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“A Worn Path” Short Story by Eudora Welty Reviewed

Introduction

“A Worn Path” is a short story written by Eudora Welty in 1941 which describes the journey of an old African American woman. The Hunger Games is a novel by Suzanne Collins first published in 2008 that depicts a dystopian world. At first, these two books can be considered narratives with vastly different topics. However, when examined with the help of comparative literary analysis, it becomes clear that the two books share many similar themes. One of the issues both characters face is the primacy of familial love and how it can affect individuals’ behavior. The circumstances, feelings, and choices described in “A Worn Path” and The Hunger Games demonstrate how unconditional familial love enables people to overcome difficulties and sacrifice themselves for others.

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Type of Love

The first area of comparison is the type of love shown in the two stories. In “A Worn Path,” the main character is an old African-American woman, Phoenix Jackson, who is taking care of her sick grandson at home. She cares for the child and decides to go to the nearest town to buy him medicine since his health is not improving. The older woman’s hard journey to the town can be viewed as a manifestation of her immense love for the grandson. Similarly, the main character of The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen, is a girl who, despite her young age, becomes the main breadwinner for her little sister and mother after her father’s death. Katniss develops a strong bond with her family members and a sense of responsibility for their wellbeing. Katniss’ feelings and devotion to the family can be sensed in her words and phrases. For instance, at some point in the book, she says, “my sister and my mother come first,” thus clearly stating her loyalty for her mother and sister because there is nobody else to protect them (Collins 35). Likewise, the grandson is Phoenix’s only relative since she says, “We is the only two left in the world” (Welty). Her love for the grandson is even stronger because he is virtually the only person in her life with whom she has a familial bond, and so she is the only person who can take care of him while he is sick regardless of her old age. Thus, the love of Katniss is similar to that of Phoenix since they both have been forced to become the head of their respective families despite their age.

Love and Perseverance

Another area of comparison applicable to the two books is the perseverance and willingness to overcome difficult situations with the help of love. In “A Worn Path,” the love of Phoenix for her grandson is what drives her to undertake the journey to the town in search of medicine. Phoenix’s passage to the town was a struggle; she had to go up a hill and then through the thorny bush and barbed wire (Welty). However, these difficulties are secondary to the love she feels for her grandson. Similarly, Katniss demonstrates her determination to help her family despite facing hardship even before entering the Hunger Games. For instance, she engages in illegal activities such as hunting and gathering in the woods to provide her mother and sister with enough food to survive (Collins 6). Both women willingly take on these responsibilities because they love their families and are ready to risk their own safety to help them. McMahand and Murphy note, “Phoenix enters woods… stares down mortal danger, and then moves forward her mind and mission tested but intact” (52). Phoenix perseveres and does not stop her journey because she understands that only she can save her grandchild. Katniss also assumes the role of her missing father because there is nobody else to do it (Ann 23). Both Phoenix and Katniss are independent women who could have washed their hands clean of their relatives and lived alone. However, they stay with their families and face immense difficulties in order to protect them. Thus, both “A Worn Path” and The Hunger Games depict the challenges people are ready to take on in the name of love.

Love and Sacrifice

Moreover, love helps the main characters in both books deal with difficulties and forces them to become ready to sacrifice themselves. In “A Worn Path,” the challenges which Phoenix sees in her way are not limited to thorny bushes and hilly areas. For instance, at some point, a hunter advises Phoenix to stay home and points a gun at her, but she says that she is not afraid of it (Welty). The scene demonstrates her willingness even to sacrifice her life but still be determined to continue her journey. Some experts compare Phoenix’s devotion to her grandson to Christ’s self-sacrifice for humanity (Singh 63). The theme of sacrifice also plays a major role in the plot of The Hunger Games. The book includes several instances of it, but perhaps the most prominent one is Katniss’ decision to replace her sister in the Hunger Games. Prim, Katniss’ sister, is randomly chosen to participate in the deadly competition, and Katniss publicly announces her desire to come forward and be drafted instead of her little sister (Collins 23). Participating in the Hunger Games can easily lead to death since only the winner will survive. Nevertheless, similarly to Phoenix, Katniss is not afraid to die because she ultimately wishes to protect her sister from danger at any cost. Phoenix and Katniss are ready to face death because they know that they are on the right path, and their journey is vital for the survival of their family member. Both are dedicated to their family, unable to abandon or put them at risk even in situations when it is in their best interest (Ann 152). Love for younger family members empowers them to accept the possibility of losing their own life but do everything in their capacity to help the children. Fundamentally, love for family members inspires both Phoenix and Katniss to remain strong and be willing to sacrifice themselves for their loved ones.

Unconditional Love

Finally, the love experienced by the main characters in the books also can be characterized as unconditional, which means that Phoenix and Katniss do not ask for anything in return from others. Despite her health problems and a difficult road, Phoenix travels a large distance not because she wants to gain wealth or any other material benefit. She goes to the town out of love for the child who is sick and who requires medical help, and she is the only one who can change the situation for the better. At the end of the story, Phoenix says, “I could tell him from all the others in creation,” a phrase that reveals her affection for the grandson (Welty). Katniss is in many ways similar to Phoenix since her family devotion is not hindered by any existing conflicts and trust issues. After Katniss’ father’s death, her mother became severely depressed and unable to work and provide for the family (Collins 28). As a result, when speaking of mother, Katniss states, “some small gnarled place inside me hated her for her weakness, for her neglect” (Collins 53). Essentially, Katniss is traumatized by the lack of her mother’s involvement in her life during childhood and blames her for not supporting the family in a difficult situation (Laine 122). Nevertheless, she still loves her mother unconditionally simply because she is one of the closest people in her life despite their rarely speaking to each other. The love of Katniss and Phoenix for their family members is genuine and unconditional, which ultimately makes them take responsibility for their relatives.

Conclusion

At first glance, the story “A Worn Path” and the novel The Hunger Games may seem like books exploring completely different topics. However, the literary analysis conducted in the current paper demonstrates that the authors of both books have a similar approach to depicting familial love and its impact on a person’s behavior. Phoenix and Katniss, the main characters of “A Worn Path” and the novel The Hunger Games, respectively, have an immense affection for their family members. Both women were forced to become the head of their families in the absence of father figures or other capable relatives. The unconditional love experienced by the characters inspires them to overcome adversities and even be willing to sacrifice their lives for their family members.

Works Cited

Ann, Kayla. Agency in The Hunger Games. McFarland & Company, 2020.

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Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. Scholastic Press, 2008.

Laine, Tarja. Emotional Ethics of The Hunger Games. Springer, 2021.

McMahand, Donnie, and Murphy, Kevin L. “Sweetness and Light.” New Essays on Eudora Welty, Class, and Race, edited by Harriet Pollack, Univ. Press of Mississippi, 2019, pp. 35–56.

Singh, Santosh. “Nature as Inspiring Symbolism in Eudora Welty’s ‘A Worn Path.’” International Journal of English: Literature, Language & Skills, vol. 9, no. 2, 2020, pp. 61–67.

Welty, Eudora. “A Worn Path.” The Atlantic, 1941, Web.

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