Eudora Welty’s “A Worn Path” is a short story about an elderly woman of African-American origin, named Phoenix, who rushes to a city to buy medications for her grandson. The work portrays the protagonist’s pain, sacrifice, commitment, selflessness, and devotion, as, during the trip, she was struggling to get into a city because of internal and external challenges. The story contains numerous conflicts and symbols which provide reasoning for a vague and contradictory climax when the protagonist finally reaches the destination, and readers become aware of the journey’s purpose.
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Conflicts in the Story
The obstacles during Phoenix’s trip represent her frequently unpredictable and unjust life path as she was a member of the black community. For instance, by making the white man aim his gun at the protagonist, Welty may indicate that many African-Americans also faced abuse or hostility due to their skin color, including Phoenix (Welty). Remarkably, the main character was not afraid of such threats, which can be interpreted as her perseverance to fight with inner weaknesses throughout her life.
It may also be significant that Phoenix communicated with every animal she encountered during her journey. By doing so, Welty emphasized the ability of the woman to love despite the difficulties that arise. The author further explored the theme of love later in the story as Phoenix entered the city, and the reader first learned about her motivation to visit it. The fact that the protagonist finally reached her destination is significant as Welty was not only stressing the woman’s determination to do a noble deed for her beloved grandson but also is focusing attention on how committed and devoted Phoenix is outside of her comfort zone.
Moreover, the author provided two contrasting worlds as settings in “A Worn Path” — a countryside and a city, with a noticeable change in atmosphere between both. There is a detailed description of details in the rural area “The shadows hung from the oak trees to the road like curtains” (Welty) with regular interjections of the active voice of Phoenix. In the city, on the contrary, other characters ‘ hostile and belligerent voices dominate; besides, city settings are almost omitted. Possibly, however, what happens to Phoenix in the city is the most significant change between the two places. It is undeniable that in the country, the woman faced obstacles and questioned herself, but every time she behaved as a leader there. However, in the city, the brave Phoenix faded into a comparatively powerless older woman, as she often silenced her voice there.
The central paradox in the story is that free medicine exists here as both charity and imposition, showing the city not only as a place of nominal compassion but also of rough practicality. Phoenix was able to attain the medicine with no charge, howsoever, no one was going to assist the woman in obtaining it. The attendant’s charity might also be seen instead as rudeness: she seems to be giving only because it is a Christmas tradition, not because of her real incentive. Remarkably, Phoenix possessed the dignity to accept the gift without self-denigration.
To conclude, “A Worn Path” illustrated the protagonist’s willingness to withstand pain primarily to obtain medications. Nevertheless, during such a difficult journey, the woman strengthened her character, and, as her name suggests, Phoenix has risen and was happily returning as a renewed person. Thus, the conflicts and hardships throughout the woman’s journey strengthened her willpower and expanded her understanding of love, dedication, and challenges.
Welty, Eudora. “A Worn Path.” The Atlantic. 1941. web.
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