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A Worn Path

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"A Worn Path" (1940) by Eudora Welty is a short story about an elderly African-American woman named Phoenix Jackson who is walking through the woods into town. On her way she encounters many deterrents, like a dog, heavy brush, and a hunter who threatens her with a gun, among many other things. Her reason for going to Natchez is to pick up a supply of medicine for her grandson, who accidentally swallowed lye a few years before. The damage to his throat never fully heals, and every so often his throat will begin to swell shut. It is Old Phoenix's love for her grandson that causes her to face the trial of the journey to town, every time it is necessary, with no questions asked. At its heart, "A Worn Path" is a tale of undying love and devotion.

Plot
In Eudora Welty's "A Worn Path," an elderly African American woman undertakes a familiar journey on a road in a rural area. She expresses herself, both to her surroundings and in short spurts of spoken monologue, warning away animals and expressing the pain she feels in her weary bones. While in the woods, she imagines that a young boy offers her a piece of marble cake, and then blames the

hallucination on old age. After a bit more walking, she encounters a dog, and in her attempt to hit him with her cane, she tumbles into a ditch. She is approached by a hunter who saves her from the dog by having his dog chase him off. While the hunter is dealing with the dogs, Phoenix steals a nickel from him. When the hunter returns he tells her that town is too far away and that she should just go home. He also points a gun at her, but loses interest when she says she isn't frightened while in the process he drops a coin in which Phoenix sees it as an opportunity to buy her grandson a gift. Phoenix was so desperate to buy medicine for her grandson, she'll walk miles and miles just to get soothing medicine for her grandson. She finally makes it to town and goes to the doctor's office. The nurse tries to rush her and an attendant gives her change in a manner that the old woman finds displeasing; she insists on a nickel rather than five pennies. During her visit, it is revealed that her grandson has a permanent problem due to a lye-swallowing accident, and that he habitually requires medicine for his throat. The story ends with the woman going to buy a paper windmill for her grandson.

Symbolism
The story is open to interpretation, but many critics agree that it emphasizes racial inequalities

"A Worn Path" by Eudora Welty, is the tale of the unstoppable love and care of a grandmother for her grandchild. It tells a story of sheer determination as Phoenix Jackson makes a long journey into town to get medicine for her chronically ill grandson. She strives forward despite frequent obstacles in her way that include her own failing health and the grandchild's slim chance of survival. Phoenix Jackson is "an old Negro woman" who continues forward over barriers that would not even be considered a hindrance for the young. This is a journey which she has taken before, and now "the time come around" she must travel it again. She begins her journey to town on "a bright frozen day in the early morning" in December. Phoenix Jackson is "very old and small ", and walks like the "pendulum in a grandfather clock" ever so carefully with her "thin, small cane made from an umbrella." The description of Phoenix Jackson at the beginning of this story gives the reader a glimpse of how difficult this trip is going to be for an elderly woman such as her. The description "Her eyes were blue with age. Her skin has a pattern all its own of numberless branching wrinkles" are indications of Phoenix Jackson's old age. She supports herself with a cane, striving not to fall with every step she takes. She wears a "dress reaching down to her shoe tops" along with "an equally long apron of bleached sugar sacks, with a full pocket." This just adds to her difficulties. As she begins her journey, she talks to herself and warns "Out of my way, all you foxes, owls, beetles, jack rabbits, coons and wild animals!...Keep out from under these feet, little bob-whites", because as she says, "I got a long way." She is determined to go down that path despite anything that might come between her and getting the medicine for her grandson. This shows that her body may be worn out, but the attitude that she takes and desire that she has in order to get the medicine for her grandson are not. In addition, her shoelaces "which dragged from her unlaced shoes" adds to the chance of her falling on the path. First, she has to face an uphill climb. Then, she goes downhill but soon finds herself tangled with a bush, and she does not want to rip her dress. She talks to the bush stating "Thorns, you doing your appointed work. Never want to let folks pass, no sir. Old eyes thought you was a pretty little green bush" However, she manages to free herself from the thorn bush. In addition, she faces a barbed-wire fence, which is not easy for anyone, but she gets through, again telling herself that "she could not pay for having her arm or her leg sawed off." At one point, she is startled by a stray dog and falls into a ditch. Eventually, a hunter and his dog happen upon her and pull her out of the ditch. He also tries to prevent her from finishing her journey. He tells her that she is too old, and even tries to scare her with his gun. At that point the man says, "you must be a hundred years old, and scared of nothing...you take my advice and stay home, and nothing will happen to you." Not even these words from the hunter could make Phoenix give up, always getting herself out of a predicament, and having her grandson as a reason to keep going. Walking across a log with her eyes closed is another daring thing she attempts. After safely crossing she says "I wasn't as old as I thought." She sits down to rest "when a little boy brought her a plate with a slice of marble-cake on it." When old Phoenix reaches "to take it there was just her own hand in the air," and nothing else around. Throughout the story, she exhibits signs of senility and delusions including her meeting of a scarecrow which she initially thinks is a man. When Phoenix reaches her destination, the reason for her mission is given.

When she enters "the big building", evidently a medical facility, she doesn't speak and appears disoriented. A nurse recognizes her and inquires about her grandson who swallowed lye two to three years ago. She asks "He isn't dead, is he?" Phoenix responds with, "No missy, he not dead, he just the same." She tells the nurse "he not able to swallow. He not get his breath. So the time come around, and I go on another trip for the soothing medicine." Phoenix Jackson encounters many adversities along her journey, but somehow manages to get through them. Her perseverance in the face of tremendous obstacles is admirable considering her age and declining health. This story reminds the reader over and over that she truly loves her grandson, and that she is determined to overcome any obstacle to achieve her goal. The only thing that keeps her from giving up is the love she has for him and the fact that all they have in this world is each other.

Eudora Weltys short story, A Worn Path relates Phoenix Jacksons journey through the woods of Mississippi to the town of Natchez to get hold of medicine for her chronically ill grandson. The story was first published in Atlantic Monthly in February, 1941, and is regarded as her most prized piece of short fiction. An analysis of Eudora Weltys A Worn Pathdiscusses the plot, major characters, symbols, and themes in the story. Before writing an analysis of Eudora Weltys A Worn Path, you should first locate reliable sources on A Worn Path as well as read examples of an analysis of A Worn Path to gain more in-depth knowledge and understanding about the story. It is also useful to read examples of other analytical papers such as an analysis of Albert Camus The Guest, an analysis of "The Secret Lion", and an analysis

of Poes The Purloined Letter , as they can provide examples of the important literary elements that should be analyzed in your paper. An analysis of Eudora Weltys A Worn Path should begin with a brief account of Eudora Weltys background, life and career. Welty is an American author of short stories and novels about the American South and a recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in 1973. A summary of the story should then follow in an analysis of Eudora Weltys A Worn Path so that readers can have a better understanding of the story. An analysis of Eudora Weltys A Worn Pathshould also describe and analyze the main characters in the story, which include Phoenix Jackson, the grandson, the hunter, and the nurse. An analysis of Eudora Weltys A Worn Path should then discuss the symbolic connotation of the legendary Egyptian bird and chains in the legs. In addition, the storys themes about racism, duty and responsibility, guilt, resurrection, and hardships should be explained in an analysis of Eudora Weltys A Worn Path. Lastly, an analysis of Eudora Weltys A Worn Path should discuss the message that Welty wanted to convey in this story and look at how it is relevant today

"A Worn Path" by Eudora Welty is an interesting story, chock-full of symbolism and several themes. First and most obvious, one can't help but note the symbolism of the main character's name, Phoenix, also the name of the mythological bird that rises from the ashes. Phoenix Jackson is an old, old woman. We don't know exactly how old, but we know that she is small and frail -- when a black dog comes out of the bushes and rushes her, she isn't ready for it and she "only hit him a little with her cane" but this is enough to topple her over, into a ditch, where she is unable to get up without help. She can barely negotiate the path, the hills: "Seem like there is chains about my feet, time I get this far." (Also a symbol for the recent memory of slavery.) Typical of elderly, she talks to herself along the way, and to the animals and even the plants she

encounters, seen and unseen. Also, we know that she is old because she is on a quest that she briefly forgets the purpose of, by the time she gets there. Her journey is along a "worn path," thus we are led to believe this is a trip she has made numerous times. I think that this worn path is also symbolic for the pilgrimages made by all pilgrims who are on a quest, religious or otherwise, in all of history; the worn path is full of challenges and hardships along the way. During the course of her journey, Phoenix is visited several times by dreams. One time, a boy comes to her offering a piece of marble cake; later, flat on her back and stuck in a ditch, another dream visits her. Both times, when she reaches her hand out, there is nothing there. There is no marble cake for her, and there is no one there to

grab her hand and pull her out of the ditch. The marble cake seems to be symbolic of the blacks and whites trying to get along together -- to blend -- in the south in the 1930s and 1940s. Phoenix reaches her hand out twice, first to accept the cake and then to receive help getting up, and both times, nothing is there -- the dream of racial harmony is not yet realized, yet Phoenix keeps reaching for it. When she is "found" by a white hunter, he is patronizing, and although he helps her out of the ditch, he then trivializes her quest: "Why that's too far!" he says, "That's as far as I walk when I come out myself, and I get something for my trouble." As if an old black woman has no purpose for walking to town. "Now you go on home, Granny!" he says. Later, laughing, "I know you old colored people! Wouldn't miss going to town to

see Santa Claus!" The hunter also taunts her with his gun, pointing it straight at her. It's almost as if he is reminding her of her place in a white world, and getting humor by such a threatening gesture. The main themes here are, of course, racism, but more than that there is a message of hope and perseverance, and strength in the face of hardship. Old frail Phoenix is tougher than she appears, and she doesn't scare easily, either. She has seen it all in her day, and still holds out hope that the world will become a better place, if not in her lifetime, then for her grandson's generation. There is also a religious/moral theme here, as in when Phoenix sees the shiny nickel fall from the hunter's pocket. She distracts him by having him chase away the black dog, and while he isn't looking (she thinks) she bends over to pick up the

nickel and puts it in her pocket. She immediately feels remorse, noting a bird that flew by, and senses that this bird was God watching her. Also, this is when the hunter threatens her with his gun, and when he asks if the gun doesn't scare her, she replies, "No, sir, I seen plenty go off closer by, in my day, and for less than what I done." She is not sure if he saw her, but she knows that God saw her. When she reaches her destination, we finally learn the purpose of her quest. She has come to a doctor's office for medicine for her grandson. Here, again, she is subjected to racism, when the attendant takes in her arrival, and says, "A charity case, I suppose." But the story ends with hope, as the attendant warms up as she is leaving, and offers her a Christmas gift of sorts, pennies from her purse. Phoenix gets the idea to go to the store

and buy her grandson a gift with her two nickels: "'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." -- Perseverance, and hope.

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 June-bug 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

A good snapshot stops a moment from running away." Eudora Welty


Few would argue anymore with the notion that comic strips and graphic novels can be high art. They not only get translated into film (Ghost World), but make it onto the walls of museums

(Chris Ware at the Whitney Biennial). They often combine the pleasures of estimable literature with estimable art, wittily, sometimes beautifully, often provocatively. This lesson makes use of graphical form to illuminate Eudora Welty's A Worn Path. By rendering aspects of the story into carefully considered "comic strips," students learn to appreciate elements of characterization, setting, and plot in a manner that engages them actively in the production of meaning. The method highlights reading as the creative art it can be.

Activity 1. Character, Setting, and Plot Development


Begin by discussing the story by drawing out students' observations of character, setting, and plot. You may want to review those terms with the class before continuing with the activity. Try to get

students to focus on the visual details accessible for each element. Go over the following questions with the class, asking students to make lists of the various story elements as they discuss them.

What key aspects of Phoenix Jackson's physical appearance stand out for you? How does what she wears or carries add to your sense of her character? How does what she does with her body add to your sense of her character? What metaphors (especially visual metaphors) add to your sense of her character? What biographical information does the author provide to flesh out her portrait? What key aspects of setting stand out for you? What details (color, tone, and particular props) stand out for you?

What changes in setting strike you as important? What details in those changes stand out for you? What is most vivid for you about the hunter? What stands out for you in his appearance, dialogue, actions, and behavior? Which other characters seem particularly important to Phoenix's story? For each of them, note what stands out in their appearance, dialogue, actions, and/or behavior. List any thoughts and quotesfrom Pheonix or other charactersthat seem especially important. Explicate them. Plot the sequence of events.

Activity 2. Combining Words and Pictures


Before starting this activity, you may want to suggest that students take a look at the ReadWriteThink interactive comic vocabulary.

Then discuss the different ways of combining text and imagery in a comic book panel. From least to most complex: 1.The pictures and words communicate the same thinge.g., a drawing of Phoenix smiling and a caption reading "Phoenix smiles." 2.The picture speaks for itself without words e.g., two juxtaposed frames, one with an unsmiling Phoenix and the next with a smiling Phoenix. 3.Either the words or the picture offers more information than either could alonee.g., a picture of Phoenix smiling and a caption reading "She was as happy as she'd ever been." These can accrue complexity when either the words or the picture really needs the other to make sensee.g., a picture of Phoenix smiling and a caption reading "She pretended to be happy." In class, you can ask students to frame a scene of their choosing from the story in one of these

combinations of words and imagery. (You may want to use the frames provided in Worksheet 1 for this activity and the next.)

Activity 3. Translating Stories into Comic Strips


After experimenting with individual scenes, you may want to try something more ambitious. Again using the Student Worksheet, ask students to represent a complete aspect of the story or sequence of events through comic strips. They can choose between telling the story through a series of portraits of Phoenix at various stages in her journey, or through a broader selection of plot, highlighted with quoted passages. In either case, they should also be encouraged to fill in details of the setting as well. You can adjust your expectations of detail depending on the amount of time made available to students to work on this activity, both in and out of class. This is also a good small group activity that allows students to

share their various talents in graphical and narrative storytelling in creative ways. Worksheet 2 will help students organize and plan their comic strip.