dress. On the entire journey, she probably is more that never want to let folks pass . Acting as a buffer between the afraid of hurting her dress than any other concern. Animals or people hardly concern her. Finally, as she passed through that trial, role of the Negro person before the Civil War and the change of she went into a clearing where a buzzard watched her. She crossed the Negro after, Phoenix reiterates for us that conflicts are just stones in the road, obstacles in the path and without our ancestors the field, thankful it was not time for the bulls and that the snakes slept during the winter. She has little to fear on this cold day in to pave the way, to wear down the path, where would we be. December. A Worn Path Summary | Detailed Summary Now, it was time to pass through a field. There are strange sounds. "A Worn Path" is about a journey an old, black woman takes in a She cannot see anything because the corn is above her. very cold day in December. She is walking towards a far away Somewhere in the dead corn, a moving, living thing dances town, a difficult path for an older lady, but she is on an important mission. She is wearing a nice dark striped dress. On top of that she abstractedly in the sunshine. It lack and skinny, moving relentlessly wears an apron made of sugar sacks. The dress is just long enough before her. At first, she thought it was a ghost but addresses it tentatively. She had not heard of any death here recently. Could to cover the top of her little laced shoes, which have become this truly be a ghost? But as she moves closer, she laughs when she unlaced. Until the end of her journey, each step she makes is finds a coat and a handful of emptiness- a scarecrow left to treacherous. tyrannize the imaginary crows that would never come in the winter The woman, Phoenix Jackson, is quite ancient, so old she herself has forgotten. She is a tiny woman. She wears a red rag around her in a place of dead corn. She walks forward until she comes to the head, her still black hair dribbling down in frail, little ringlets. She is quail. There, she hits a remembered path. wrinkled and ancient, but there is a golden color in her face. There has offered little assistance to an old woman making a long trip, but that also human interaction will be difficult as well. The hunter s parting advice for Phoenix comes in the form of a threat: But you take my advice and stay home, and nothing will happen to you . Phoenix realizes that the importance of the trip far exceeds the possible harm that can be done to her brittle frame. The incident with the hunter symbolizes the resiliency of the black movement toward equality.
The path led her through empty fields and by silver trees, through old, worn cabins with boarded windows- until she finally got to a ravine where she saw water flowing through a hollow log. She tasted the sweet water, which came from sweet-gum. She crossed a swampy section where she mumbled a happy sleep to the alligators and then into a dark part of the road. She thinks of them blowing out tiny bubble from their snouts as they sleep below the marshes. There, suddenly, a black dog startles her and she falls into a ditch. There is nothing much she can do. She lay there for a while until a young white man came, a hunter with his dog. He graciously helps her up. She tells him she is like "a June bug waiting to be burned over."Is she all right? Her fall was gentle- into some old weeds. She told him how faraway she lived and he was amazed. He only went there to hunt and she could see he had caught a bob-white, which he carried in his bag. It was Christmas and he bet she was going there to see Santa Claus. However, as he laughed, she noticed a nickel fell out of his pocket. He asked her age. She said she didn't know. He can see she is afraid of the black dog that scared her. Therefore, he and his dog go after it. There are sounds of dogs fighting. She hears the man running. Then she hears a gunshot. While they're away, she carefully bends forward until she captures the silver coin and carefully puts it in her pocket. When the man comes back, she asked him if she was afraid of the gunshot. She says, no, she is used to it. He would like to give her money, but he has none. Then he leaves. She now continues her journey, arriving finally in the town, the sound of his gunshots echoing in the distance. It is Christmas time in this small town. Owing to her condition, she asks a lady to lace up her shoes. She thanks the lady and proceeds to a door. She enters and is interrogated as to the nature of her case. The lady becomes more and more impatient. She hears her, but she says nothing. The lady is rude to her. She asks her what her problem is? She asks if she has been there before. Phoenix responds to her questions only by twitching silently. She asks her if she is deaf? The woman becomes more abusive. She is now raising her voice. Phoenix just stares straight ahead. She is beginning to sweat. Her wrinkles shine in the light. A nurse finally comes in and recognizes her. She has come far. From Old Natchez Place. She comes here regularly. However, Phoenix is not very responsive. Has she not come for the boy? For her grandson? The nurse asks. How is his throat? She doesn't answer their questions for a while, but then comes to life. Her memory had failed her. Her grandson had swallowed lye some time ago and it has not healed. She has come for the medicine. He is alone, waiting for her to come back. He needs the medicine for the throat has not healed in some time. The nurse gets tired of her talking. She tries to get her to be quieter. She marks something down about "charity" and gets medicine for Phoenix Jackson. She asks if Phoenix would like some money? Phoenix says she would love to have five pennies. For her answer, she gets another nickel. Now she can go to the store and get her little son a paper windmill. He will be amazed by it. She walks out of the office and goes downstairs, slowly. Symbolism in A Worn Path by Eudora Welty Uploaded by r-boy on May 18, 2005 Symbolism in A Worn Path by Eudora Welty
Eudora Welty's "A Worn Path" is a story that emphasizes the natural symbolism of the surroundings. As the story begins, we are introduced to our main character, Phoenix Jackson; she is described as a small, old Negro woman. I believe that the name Eudora Welty gives our main character is very symbolic. The legend of the Phoenix is about a fabled sacred bird of ancient Egyptians. The bird is said to come out of Arabia every 500 years to Heliopolis, where it burned itself on the altar and rose again from its ashes, young and beautiful. Phoenix, the women in the story, represents the myth of the bird because she is described as being elderly and near the end of her life. Phoenix can hardly walk and uses a cane made of an old umbrella to aid her. Her skin is described as old and wrinkly, but yet with a golden color running beneath it "Her skin had a pattern all its own of numberless branching wrinkles and as though a whole little tree stood in the middle of her forehead, but a golden color ran underneath"(55). Her skin tone represents the golden feathers of the Phoenix and her grandson represents the next Phoenix that will be given life when she dies. The trip to the city to get the medicine represents the mythological trip that the Phoenix takes to the sun to die. Most likely this journey along a worn path through the woods, will be one of her last. We are told of Phoenix's journey into the woods on a cold December morning. Although we are know that she is traveling through woodland, the author refrains from telling us the reason for this journey. In the midst of Phoenix's travels, Eudora Welty describes the scene: "Deep, deep the road went down between the high green-colored banks. Overhead the live-oaks met, and it was as dark as a cave" (Welty 55). The gloomy darkness that the author has created to surround Phoenix in this scene is quite a contrast to the small Negro woman's positive outlook; Phoenix is a very determined person who is full of life. As Phoenix begins to walk down the dark path, a black dog approaches her from a patch of weeds near a ditch. As he comes toward her, Phoenix is startled and compelled to defend herself: "she only hit him a little with her cane. Over she went in the ditch, like a little puff of milk-weed" (55). Here, the author contrasts the main character's strong will with her small, frail physique. As Phoenix is lying in the ditch, "A dream visited her, and she reached her hand up, but nothing reached down and gave her a pull." (55). Phoenix may be reaching for divine intervention but receives no such assistance. She then begins to talk to herself, which she does quite frequently throughout her journey. Eudora is trying to show the reader just how lonely and frightened Phoenix has become. While she lay in the ditch talking to herself, Phoenix refers to herself as "old woman." At a number of points throughout the story, Phoenix refers to herself as old. Although we are reminded regularly of her old age, it is clear that Phoenix still has many years ahead of her. The author brings realism into the story by frequently describing the realities of old age. After a short while, Phoenix is rescued: "A white man finally came along and found her-a hunter, a young man with his dog on a chain" (56). When the white man approaches her, Phoenix is still laying on her back in the ditch. When Welty tells the reader that the white man has "found" her, she is implying that Phoenix is lost,
but she very clearly is not. The white man asks Phoenix what she is doing in the ditch, and she replies "Lying on my back like a Junebug waiting to be turned over, mister" (56) as she reaches out her hand. When Phoenix refers to herself as June-bug on its back, she is letting the hunter know how helpless she is. The hunter then lifts her up and makes sure she is okay. The hunter and Phoenix begin to chat and the hunter asks her if she is on her way home. When Phoenix replies that she is on her way to town, the hunter discourages her by telling her that it is too far. He also tells her that when he makes the journey into town, he at least would "get something for my trouble" (56). The hunter automatically assumes that Phoenix has no reason for going into town, and no money to purchase anything once she arrives in town. Phoenix shows her determination by telling the hunter "I bound to go to town, mister, the time has come around" (56). When she tells him that the time has come around, the reader now knows that there is a reason for her journey into town. The hunter then tells Phoenix that he assumes she must be going into town to see Santa Claus. Phoenix is very still after the hunter has made this comment. Welty describes Phoenix's face: "The deep lines in her face went into a fierce and different radiation" (56). The reader then assumes that Phoenix is very upset by this statement. Not until you have read on do you find the true reason for Phoenix's reaction. "Without warning she had seen with her own eyes a flashing nickel fall out of the man's pocket onto the ground. The hunter and Phoenix continue their conversation when the dogs begin to fight. As the hunter chases after the dogs, Phoenix slowly begins to reach down towards the shiny nickel. When the nickel is finally in her apron pocket, she sees a bird fly by and says to herself "God watching me the whole time. I come to stealing." When Phoenix says this, it shows the reader that she really is a good person, and that she does have a conscience. The man returns and points his gun at Phoenix. Immediately the reader assumes that the hunter has seen Phoenix stealing his nickel, though Welty never states whether the hunter saw Phoenix pick up the nickel or not. The hunter asks Phoenix if the gun scares her, she replies "No, sir, I seen plenty go off closer by, in my day, and for less than what I done" (57). It is evident that whether or not the hunter did see her take the money, Phoenix thinks he did. The hunter then smiles, puts the gun away and says, "you must be a hundred years old and scared of nothing. I'd give you a dime if I had any money with me. But you take my advice and stay home, and nothing will happen to you" (57). I believe that this line represents a change that has occurred within the hunters mind. He no longer is trying to prevent her from her journey, while he still tells her to stay home, he know she is bound to go on. After there meeting he realizes how strong her will is and lets her go on her way. "I bound to go on my way, mister" (57) Phoenix tells the man, and they go off in different directions. Strength is the only reason Phoenix accomplished her journey and Phoenix's love for her only living relative is her greatest strength of all. Although the old Negro woman suffers from many handicaps, she starts her journey mentally prepared for the obstacles awaiting her. Phoenix uses her inner strengths and prevails over every
barrier. She relies on her trustworthy feet to make up for her impaired vision. Her wit makes up for her frail body. Her determination makes up for her aged memory. But most of all, her love for her grandson her keeps her going. Clearly, the frail, forgetful, and loving old woman can overcome anything.
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