Exploring “A Worn Path” Essay
In “A Worn Path” Phoenix Jackson travels to Natchez, yearly to get medicine for her grandson and regardless of her age and obstacles, she is determined to complete her quest. It is not until later in the story we learn the purpose of Phoenix’s Journey to Natchez. Eudora Welty’s use of symbolism is also represented through the characters names, appearance and language as Phoenix travels along her way to Natchez through the woods of Mississippi.
The theme of “A Worn Path is undeniably a journey of love for her grandson and in spite of her age and difficulty to complete the journey; she is determined to accomplish her goals to obtain medicine for him, since “we know the theme in a story is a representation of the idea behind the story” (Clugston, R. W. , 2010), we can surmise Phoenix will do anything to take care of her grandson.
Eudora Welty wrote, “A Worn Path” from a first person point of view, by telling the story in a narrative style from the author’s perspective, encompassing symbolism to hint at the story’s theme throughout Phoenix’s travels. Because, “symbolism is something that has a literal identity, but also stands for something else” (Clugston, R. W. , 2010), We can see this first, through the primary character’s name, Phoenix Jackson because, “The Phoenix symbolizes rebirth” (Gill, N. 011), which is symbolic of the strength and determination of the old woman to reach her destination in spite of her elderly and small body. As Phoenix journeys along the narrative is of the country in an earlier era, The time frame becomes clear by the hunter’s attitude toward Phoenix. Although, he helps her out of the ditch, the hunters attitude toward her shows signs of an earlier time when Negros were not treated as equal to white people further solidifying the setting of the story.
The Characters personality sets the mood of the story by her approach to the situations she encounters, from crawling under fences and walking up hills, to talking to the animals and nature as she travels along her way. Including the appropriateness of her name, A Phoenix’s history of the mythical bird’s sacrifice of its own life for its offspring and “according to the most popular variant of the phoenix, the bird lives in Arabia for 500 years at the end of which, it burns itself and its nest and the phoenix’s nest is made of frankincense, myrrh and spices. A new bird always rises from the ashes”, (Gill, N. 011). The setting of the story is illustrated as we journey through the woods with Phoenix we see evidence of Phoenixes character by how she speaks to the woods animals and other things as she travels along her path to Natchez. When she encounters the hunter and his dog, although he helps her out of the ditch, his attitude toward her is feeling superior to her and seems to be mocking her at some point. Phoenix gets revenge if only a small one, by stealing a nickel from the man, although she feels guilty but, she does not return the nickel and travels on her way toward the doctor’s office.
Once she arrives at the doctor’s office, she is once again treated as a senile indigent by the receptionist, but, then the nurse greets her as properly as the era allows because, she knows the purpose of Phoenix’s visit despite the fact that phoenix herself has forgotten the reason behind her travels, which further demonstrates possibilities of senility setting in, or maybe dementia which begs the reader to ask the question” is her grandson still alive” or “is she on this journey out of mere habit”?
Regardless of her forgetfulness she has enough sense about her to dupe the receptionist out of a nickel, with which she intends to buy her grandson a paper windmill. Throughout the story, Phoenix’s behavior sets the mood of the story which is of an adventure we have yet to learn the purpose of since the title does not give a clue to this fact. As we read the story, we learn she is a tough old gal with a determination that surpasses most which prompts the reader to encourage her to complete her journey so we can see what is at the end of the story and the purpose behind her travels to town.
Once the purpose of the journey is disclosed, the reader becomes connected to Phoenix because; there is an understanding of love it takes to make this journey at her age. Phoenix’s journey is evidence of the undeniable, unselfish, and all-consuming love for her grandson. We see symbolism of her strength through the determination of her journey although, she is old and frail. She encounters many obstacles during her journey that wane on her, but, in spite of the challenges she encounters she overcomes each of them reaching her estination, only to realize she has forgotten the purpose of her travels to Natchez. The nurse quickly reminds her why she is there, but she begins to wonder if her grandson is still alive because of evidence of Phoenix’s senile state when she arrives. From start to finish “A Worn Path” is a story about immeasurable self-sacrifice for the love of another.
Clugston, R. W. (2010). Journey into literature. San Diego, California: Bridgepoint Education, Inc. Gill, N. S. (2011). About. com ancient/classical history. Retrieved from http://ancienthistory. about. com/cs/grecoromanmyth1/g/phoenixbird. htm